Autumn watch

Across the street from the fast food joint at County and Elm Streets, there’s a house that has a beautiful copper beech growing in the yard. I was walking down Elm Street when I heard an odd rustling sort of sound coming from the copper beech. I looked over and saw that brown stuff was dropping out of the tree, and I realized what was going on: the beech nuts were ripe, and some squirrels were sitting up in the tree shelling them and eating them as fast as they could. The sound was the squirrels cracking open the beech nuts, and the brown stuff coming down was beech nut shells. Squirrels almost always get to beech nuts before we humans do. I can only remember once when I got to eat any beech nuts:– a warm evening in October, 1999, while sitting outdoors reading theology on the back steps of the library of Andover Newton Theological School. The steps were covered with beech nuts that had fallen from the two big beech trees that grew nearby, and half of the beech nuts I picked still had the kernels in them. I cracked them open and ate the kernels, which tasted very good indeed; and I finally understood why the squirrels rarely leave any for us humans to eat.