There it was this morning, in all its green dimpled, softball-sized glory, a fallen hedge apple on the trail on the back east side of the smaller old clay pit at our town pond.
And I thought of my wife and seasonal change.
For me, hedge apples on the ground are one of the surest signs that seasonal change is coming again.
I enjoy the rhythms of the outdoors. For me, fallen hedge apples, the fruit of Osage orange, are nearly as sure a sign of seasonal change as flocks of sandhill cranes overhead krooing.
Osage orange is not a native species in Illinois. (See the list for Illinois invasive plants at Midwest Invasive Plant Network by clicking here.) Osage orange was originally brought in to make fencerows. As fencerows began disappearing, Osage orange has become much less common.
We still have some Osage orange around the town pond, where I ramble most mornings with Lady, our family mutt, because it is protected from farmland “improvement.”
When hedge apples begin falling, I bring one back with me each morning until my wife has enough.
She half believes in the magical powers of hedge apples. Half believes that they naturally help keep household pests and insects at bay.
I have my thoughts about both of those beliefs, but still every year I start bringing hedge apples home until she has a neat stack in a pie plate on the table. I sometimes feel like a beaver lugging a gnawed downed birch back to his mate.
One fall, our youngest son and one of his buds started an impromptu game of hedge apple bowling when dozens were on the ground. (Looking at the photo I am stunned how small he was just a few years ago.)
All in all, I am glad to settle into the rhythm of the change.
Back in town, as Lady and I rounded the corner to the alley behind the bus barn, a pair of Eurasian collared-doves squawked to a landing on the cross wood of a utility pole.
Another invasive species heard from, and I mean heard from. Eurasian collared-doves have a distinctive raspy call, which distinguishes them from the native mourning doves.
On the side of a pin oak a block from home, a black squirrel and gray squirrel chased each other round and round.
It was time.
I put the hedge apple by my wife’s place at the kitchen table.
And waited on the magic. Or at least the power of love and commitment.