Monday, September 9, 2013

A pocketful of acorns

You know the way nature documentaries dazzle you with images of bird migrations that seem to span continents, and flickering shoals of synchronized fish, and vast, galloping herds of wild antelopes? How your witnessing heart swells and tries to recalibrate its beat, in an effort to be part of it all, the sheer exuberance of the-earth-our-home? 

Maybe another language has a word made just for this feeling; but in English, one would begin with the word Joy...then add Awe and Wonder and Gratitude, and certainly Love. 

Well. Living in a city, I see only small pieces of that immense sky. Bits of woodlands, patches of prairie, wetlands flanked by highways, lakes reshaped by human agency. No vast spaces teeming with wild creatures. Wildness, yes; no wilderness.

But I do see acorns. 

This, I've decided, is the time of the acorn moon, a fruiting year. In the park-that-used-to-be-oak-savanna, they crunch and roll underfoot, strewn across my path where they tumbled from their parent trees. Acorns wearing rough, prickly caps pulled down low over their smooth hazel faces. Acorn pairs and clusters, cracked-shell acorns, acorns with small holes gnawed by grub or beetle, ghosts of acorns in tannins imprinted on the walkways.

And they lay not in miserly hundreds, but in thousands, hundreds of thousands...mounds. Heaped about in glorious plenitude, grown to propagate and nurture what they will: squirrel, white-tailed deer, duck. Pheasant. Wild turkey, Blue Jay. Woodpecker, mouse, bear. (Plus, pigs; at least in England. Now, if I had a pig....)

Through the metaphoric lens of the acorn, I get a sense of the hugeness of the wild world, its utter and splendid generosity. Nature does not play small. 

If I lived my life on the same grand scale, what would it look like? Because I am itching to open it up, to growgrowgrow. I long to hitch a ride on wildness's back, become one of its children, become one with its daily miracles. They go on all the time, is what I'm saying, whether or not we notice. Right now: miracle! Every moment. It is astonishing how many of them that I have taken for granted, how many nearly all of us take for granted.

Maybe I could have inferred nature's quiet yet immense doings from observing one autumn, or even one acorn; but that is reasoning, and what I am talking about is belonging to this wildness, not being outside of it, because I'm through with that. Finding where it lives in me and singing it back, the wonder song, through the rhythm of my heart, my breath; the dilation of these pupils, prickling of this skin, rushing of blood, the spring of muscle and tendon.

Letting this belonging change me, carry me somewhere deeper, stronger, brighter and darker. Because I get the feeling that I am seeing and feeling only the smallest bit of what is there to be seen and felt.

Now, right now, the bones of the woods and bluffs thrust forth from the withering masses of high summer's green, the way a face angles from youth into age. 

Again and again. The crunch of acorns under my feet. Sweet chirping of crickets singing me to sleep. Young-feathered eagles circling over flowing river and wide grasses in search of rabbits, fishes, voles.

Red-tailed hawks perched on light poles along the highway, the spinning down of summer in the crucible of September and all the millions of things I don't see, but that call me to shake off this worn-out illusion of separation, if I can. To come home to here.

I load up my pocket with acorns for the oak-less squirrels living in our silver maple. We are entering the time of feasting.

What is the world? What is it for? 
It is an art. It is the best of all possible art, a finite picture of the infinite. Assess it like prose, like poetry, like architecture, sculpture, painting, dance, delta blues, opera, tragedy, comedy, romance, epic. Assess it like you would a Faberge egg, like a gunfight, like a musical, like a snowflake, like a death, a birth, a triumph, a love story, a tornado, a smile, a heartbreak, a sweater, a hunger pain, a desire, a fulfillment, a desert, a waterfall, a song, a race, a frog, a play, a song, a marriage, a consummation, a thirst quenched.
Assess it like that. And when you're done, find an ant and have him assess the cathedrals of Europe. 

Photos: Caponi Art Park, Eagan, MN. 


  1. What a gorgeous post, Carmine. Plus beautiful colors and photos! I used to gather acorns and leave a grand pile in the middle of my old backyard for the squirrels.

    I felt as though this Lilith post might interest you... I read a few days ago and was reminded of it through your words:

    Sending blessings

    1. "Kerneled up within us all, an intimate wildness, sweet as a nut." Perfect. Thank you so much, Raquel, that post resonates, and now I've found my book to read during our jaunt to the northwoods in a few weeks.


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