Saturday, November 13, 2021

Walnut Art

A lot of people, when they hear the words "black walnut", will think of a tree that drops nuts large and heavy enough to be a hazard, is super frustrating to get any food from, and has the gaul (juglone, actually) to hamper the growth of plants unfortunate enough to find themselves growing beneath it. 

This merry crew has a richer take. Meet Ooh!, Totally!, and Ugh!, three well-crafted nuts who between them express the gamut of attitudes toward walnut trees. 

I applaud those endowed with the incredible patience needed to carve these faces (that would be squirrels), and a similar patience to search for the squirrels' underappreciated art amongst all of autumn's debris in the backyard (that would be my friends and occasional Ann Arbor hosts, Dan and Karen). 

Though they express the same common laments about their black walnut trees, they have at the same time become fascinated by the exceptionally hard and messy nuts that litter the ground every fall. 

As if developing a cottage industry, they gather the nuts, and extract the oils from the husks. 
Dan came up with a way to clean the oils off of the shells, using a forked spade as if he were churning butter. 

His motivation? To sand down some of the nuts to make picks that get an unusual sound out of his string instruments.

Their art-student daughter, Thea Bilich, demonstrated how the walnut ink works well for old master paintings.

All of which shows how a little curiosity and a spirit of experimentation can look beyond life's burdens to find a sky full of possibilities.

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