It was at the lower edge of T shirt weather temperaturewise so the sun in a cloudless sky felt warm and reassuring. A slight breeze softly and slowly ebbed and flowed, like a caress from heaven. The honks of geese passing over in a V about a 100 meters off the ground pleased my senses.
As the breeze reached its mild crests I could hear light thumps made by Chinese Chestnuts hitting the ground. The odds of being hit by one was probably thousands of times greater than being hit by a piece of space junk last week but the prospect amused rather than scared me.
I was willing to take the “risk” because each of those chestnuts were nutritious, edible and flavorful and I was gathering them. Nuts were an important part of Paleolithic and Neanderthal cultures so I was feeling a resonance performing an activity that has gone on for thousands or millions of years, depending on whose version of history you prescribe to.
The act of picking nuts, the sensations of the sun and air, the sound of wildfowl were identical with experiences Neanderthal man would have had.
One thing that was different was I was using a nut picker to get them off the ground which won’t have been available to a Neanderthal but on the back side of the Mound there was a fence where the nuts along with their fallen burs had accumulated into a drift. There the nut picker was useless so I grabbed a stick off the ground and was using that to brush aside the burs so I could pick up the chestnuts by hand.
That was the point I had the realization that I had gone totally Neanderthal, using a stick to gather food.
New Vrindaban is near Moundsville, West Virginia which got its name from the hundreds of small mounds that were on the rich bottom land near the Ohio River. Most of those were leveled long ago but the highest Mound in the US is still standing.
I was there dropping off some gourds for them to use for their 19th annual “Archaeology Weekend”with events timed to coincide with West Virginia Archaeology Month. Gourds are the oldest known cultivated plant and an important part of prehistoric cultures.
I had previously gotten permission to pick chestnuts from under the trees on the grounds and had come prepared so that evening’s menu included roast chestnuts. I have never seen Chinese Chestnuts available for sale in the market around here, but I find them far superior in taste to the Italian ones that importers sell.
They don’t store all that well like walnuts do so I look forward to this time of year when I can gather some to eat.
Me gather nut. Me roast on fire. Me eat. All good.