I am of the opinion that perfect fall days--the crisp, clear ones that convince you if hobbits ever came to America they would choose to live in Vermont--should be spent outside. If they can be spent outside in pursuit of a foodstuff, so much the better. Unfortunately, between cooking all morning and working all night, the time I spend outside is often reduced to the seven minutes it takes me to walk to work. It was a pleasure, then, to spend an hour Wednesday morning gathering walnuts in the thicket behind M.'s house.
M. wasn't there, but told Y. he had gathered all the nuts he wanted and to come get the rest before the squirrels did. We followed his directions to the tree, expecting from M.'s description to see nuts littering the ground, but found nothing. At least not right away. I took a few steps toward the stone wall and hiding under some dry, brown leaves were what looked like tennis balls. I immediately heard the voice of HBC saying, "And if Mr. Emerson finds us frivolous, he can go and look for tennis balls. Go and look for tennis balls, Mr. Emerson." After finding the first two walnuts, and confirming with Y. that they actually were what we were looking for, they were suddenly everywhere.
In a little under an hour we gathered four times the nuts that M. thought were still out there. I'm afraid we raided two squirrel caches, possibly dooming two squirrel families, but Y. assured me that squirrels often forget where their hiding places are anyway. If it is any consolation, I promise, in a few weeks when the walnuts have been dried and shelled, to make something delicious with them.