It’s evident from recent posts that I’m a big fan of trees. I must like trees more than most people do. When I was about seven years old, our next-door-neighbor, a well-read nature lover, gave me one of those little pocket guides to tree identification. That got me started. I found it surprisingly rewarding to recognize a tree by its shape, its bark, its leaves, flowers and fruit. If I had to live in a land without trees, I don’t think I’d ever stop feeling some pain over their absence. When I’m out walking with Kiko, especially in the fall, much to his annoyance, I stop often to photograph notable trees.
This grand old hickory is beautiful all year long, but in the autumn, when its leaves turn yellow-gold, it’s absolutely glorious.
Standing under the tree gives the impression of being sheltered by a lacy golden umbrella of immense proportions. Sunlight passing through the leaves is warmer and more radiant.
Hickory nuts make for tasty, but difficult eating. One of my most prominent early memories is wandering the North Carolina woods with my father to gather heaps of hickory nuts. Back home, we’d sit on the stoop outside my parents’ grad student UNC apartment, where Daddy would crack open the rock-hard shells with a hammer. Together, we’d painstakingly pick out the kernels and feast on them.
So it is that hickory trees, and their nuts, summon brightly colored images of happy childhood Saturdays with my young, handsome father. And in the contest for Best Fall Tree that plays entirely in my own head, this year’s winner, hands down, is the hickory.