Saturday, November 17, 2012


Little vessels of promise, acorns litter my driveway.  When I crunch them with my tires or feet, it feels like a random act of violence, obliterating the opportunity each little seed represents.  I’m a goofball about such things. 

We have a tree at one of my schools that drops acorns on steroids.  I think someone called it a burl oak, and its acorns are the size of golfballs.  I love that tree.  I have a funny mental image of a squirrel trying to lug that nut home for dinner. The shells are a deep, burnished brown and they wear the equivalent of a ten-gallon hat.  I pick them up on my way to work and store them guiltily, wondering how many rodents I’m depriving of a winter meal.

The tree over my driveway drops millions of acorns and once smushed they stain the concrete. Some scientist at A&M is probably trying to find a way to harvest that crop in a more meaningful way.  I can imagine a green engineer finding a way to recycle them into countertops or laminate.  That’s what we do as human beings, exploit what we love in nature. 

My mom had a tree in her backyard that dropped bombs.  I don’t think it was an oak tree;  she called it a horse chestnut. The size of baseballs, the bright green nuts would litter the yard without decomposing for years. She used to pay the grandkids a dime a piece to pick them up before the lawn mower chipped a blade. It cost her a pretty penny.

When my grandchildren and I go on a walkabout, we fill our pockets with acorns.  They see what I see…little treasures that can easily be used to create acorn people or other crafty things, and as it turns out, when you forget where you put them they come through the washing machine just fine. Squeaky clean and intact.

One time I bought a bag of acorns carved from oak.  That was dumb, but they were so pretty I couldn’t resist. At Hobby Lobby I found acorns formed from resin, their hats covered with glitter in autumn colors. A shameful substitute for what falls from the trees.  I’m pretty sure the Little Red Hen knows what I mean. I could start my own club…AA… for suckers like me, powerless over our acorn impulsivity.

So many little time.

I can't believe I ate the whole thing... most 12-step programs, this AA chapter offers help for those with an identity crisis.
Who am I without acorns?

I visited a lady’s house the other night and she had a big bowl of beautiful acorns on her dining room table.  Mahogany in color with tops that looked like braided rope, they were a bountiful reflection of fall.  She said she polished them with vegetable oil.  I lusted after those acorns.  She told me she found them in the woods beside her house, so I’m on a mission.  I want my own bowl full. Sorry, squirrels.

I've proposed a unique birth announcement for the little life developing in Lauren right now...her own little creation.  I haven't convinced her that my idea is superior to others she's found on her own...but I think acorns represent a great analogy for how life begins...

A man on my street wrote a wonderful book about crawdads.  I had no idea there were so many varieties.  He’s obsessed with these mudbugs.  I have been mulling over the idea of a similar tome on acorns.  The possibilities are endless.  There are probably some really cool acorns in Micronesia or New Zealand.  What’s not fascinating about that?

My love for acorns is not obsessive, but when they start to fall in the fall, bumping me on the shoulder as they tumble from the trees or cracking underfoot when I set my pumpkins on the porch, my mind begins turning them into projects rather than simple gifts.  Better to just take notice of the season and enjoy's hard to improve on their beauty anyways.

What is it that I love besides their color, texture, and shape?

I think it’s the hope hidden inside.  From that tiny green pod, a huge, sprawling, spreading oak can grow.  It’s the equivalent of a mustard seed of faith.  Without any help from us, that little acorn can roll into the dirt, take root, and develop over time into giant spreading boughs that become an oxygenated ecosystem that will regenerate ad infinitum.  I love that idea.  Our world is full of temporary and ugly things, but it’s also full of enormous beauty and possibility.

Like acorns.