Acorn Time

The acorns are dropping by the bushels around St Louis. We’ve had a lot of wind come through recently which I think accelerated the process. It also knocked down ripe persimmons, larger branches for fort building and a fresh blanket of orange pine needles under the pines that serve as homebase for Forest School. I guess wind blowing stuff around isn’t all bad? The colors warming in the landscape give a cozy new feel feel to time outside and new visual interest to take in wherever you look. The air is crisper, and the sunlight much softer. I come with anxiety out of the loud, busy, Covid- tainted metropolis on these Tuesday and Thursdays mornings but upon arrival at the park Pines, find a magical, natural wonderland with the children there and feel immediate restoration and peace.

Why do Oaks drop so many acorns? That will remain a question forever in my mind. The variety and multitude of these strong little seeds is mind boggling. I remember reading somewhere that a large Oak tree can drop something like 10,000 acorns in a year. They are often used as a symbol for schools, in books or for educational endeavors. Acorns are such a common occurance on the sidewalks and streetsides of urban & suburban ecosystems I inhabit and yet I’ve spent very little time “sitting” with them over the course of my 38 years. How did I never play with them as a child? Collect them? Or take a few minutes to try and crack one open? The kids in Wilderkids Urban Forest School won’t have to worry about that!

I’m getting my chance now too. It’s nearly impossible to overlook the acorns when meandering at a 3 year old pace in Oak-laden Tower Grove Park with those same 3 year olds who want to see and hold nearly everything within reach. We’ve come across acorns that were light brown, dark brown , yellow (yellow!), two-toned, small, large, smooth, capless, doubled-up, misshapen, elongated, cracked, smashed, as well as perfectly intact.

With kids in this setting, the impulse to grab our favorites and hold on to them for some reason can be infectious! My fanny pack gets loaded up with stuff kids want me to hold on to but forget about almost as soon as they hand it to me. Do they want to show their moms or bring their treasures home to store somewhere? The ABILITY to grab stuff in nature freely without any regulation of what should be done with it IS quite a nice luxury! There’s a joy in the abundance and renewability of natural phenomenon. It’s a gift! So I treasure the treasuring (as long as I have enough pockets!)

As we piddled with the acorns by the walking path (rolling them, stomping on them, peeling off the outer shell of them, etc) I started munching on the nutmeat which a child had carefully extracted for me. I had jokingly mentioned to him “you know you can try eating the acorn if you take the outer shell off?!” and was therefore obliged to eat it when he proudly offered it to me after he did just that. After gingerly munching a few moments it started to occur to me that I was EATING the stuff that these large, beautiful, quintessential neighborhood trees are MADE of! In essence, I was EATING a tree! I had tried an acorn before but this time it tasted like nothing I had eaten before. Yes a bit bitter (I’ve had much worse though), but this time, in this place, with these children in October, the bitterness had a deeply satisfying flavor! I felt deeply that it was very GOOD. This is the food that had sustained Native Americans, that feeds creatures like squirrels, deer, and insects, and that propels a giant Oak tree skyward which has fed me with shade to cool off in summer, Oxygen with which to breathe, wood to build my house and to make a fire with in the fireplace to keep me warm. How good is that?! It was an amazing spiritual moment that I stumbled upon all while playing with kids at the park!

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