Seeing those pretend persimmons brought to mind the Arkansas Ozark Highlands where this time of year persimmons are found in abundance. According to folklore, if you split open a persimmon seed the shape inside (called a cotyledon) can predict the coming weather. If the cotyledon looks like a fork, winter will be mild; if a spoon, there will be a lot of snow to shovel; and if a blade, winter will be bitingly cold and “cut like a knife.”
Hanging in clusters from tree limbs, bright orange persimmons call to mind another Ozark favorite--Bittersweet. The last time I wrote of bittersweet I heard from so many readers, I offer the following as a nostalgic refrain.
I have known bittersweet since my Arkansas childhood when, as days shortened and breezes grew brisk, I traveled with my parents from Little Rock to Eureka Springs making our annual pilgrimage for an autumn visit with our relatives. Year after year we followed two lane roads carrying us past low lying farms. When we began winding up into the colorful Ozark Highlands cattle grazed beyond four square fences strung on hillsides.
Along the way as we passed a boundary generously decorated with bittersweet, my father would point out the window exclaiming, “Look! There’s lots over there. Isn’t that beautiful?” Mother would chorus, “Let’s stop and cut some to take to the folks!” We stopped and helped ourselves to the bounty free for the harvesting.
As we arrived at our farmhouse destination, Daddy pulled into the front yard. From under a glowing yellow maple tree he dramatically honked our car horn. Uncle Chester flung open the screen door, waved and crossed over the wrap-around porch. When Aunt Gladys came out wiping her hands on her white apron, Mother presented her with our yearly offering of our bittersweet brimming basket.
While Daddy parked by the chicken coup, my brother David and I raced to be first at the outhouse. We wanted to explore the big hay barn, but dinner aromas drew us inside where Aunt Gladys had decorated the dinner table “just so” with our vining strands of festive orange berries. Mother Nature was palpably present blessing the table before we even sat down to Uncle Chester’s grace.
Uncle Chester and Aunt Gladys have passed. Their memory-filled farmhouse is gone—burned to the ground by a lightning strike. Mother and Daddy and my brother David are all gone, too. Ah, such bittersweet memories. They return this time each year as our trees color and the air turns brisk and my husband David and I decorate our old home with autumn leaves and strands and wreaths of bittersweet and other fall berries. An autumn scented candle often burns offering up the memories of bittersweet seasons already passed.
Like the bittersweet plant or a piece of bittersweet chocolate made with only a small amount of sugar, a bittersweet emotional feeling calls up a contrast—feelings of both happiness and nostalgic sadness, too. October is a bittersweet, sad-and-happy month. While we are saying our good-byes to the bright sunshine and warmth of summer, we have much to celebrate.
Soon splendid, fund-raising Amaryllis will be holiday ready to burst into brilliant scarlet blooms. Three marvelous collections continue on exhibition at artCentral—Jason Shelfer’s SCULPTURAL SPECTACULAR; the INA NIDAY & MARY DATUM | TWO FRIENDS | OIL PAINTINGS; and the SMALL WORKS | GREAT WONDERS Silent Auction Fundraiser—available for your viewing, bidding and holiday shopping through December 5, at 1110 East Thirteenth Street in Carthage. Weekend Gallery Hours are each Friday and Saturday from 12:00 to 5:00 p.m. with CDC protocols practiced. Face masks, social distancing and sign in are required for everyone entering Hyde House. For additional information call (417) 358-4404.