The Smallest Acorn
Alice loved collecting acorns and chestnuts with her grandfather. They would spend hour after hour walking through the woods beyond their old log cabin collecting and talking about this, that, and nothing in particular. Even though she was only twelve years old, Alice understood time with her grandparents was getting short. She overheard her mother crying one night and telling her father that it had come back. Alice didn’t know what it was that came back, but she was happy when her mother asked if she wanted to visit her grandparents.
On this particular trip through the woods, her grandfather led her down a new trail rather than their usual one that went down by the lake. It didn’t take her long to figure out why. The entire trail was lined with oak trees as tall and as thick as she had ever seen.
“These trees been here as long as I have,” her grandfather said, sitting on a fallen log to catch his breath.
“They’re wonderful,” Alice said, looking at all the colors that blanketed the clear, blue sky.
Alice started looking around along the ground for more acorns while her grandfather began telling her a story about these woods. She was really only half listening, but when the words magic, healing, and acorn reached her ears, she stopped and started listening. However, it didn’t take her very long to become distracted by the smallest acorn she had ever seen.
This acorn was perfect in every way, except it was only a third the size of a normal acorn. When she picked it up, it felt electric. As if some energy flowed out of the acorn and up her arm. It tickled and made her giggle.
“Whatcha giggling about,” her grandfather asked.
“This little acorn,” she said, holding it up so he could see it.
Her grandfather began to shake with joy. He couldn’t believe his eyes. It was the exact acorn he hoped she would find. He knew she wasn’t listening all that carefully, but finding that particular acorn was the goal. The longstanding oaks surrounding them seemed all at once closer to him. Alice didn’t seem to notice the oaks were closer, almost sheltering them both. She handed the acorn to her grandfather. He closed it in his hand and his smile grew big.
Alice noticed a change in him, it had been a while since she saw that broad smile he used to have when they played together. “Did it make your fingers tingle, grandfather?” She looked more closely at him.
“Yes, my child. Your finding this littlest acorn is the best thing!” He looked around him and up at the trees.
What Alice saw next was not anything she could have ever imagined. Not only did he have a broad smile on his face, but there was a twinkle in his eyes that she’d never seen before. With the small acorn still gripped tightly in his fist, her grandfather stood up and actually started to do a little dance.
“Grandfather,” she said, her voice a mixture of amusement and concern. “Maybe you should sit back down on the log.”
“Nonsense,” her grandfather said. “I haven’t felt this good since I was a much younger man. I have so much energy and I’m feeling a joy I haven’t experienced in years. I know that, thanks to you, my dear child, thanks to your having found this small acorn and given it to me to hold, that the cancer has left my broken, old body.”
“I don’t understand how that’s possible, grandfather,” Alice said, a confused and worried look on her face.
“Let me tell you a story, Alice,” he said, sitting back down on the log next to her. “You’re going to find this a little hard to believe, child, but I promise you that it will explain everything.”
“Once there were many oak trees upon this land. Lodge pole pine, quaking aspen, sugar and red maple trees, and many others, as far as the eye could see. Then man began to develop the land. Use it, as it is intended, to sustain us and provide food and shelter. The trees began to disappear. Pretty soon there weren’t many left, except on private land like this is.”
Alice shifted a little impatiently. She loved her grandfather and his stories, but sometimes it took him a long time to get to the point. And she was very curious indeed about the tiny acorn.
Grandfather, perhaps realizing he was losing his granddaughter’s attention; continued. “Yes some people held parts of the land and didn’t allow others to come in and continue destroying the earth. You, Alice, are the last in a line of very special people. Because you see, you have a great gift, one I’ve not seen on this earth in my whole life until now.”
“Me?” squeaked Alice. “Grandfather, I’m just ordinary..an ordinary little girl.” Alice was secretly embarrassed by her very short stature and her petite frame.
“No!” Her grandfather spoke sternly, more than he ever had to Alice. “You proved yourself when you found this acorn. See how tiny it is? It’s a Quercus phellos or ‘very small’ acorn. It’s a baby in the span of acorn and oak lives. Sort of just like you, Alice.”
Alice was indignant. “I’m TWELVE!” she sputtered, “I’m not a baby!”
The old man’s face was glorious with love and amusement at his granddaughter.
“Let me explain.” Grandfather said, “You have the power of healing. This acorn is just the focus point you needed for your gift to express itself. Always keep this little nut close to you. And when you need your gift, as you will many times in your life, just hold it. Wait for that tickling and tingling to run up your arm and into your body. Then let it all out again. Because you and your acorn are still so young, your power is all the more potent.”
He continued, a bit more gently: “I know this is a lot to absorb, but as you said yourself, you’re no longer a baby. You are ready to become what you ARE…do you understand?”
Alice thought quietly for a while, and then holding the tiny acorn in her hand, but not too tightly, began to understand her Grandfather’s words. “Okay, Grandfather, I think I know what you’re talking about. I’ll do my best to make you proud.” She slipped the acorn into her pocket and smiled.
“Good.” Grandfather reached down and took Alice’s hand. Together they started home. “Good. I’ll teach you what I can while there’s still time.”
Alice stopped and pulled her hand from his. Colored leaves fell around them as she stared at her grandfather in dismay. “But, I don’t understand. I you said the cancer was gone.” Her lip trembled and tears filled her eyes.
Grandfather knelt down in front of Alice and took both of her hands in his. “Listen to me child and understand. Healing does not mean defeating death, because death cannot be defeated. It comes for us all. Healing means to take away the pain of an illness. The cancer your little acorn cured will make my time here much better, but it will not make it very much longer.” He stroked her hair and wiped the tear from her eye. “You have to be strong like the tree that will surely come from your acorn.”
“But Grandfather, please. I don’t understand. Why bring me all this way? Why help me find the acorn? Why teach me anything at all if you’re only going to die in the end?”
Grandfather sighed and sat back on his heels. He gestured to the forest surrounding them. “These trees we’re under, whose glory we admire. They are only here because someone before us planted them a long time ago.” He stood up and reached for her hand again. “I brought you here, child not because I wanted to be cured or even in the hope that you would find your acorn, though I’m glad you did. Initially, I just wanted to spend time with you.” They started again towards home. “However, to answer your question: Hope, my child, comes when one plants a tree under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”
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