From Sarah Selecky: Write two pages, and start with the line, "I know the fruit of the black walnut."
I know the fruit of the black walnut. It was given to me at the age of seventeen, and I have never forgotten it. Nor him.
The fruit was handed to me already shelled. I was innocent of the effort exerted to offer me such a gift, for the fruit of the black walnut is protected by a hard shell, which is itself protected by a husk so thick it is nearly impossible to remove. If one wants the fruit of the black walnut at its richest, one must pluck the drupe while the husk is green. Even then, the nut must be smashed, ground underfoot, and pounded to remove the unyielding protective husk.
The fruits themselves are no bearers of beauty. They are plain tan. But their taste is unlike any other: unforgettable, life-altering. Like him.
I always see him against the backdrop of a cerulean blue sky. It is the same color as the creek that watered the black walnut tree. It is the same color as his eyes. I don't know if the sky was truly that color. Perhaps I have taken the cerulean of his eyes to paint the world of my memory. But a sky's color is unimportant; nothing about him was unimportant.
They say the black walnut is a difficult seed to crack, even after one has disposed of the husk. The rigid shell doesn't yield its fruit to the weak of will. It reserves its prize for those cunning enough to break it. Only after the shell is broken, shattered into pieces no earthly hand could mend, can one pluck the fruit from its center.
But I didn't know this, that it was the trail of destruction that allowed the gift to be so freely placed into the palm of my hand, into the warmth of my mouth, into the depths of my soul. So it warmed me in the chill fall air, transcending me to the heavens while the revengeful, black storm brewed.
They say that wood from the black walnut produces one the finest heartwoods in the world. It must be. They use it for gunstocks.
The nut will stain your hands, turning them a brown so dark they look black. That, at least, I know to be true, for my blue dresses have been recolored to a putrid brown. I did it myself. I used the dye of the black walnut.