Every autumn when I was a kid, my mother and I would don headscarves and woolen jackets and take a walk up to the Lone Fir Cemetery, the Chestnut grove there. Who knows when the trees were planted or by whom? They were huge as the sky, even then, their boughs heavy with prickly green bundles. Within those bundles were the enigmatic fruit, chestnuts.
Chestnuts are odd and very labor-insensitive. My mother would sit for hours peeling away the skin, which is bitter as the devil. Then she would give me the sweet inner meat. I would chomp them down in seconds, only to wait another hour for the next morsel. Later in life, I learned that chestnuts may be roasted or boiled for easier skinning, but to my mother’s mind, cooking ruined the flavor.
Lone Fir has now come into its own as one of Portland’s pioneer cemeteries, but back in the 50’s, the small graveyard was quiet, a place apart from the real world. Things change. It still holds its magic, though now I must share it.
My mother is gone. It’s been an unbelievable 13 years yesterday. But she’s still with me as I survey the grass and tree roots, searching out the shiny auburn gems. It’s still quiet here at Lone Fir, only the wind and the satisfying thunk of falling pods.
Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery