Acorns remind me that in broken times, life tends toward renewal | Entertainment/Life

Christmas is a New England holiday we find in greeting cards and TV specials, one touched by jagged pines and blankets of snow. Every December, when I want to look for Christmas stories closer to home, I pull Lillian Smith’s “Memory of a Large Christmas” from the shelf. Smith grew up in rural Florida in the early 1900s, and her old-time Yuletide memories seem more like those a Louisiana child might know.

When Smith was a child, it wasn’t snow that meant Santa was on his way. “Christmas started when pecans started falling,” she tells readers. “The rains in early November loosened the nuts from their outer shells and sent them in like machine gun bullets on the veranda roof. “

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Although it has been a long time since I have lived in a place with pecan trees, there was the same sound that, for many years, indicated the approach of Christmas to me. It was the rad-a-tat-tat of berries falling on the tin shed of my neighbour, Bobby Hamilton.

Mr. Hamilton has been gone for years now, and the tin shed is no longer with us, either. These days, when berries fall in my neighborhood, they usually fall without a sound, which makes them harder to notice. But the other day, while I was getting our newspaper from the end of the driveway, I came across berries that were impossible to ignore. It was the great offspring of our Shumard oak – a brave symbol, as big as a walnut, that I brought into the house.

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Many years ago, while touring the North Carolina home where poet Carl Sandburg once lived, I noticed boxes and bowls containing nuts, stones, and other objects that Sandburg had found on his travels. . He enjoyed having these small, beautiful things close by, and it’s a habit I decided to adopt for myself. Depending on the season, my desk might hold a few pine cones harvested from the yard, a rock from the yard repurposed as a paperweight, or a sprinkling of berries from a nearby oak tree.

As I sit at my keyboard this month, my newt Shumard is a good reminder of the basic resilience of life. We planted our Shumard a few years ago to replace a weeping willow that had fallen in a storm. The Shumard was successful until last year, when the power company quickly cut it back to help protect a power line. The tree was in shock for a while after being vigorously uprooted, and I thought it might be a goner. But the Shumard slowly bounced back, and this year’s berries are proof of its resilience. They tell me that even in a dying year touched by brokenness, the world is responding to a basic impulse toward renewal.

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The great thing about berries is that once you see one, you naturally notice more. I’ve seen quite a few this month – as good a Christmas present as I can get.

Email Danny Heitman at [email protected]


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