Osage oranges are one autumn’s delights for me. I never knew about them until my first residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts a few autumns ago, where I happened upon these glorious light neon-green orbs lying by a hedge that seamed a field I was crossing on one of my walks. What, I asked myself as I picked one up, are these wonders of nature?
Another artist at the VCCA must have asked herself that same question because she made a pencil drawing of one, added a little research article below it, titled her flyer “Osage Oranges” and left it at each studio door step. I learned that Osage oranges grow on hardy trees that farmers used to plant as hedges because of their thorny branches. I placed my specimen on my enormous studio desk, and every day I marveled at this wondrous sphere of green grooves. And I appreciated its slight citrusy scent, so unlike all other smells of autumn.
Then I forgot about Osage oranges until the next fall, when I was teaching at Joliet Junior College and would hike along their woodland trail after my class. One morning green balls beckoned on the path. Oh, what a treat to happen upon them again! I even found one of the trees they were tumbling from that was quite accessible and I could pick them straight of the branches before they had a chance to rot on the ground or get busted open by hungry squirrels. I walked back to the parking lot with bulging coat pockets.
Ever since, I look for Osage oranges in the fall. I’ve never seen them in the city, and even in the surrounding country they are not that prevalent, so I was elated when I spotted them around the corner from our car dealership in Frankfort, Illinois when my husband and I drove there last week. After we were done with our car errands, we had to drive over to that spot where I carefully picked out these three Osage oranges that now grace our coffee table. I can smell them from where I sit on the couch and write. My kids think I’m slightly nuts to be besotted with an inedible fruit, but there you have it. Osage oranges make me happy.