For more than a year, even prior to Covid and all that ensued as a result, I’ve worked from home. My preferred spot for work is the table near the window in our front room. It’s a huge arched window, like something out of a church in France. For years I had an office with no windows, so being able to sit and work while watching the world through this magnificent arch has been wonderful. I love the natural light as I have a deep, deep loathing for all things florescent, especially overhead office lighting. I watched all four seasons come and go (twice, now that I think about it) from this spot: from the first leaf of autumn to the bitter cold winter of ’21; from the new life of Spring to the browning of the grass in the drought of summer. It’s been really cool to see it all through this window, like peering through the portal from another time.
In the big oak in our front yard lives a family of red squirrels. As Chewy and I kept watch, these not-so-little critters (the native gray squirrels of North Carolina seem positively tiny in comparison to these giants) feverishly gathered and stored more acorns than I could ever hope to count, with the flowerbed beneath my window becoming their preferred place of deposit. Once the little fur-balls realized Chewy and I weren’t a threat, they began stashing their loot under the mulch. I reckon the soft, decaying wood is a much easier medium to work with than the hard-packed, red Oklahoma dirt. As spring rains fell and the summer sun began to shine down, some of those acorns took root and I began to see the small, tender leaves of an oak lift their spindly arms through the mulch, rolling out their leaves to soak up the rays. To look at one of these little sprigs, it’s hard to imagine it becoming a mammoth tree like the one which extends shade our entire front yard. Yet we all know it’s true: from the acorn comes the oak.
It’s quite easy to pluck those shoots up! How quickly all that life can be snuffed out before it ever gets too far along. How easy to mistake the tiny oak sapling for a weed needing pruning. And, to be honest, who wants an oak tree 3 feet from your house? We have enough roots-in-pipes thank you very much. But I digress…I wonder how many acorns either never received the water to begin to shoot up? How many just rotted under the surface, or how many were pulled up before their time, instead of being carefully tended, planted, watered?
You can guess I’m not talking just about acorns and oaks, right?
This little visual metaphor got my mind thinking, “What might the acorns in my own life be? And what about the ones in the lives of my kids? Or my wife?”
It had me kind of freaking out, if I’m honest.
Parenting is scary business. The older my kids get the more I worry about them. I know, any good parent should worry about their kids, right? Who they’re hanging out with, who they might marry, what they’re doing when you’re not around, or the grand-daddy of them all: are they going to turn out just like me? Sheeesh. I mean, in a sense, they’re acorns themselves, right? The offspring of two other oaks?
But what about their acorns? What gifts are buried in them? In their hearts? In their minds? What beauty is waiting, just beneath the surface in the fertile ground of their souls? Are those seeds being watered and tended? Or, as I shudder to think, are the small oak trees being unknowingly uprooted in my zeal to “weed” the garden? How have my own ideas influenced which acorns should be allowed to bud? How have my own issues/prejudices/fears/dreams/baggage influenced their growth? What unintentional uprooting have I done in their hearts? How have the mistakes they’ve seen their parents make, the trials we’ve gone through, caused them to do premature pruning of their own?
I think about my wife…I think about how, in a very real way, she uprooted her own oaks in order to make room for mine to grow. I think of how words uprooted the acorns I know were in her soul, words I heard uttered by others, and, to my shame, words I uttered myself.
As to my own “acorns”, I often struggle to even think of what they may be. Perhaps they’re buried so deep they can’t get enough heat to grow? Perhaps they sprouted years ago, only to be pulled up? Or, maybe even scarier, they were cut down as they started to really grow, whether by me or by someone else.
Eventually, you can start to believe those acorns were never there. You dismiss them. You ignore the memories. You get use to the new landscape, barren as it may be. It’s amazing what we can get used to if we’re told it enough.
But I don’t want that.
I want to cultivate those things, whether in my kids, my wife, or myself. I want to encourage them to grow, to reach down deep and take root, to take the risk of shooting out into the sky, not knowing if this particular seed will endure, or if another will sprout up and over shadow it. I absolutely don’t want to cause something to be prematurely uprooted when it has the potential for life and beauty. I want to see the dreams and ideas and hopes, even long buried ones, take root, throw up tiny leaves of hope, and sink down roots deep in the earth.
Given the choice I’d much rather be known as a cultivator of oaks than a crusher of acorns.
How ’bout you?