Acornucopia

My littlest dachshund, Laverne, has been acting rather squirrelly the past few days. And if I’m honest, I have to say that her nutty behavior is partly my fault.

When I was a kid, my mom made Pine Cone Choirs during the holidays. Members of the Pine Cone Choir had bodies made of pine cones with acorn heads glued on top. She painted little faces on the acorns, their mouths all in an “O,” as if they were permanently singing the first note of “Joy to the World.”

I remember looking for acorns to be used for the Pine Cone Choir people’s heads. The acorns had to still have their “hats” on, and they needed to be long enough and plump enough to have room for a painted face. Finding plenty of perfect acorns was sometimes tough, especially if we began searching after the squirrels had sifted through the nuts.

To this day, if I see a “perfect” acorn, I pick it up. It’s not like I’m going to make any Pine Cone Choirs, but I guess some habits stay with us forever.

And really, there’s a second reason I collect acorns.

In her 2006 best-selling memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about the Zen Buddhist belief that there are two forces working at once to bring an oak tree into existence. The first, obviously, is the acorn, the seed full of the potential to become the giant oak. But the second force is the future tree with its desire to exist, a longing so great that it creates the seed from which it was born. According to Zen Buddhism, she says, it is the seed’s potential along with the future pull of the already-existing tree that join together in helping that tree become what it was meant to be.

I love that. I love looking at pictures of myself as a small child and saying to that little girl, “It really is ALL good.” But even more, I love the thought of the woman I want to be. As Gilbert says, she’s standing at the top of the mountain and yelling encouragement back at me: “Yes! You can do it! Things might be hard right now, but what you dream of becoming is absolutely possible, and I’m just waiting for you to join me.”

So I pick up acorns. My housekeeper must think I’m nutty because I have two or three acorns next to my computer so I can see them when I write. I have a few on my nightstand, a few on my bathroom counter, and a few on my back porch, next to my quiet place. I keep them to remind me that it’s not only possible to become what I was meant to be; it’s inevitable, as long as I don’t give up.

Laverne is terrified by the sounds of weed eaters, mowers, and blowers. Yesterday, when the yard people were at my house, she followed me around begging to be held. She ended up in my lap while I was at the computer. And while I was typing, she noticed my acorns on the desk and decided she had to have one. Before I could stop her, she jumped from my lap onto the desk, grabbed a nut in her mouth, jumped off the desk, and ran.

I tried to get my acorn back, but she hid it, or more appropriately, she squirreled it away. It took me the better part of a day to find the remains of my acorn. Just like a squirrel, she’d cracked it open and eaten the meaty inside. All that remained were a piece of shell and the cute little hat.

I know. I’m nuts, and so is my dog. But that doesn’t discourage me, because I keep telling myself that the mighty oak is just a little nut that held its ground.

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