Together we trace overlapping plates of thick gray bark, the old oak’s memory of winters past. She marvels at how she cannot pry even one thickened scale. How can she understand a tree hardened by more winters than she knows? This old oak fears no cold.
Overhead, summer’s clinging reminders bob on the October breeze. Below, others tumble among hard-earned hardened yellow nuts. A happy rustle-crunch-crush as schoolchildren tramp home this candy apple afternoon.
Delighted by the bounty, she stop-stoops, gathers fists of golden nuts, one by one peels back their jolly caps, aligns uncapped nuts across from their caps, two files of opposing teams awaiting kickoff.
Beaming at her ordered harvest, now she worries that squirrels won’t know these bald nuts, and unburied they’ll not sprout next spring. She carefully replaces a cap on each nut, rearranges her harvest as a golden diamond, hopes the shining display will draw their attention.
She dance steps to our porch, takes my hand. We watch a jaybird, mouth gaping impossibly as he snatches one golden prize. With precise toss of his head, he positions the nut just so, then caches his treasure beneath dry leaves. Today, I won’t tell her how this same bird pillages robin nests each May.
The old oak draws courage from its past and wears it like armor. I summon courage from my child’s dance among the acorns.