The one buckeye tree in the neighborhood, this one week in September, when the buckeyes are ripe: this is the true end of summer and the official beginning of fall.
If you’ve never pulled a ripe buckeye out of its thorny hull, it’s a deeply satisfying but hard to describe aesthetic experience. (If you’ve done it even once, to do it again is to activate a powerful sense memory.) There is the contrasting texture of the smooth seed and soft dampness of the inside of the hull, and the way the two fit together, and the slightest possible “pop” as they pull apart, and then the small excitement of seeing the buckeye itself. No two are the same and all of them are beautiful, with swirling wood grain patterns of golden brown and reddish brown and dark brown. Some hulls hold one seed, but most of the big ones are “doubles”. In the first image, you can see the second seed through the crack in the thick lining of the hull. The last one, which opened as it was hanging on the tree, is a “triple”.
Don’t eat them– they will definitely make you sick– but buckeyes are beautiful to look at and interesting to touch, and if you carry them in your coat pockets or one of the pockets of your bookbag, they may bring you good luck until next September, when there will be more buckeyes. And more chances to try to take good photographs of them, which I’ve never quite managed to do. This year’s attempt was made, one handed, with the New Phone Camera.