A tiny forest is growing from conkers beneath the arching arms of their parent tree by the Little Danube in Esztergom. Further from the ground, buds opened during the course of unusually warm winter days have been killed during their freezing nights. My own collection of conkers, planted in pots in the studio courtyard, are sensibly waiting for the springtime proper to arrive.
Small square crystals are forming on the base of the aluminium boiler, on the dried up remains of a used conker ‘soap’ solution.
The hearts of more than twenty conkers were shelled and finely grated. Native American Indians in the 1890s would sprinkle this material into streams in order to attract and knock out fish; a practice alluded to in Michael Ondaatje’s book Divisadero (p 139). When warmed in a pan of water from the river however, it makes a cloudy white ’emulsion’ which has the properties of a liquid soap. On testing, I found it very good for removing stains in fabric and I am considering its usefulness in place of shop bought detergents and as a creative agent.
The chestnut sediments slowly settle to the bottom of the pan and the clearer solution on top can be retained as a means (in theory) of adding a pale blue colour to linen. So far I have produced ‘Esztergom Lemon’ (Esztergom Citromsárga) from a tree in grounds of the Basilica.
The vadgesztenye fa within the grounds of the Watertown Parish Church (Visiváros Plébániatemplom) in Esztergom, has its own permanent cast iron guardian.
Dry dead leaves from a horse chestnut tree at Ade Andre Utca in Štúrovo produce a fine silvery ash which is carefully collected and ground into a particular and distinctive Štúrovo Grey.
I brought home a damaged twig from the horse chestnut tree beside the Maria Valeria Bridge. Splitting the teriminal bud revealed the wholeness of its springtime shape; entire, tightly wound, compressed and infused with fluorescing blue aesculin notes under the black ultra violet light. Will April ever seem so green again?
Aescelin in the bark and leaves of the local vadgesztenye fák (horse chestnut trees) shows colour in wavelengths invisible to the human eye, in the range of 10 to 400 nm. I detected its presence through the secondary blue fluorescence of a twig from the tree in a jar of Danube water under ultra violet light.
These high frequencies are visible to some insects and I wonder if it’s a ‘welcome’ to the cameraria ohridella moth, which has its own unique and strange attraction to the horse chestnut tree.
Out of the darkness of a cold night flared a celebratory light, which for a short while conjured the darker matter of a more enduring tree.
Horse chestnut trees are mirrored in the slowly flowing Little Danube, whilst finches chatter in the London planes which face them from the opposite bank. Locally resident Mallard ducks seem largely unmoved by the moment as they, none the less, radically change the scene.