In Service to the Black Walnut Tree

I am doing my best to learn from what is already here at 416 Schnackenberg Road, and it is taking quite a bit of unlearning. A pattern I’ve noticed for myself is that I will overlook the unfamiliar, or seemingly non-useful. I find a lot of satisfaction in weeding a bed of kale because I feel like I’m organizing it. I also understand this is as relational to a context in which I only desire kale, and not those who grow in between. I haven’t put effort into living a life where I value lambs quarter and vetch, or all the other nameless green leaves blurring straight lines of the kale I planted. 

When we first moved in, I felt stress around the fact we arrived past planting season. All we had were overgrown tomatoes, wormy raspberries, and a tangly unpruned plum tree. I kept thinking that had I just been there just a few months earlier, I would have planted things differently, and things would be neater, and more productive. Over the weeks however, despite my lack of faith, these messy plants produced. We’ve gotten over 40# of tomatoes off the plants in the front of house. We’ve made many jars of plum jam. There is an apple tree, and though the fruit is spotted and knobby, the fruit is sweet for apple butter. And finally, I’ve begun to acknowledge the black walnut tree that is dropping hundreds of green tennis ball sized dinosaur eggs onto the grass.

At one of the farms I worked at prior to being here, there was a black walnut orchard that everyone pretty much ignored. Nobody really cared to harvest the nuts or do anything with them, and so the nuts went right back into the soil. I’ve generally taken on some form of ambivalence when it comes to the nut trees who surround me. I overlook the hickories and the oak trees. I feel some sort of disappointment that I don’t live near pecan or pistachio trees.

It’s time to unthink that. It’s time to rethink what it means to not only “make do” with what is here, but celebrate it. There is literally food falling from above, and a lot of it. There is enough to provide a signifiant amount of calories, although I’m sure the tree doesn’t think in calories. Perhaps it thinks in abundance. There is a reason these nuts have a flavor, there is a reason they take form as these green dimpled fruits. This week I’m looking at the black walnut tree. I am looking to know it, so that I can serve it, and begin serving my place here at 416 Schnackenberg Road. 

“A love ethic emphasizes the importance of service to others. Within the value system of the United States any task or job that is related to "service" is devalued. Service strengthens our capacity to know compassion and deepens our insight. To serve another I cannot see them as an object, I must see their subjecthood.” 

Let me revise that previous sentence: I am looking to know Black Walnut, so that I can serve them, and begin serving my place here at 416 Schnackenberg Road. 

I will report back here with updates from my exchanges with this tree neighbor.

Sophia Hampton