Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Day before yesterday, at about 4:30 a.m., the light that came through the curtains was so brilliant, we thought the neighbors had left on an outside lamp all night. When we opened the door and followed the light, we found a super moon looming over the house, but by the following night, its brilliance had lessened. It was a cosmological event that occurs every seventy years when the moon comes closest to the earth, but some people regarded the event as an end-of-the-world or end-times omen. The super moon was followed by the staccato sound of acorn rain reverberating on the roof and the scurrying feet of squirrels retrieving nuts for both storage and daily survival. This is the year for both a super moon and a banner crop of acorns from the giant oak in my backyard.  

In one city of the U.S., the mother of a student in a parochial school protested the acorn rain and asked that a grove of oak trees be relocated because some students allergic to nuts were scared that bullies at the school could torment them by pelting them with acorns. Allergy experts were quick to protest that anaphylactic allergy to acorns is highly unlikely and that no one has ever reported a death from acorn allergy. The trees weren’t relocated. I was interested in this report because I’m victim to numerous allergies, including peanuts and other nuts, and the giant oak outside my window is raining thousands of nuts, contrary to last year’s scant crop. 

Like millions of other Americans right now, after the constant media onslaught of news about the election, I retreat to the natural world to center down, as the Quakers say. I dust off my 150th anniversary edition of Walden by Henry Thoreau. In the Foreword by Terry Williams, she writes about Thoreau’s imagination being rooted during the time between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War when America was fighting for its independence while struggling to maintain its unity, the latter being something that became a constant theme with Thoreau…and  remains a theme with us.

Thoreau, of course, had built a cottage in the woods near Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts and spent over two years there writing Walden, a chronicle of his life in the natural world, and the work became a classic. I love his statement: “We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander.” Williams speaks of reading Thoreau to become filled "with a faith that stands up and says that what is essential will endure, even under the weight of greed, even under the mantle of arrogance, because our own resistance to inappropriate uses of power becomes our insistence that moral reform is not only necessary but critical to safeguard the dignity of all life…" Amen.

I know this blog "pastures freely" from acorns and super moons to Thoreau, but perhaps respect for the natural world is a path on which we walk back to the connectedness of humans and our higher nature. As Williams observed, "we find truth beneath the leaf litter of a forest floor. We gently move the leaves aside. On our knees, we bend down, kiss the good earth, and breathe."

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