Wednesday, October 01, 2008


And I, oh I of little faith, castigating the chestnut tree as infertile, unproductive, judging by the bug-infested husks I found beneath it last year (having knelt on one in the grass and been stabbed multiply in the knee as by a sea urchin), and empty green ones in early September, at 6:00 this morning I was out harvesting the windfall of chestnuts, going OW! OO! OUCH! as I tried to pick them up in the dim light without gloves, trying to grab maybe one spine only...

Then, remembering another technique I had seen, I had to stop every few inches and winkle out a good-looking chestnut or two from the burrs scattered all over, using my feet the way the farm women do when harvesting chestnuts, stepping a boot on either side and forcing the chestnuts out, and how startlingly beautiful to the morning eye, when suddenly from the drab and spiky husks emerge those sleek, brown-coated thoroughbreds that fill my pockets, the morning silence the while punctuated by further thuds from the chestnut tree, the burrs falling, some bursting and spilling their contents out on the ground, others simply lying there voluptuously spiky in the grass.

And voluptuous is the word, with every bit of the quality of unmistakably overt sensual invitation to all comers, whether bugs, birds, beasts, or botanically lascivious guys like me. There are few sights more resplendent in their way than a thorny chestnut chest bursting like pride with its treasure on the dewy morning ground, gleaming brown gems even in the early light; and when husked and in a heap, how earthlovely is that deep glossy brown plumpness!

Rich brown chestnut-bulging husks all over the ground at my feet, I had a couple of pounds of chestnuts within a half hour, a process of great delight as being so direct and immediate in the link between me and all, like breathing, like sex, like being born, like dying, the ecstasy that pervades it all, so manifest in that brief burst of indistinctness from all that is...

And when peeled and boiled with rice, the chestnuts led me to experience first-tongue the deliciousness of kurigohan (chestnut rice): fresh and chesty chestnuts, steamed to just the right degree together with brown rice, become flavor and mouth-feel ambrosia when bitten into.

Later in the afternoon, home alone watching the veils of silver mist obscure and reveal the trees, wondering what could be the purpose of a life spent doing just such things, I realized like the mist and the trees the nature of revelation and concealment, that what is hidden need not be found to be known, need not be known to be worthy.

From the archives ... Sept. 28, 2002


Kay Dennison said...

I love chestnuts. We used to pick them at my grandparents's farm in Wisconsin wearing heavy work gloves and Grandma would roast them in the ancient oven of the enormous, ancient woodburning stove in her old kitchen where she preferred to bake. Sheer heaven!

Bob Brady said...

Sounds like you really had the heavenly version... what memories! And with chestnuts in them!