Of Perseids and Paw-Paws
by Teri Leigh Teed
August is a month full of adventure and fun here in the mountains. The annual Perseid meteor shower is expected to bring peak viewing opportunities on the 11th – 13th of this month. Last year I took a trip to view the Perseids from Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway, about a 30-minute drive from my home. One of the local professors at Western Carolina University brought a high-powered telescope for all who wanted to take a look at the heavens above, although the Perseids are easily seen with the naked eye.
What amazed me was the brilliance of the stars and seeing the full spectrum of the Milky Way, unaided by any technology. The last time I saw so many thousands of stars overhead was looking out the window of a cottage in Ireland. The night time dew was so thick at that elevation of over 6,000 ft that our jackets and jeans, our folding chairs, and the ground and grass were soon damp after the sun went down. We even saw the space shuttle pass overhead twice.
Another treat in August is the harvesting of paw-paws. If you are not familiar with this lovely fruit, perhaps you remember a song from your childhood about picking up paw-paws and putting them in your pocket, way down yonder in the paw-paw patch? This traditional folk song, “The Paw Paw Patch”, is part of Southern and Appalachian lore. For a treat, listen to this lovely rendition by Stephen Griffith.
The paw-paw is a native fruit of the Carolinas, and the largest native fruit of North America. To me, they look a little bit like pears in color and shape in their unripened state, and their ripe texture is said to be custardy with a taste of bananas and mangoes. They are sensitive to light, and so love to grow in the forest shade along creeks. They are slow to mature to fruit bearing, taking about 8 years to produce a first crop. When ripe, the lovely fruits drop to the ground for easy picking up.
Perhaps the Perseids and the Paw-Paws are tied together by the “As above, so Below” mantra? Something mystical to ponder on a star-lit night.
We’ve had an abundance of rain this summer, and just a few days ago there was a hint of an early Fall. The forests are so green and lush, which means the foliage should be brilliant for this autumn show and the annual migration of the leaf peepers. Make your plans for a visit to the mountains in October and take time to relax and have fun.
Featured photograph “Illumination” by Teri Leigh Teed