Horse Chestnuts and the magic of Autumn
Horse chestnuts, the bitter chestnuts, the pagan magic tonic chestnut. The poisonous one, the narcotic one.
Why can’t I keep away from them? Bet you can’t either.
Isn’t it satisfying to find these big, fat fruits and hold them in your hand? Don’t you want to gather them up and take them home just to own their rich, brunette beauty for as long as possible?
It’s true love, I’m afraid, and, as we all know, true love lasts forever.
Prized by small school boys as weapons in the game of conkers, kept on windowsills to keep away spiders (you reading this Jeannine), stored with the linen to prevent moths, taken as a sleeping tonic, (often with disastrous results) and gaily exploded in bonfires.
As Pertuhcio said,
And do you tell me of a woman’s tongue
That gives not half so great a blow to hear
As will a Chestnut in farmer’s fire?
— Taming of the Shrew, act i, sc. 2 (208).
For me though, the magic is rooted in my childhood. In my chestnut hair, in my grandfather’s willingness to part with his matches…yet again…for the sake of huge herds of chestnut deer, who stand on my windowsill every Autumn, silent and proud on their matchstick legs.