There is an acorn on my son’s bedside table. Found by the two of us on a Sunday afternoon walk through the backyard.
That acorn is special to him. He now has inside knowledge that he formerly did not. He is privy to the acorn’s secret.
Which is this: There is a tree inside it.
Before, my son didn’t really know the true purpose of an acorn. He once saw a cat narrowly escape a falling acorn and surmised it was the tree’s method of self defense if something got too close for comfort–tree bullets. But then on another occasion he witnessed an acorn falling for no apparent reason at all. He didn’t know what to think then.
So. Seeing as how he had found another one and seeing as how I happened to be there with him at the time:
“Daddy, what do acorns do?”
Well. Acorns are seeds, I told him. And that in the Fall they drop from the trees to the ground. If all goes well and nothing bothers it much, the acorn will grow a root. When the warm weather comes back, a tree starts to grow.
“A tree?” he wondered.
“Yes. Inside the acorn is a tree.”
It was one of those times in my son’s life when validation comes for some of his more fantastical opinions. Are their dragons and fairies and pots of gold at the ends of rainbows? Yes. There had to be. If it’s true that a giant tree lives in a tiny acorn, then those things have to be true as well.
But: “What do you mean if all goes well and nothing bothers it?”
Without going into the whole biological process (which I really didn’t know), I told him in broad strokes that the acorn needs things in order to turn into a tree. Water, for one. And good soil. Sunshine, too. If it has all of those things, it will grow.
We looked around and found four more acorns scattered across the yard. Those, he said, should stay were they were. But he first one went into his pocket.
I understood. Sometimes we need small examples of larger truths.
Like that acorn, we all have something big inside us. And like that acorn, what lies there must be tended to and cared for in order to grow.
It won’t be easy. That acorn is small. We are, too. And both of us are stuck in a world where there are plenty of things determined to keep us that way.