My Friend The Walnut Tree

By Mary Ellen Ellis | May 2, 2021
Image by Raul Coca
by Mary Ellen Ellis
May 2, 2021

Trees are spectacular organisms. I have always liked them, but I have come to appreciate trees more as I get older and understand more about them. My current favorite tree is not that grand. It’s not rare or especially spectacular, but I spend every day with it. 

Black Walnuts in Michigan

There are several species of walnut trees and the nuts I buy in the store come from English walnuts, but here in Michigan, black walnut is the native species. They grow wild, typically along the edges of woods, along fences, and roads. 

I’ve never harvested the nuts from my tree, but my dad tells stories about doing so as a child. They would collect the nuts from the ground””you know they’re ripe when they hit the dirt””and break through the tough green skin by putting them on the driveway and running over them with the car. 

My Everyday Companion

I love that story about how my dad used to use walnuts. They lived a different life then, when they had time and knew how to harvest the food around them. Today, I don’t do that, but I do enjoy and appreciate the black walnut that grows right outside my home office window. 

It’s not a huge tree, maybe two feet (61 cm.) around, and it’s tucked away on the side of the house. I never gave it much thought until I started working from home several years ago. I set up my desk so I could look out the window and the walnut tree is right there. 

After spending years with it as a work companion, I feel a special bond with this tree. I watch red squirrels scurry up and down the trunk, nuthatches dance around it in circles, and woodpeckers take up positions to harvest insects. I’ve even watched as hawks land in the branches. 

In the fall, I know this will be the first tree in my yard to start turning. The leaves begin to go yellow and then drift down like confetti while I work. Then the tennis ball-like nuts start dropping. They make a loud thud on the ground and a startlingly loud sound when they hit the roof right over my head. 

Working at home can be lonely, but for me a tree is a great companion. It’s always there, and it provides a needed distraction in the moments I really need it.

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