black walnut spirits

black walnut dye

A recent call for art from a local distillery got me thinking. They ask for art that suggests harvest and that is what I am into right now, harvest and spirits. Not necessarily alcoholic but, the good kinds; spirits that mingle in your mind and make you remember. I have many memories of gathering black walnuts.

The fruit that ripens and falls in the autumn suggests my families history and special days when they are gathered. I read somewhere that making a dye bath should be a celebration with time and thought donated to the task. I wish I had a photograph of me and Gabriel’s hands the first time we crushed them together for dye. They were stained for days. And, a couple of years later when he found the squirrels cash of walnuts under the tree and we collected them, feeling a little guilty but, knowing that the squirrels would find more. My sweet boy, who is also studying art.

Black walnuts are also about my mother and my recently past uncle - the twins. Our family exhausted every use for these fruits. Traps and cooking- and now dyes plus more spirits. I want to make the ice cream they both enjoyed and maybe a cocktail? I looked it up and yes, there is a black walnut liquor. I am putting this on my list to make.

Smell is the most nostalgic of our senses and to me, black walnuts have the best smell on earth. Today I am adding the sight of two double breasted cormorants drying their wings in the breeze on the lake to my memories of collecting walnuts. It is Friday the 13th and a full moon. It’s an unusual occurrence, the two together and although the cormorants are usually easy to find their ominous shapes seem perfect for the date. The walnuts are plentiful and scattered all over. Some complete perfect green orbs and others are decimated as the squirrels make easy work of the hulls and retrieved the nut inside. I bring my collection home to make dye, some ice cream and spirits and think about how to capture this day.

Emily Donovan