Beanery Online Literary Magazine

September 30, 2008

THE REMINDER

Filed under: WR/BW JOE — beanerywriters @ 7:23 am
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BEANERY ONLINE LITERARY MAGAZINE

THE REMINDER

JOE STIERHEIM

     I have a basket of pinecones sitting on top of my file cabinet. The collection began through no particular intention of mine. One day shortly after I moved into my rooming unit, I was walking along the steppingstones that lead from the lot where I park my car when I noticed them. They and their brothers lay beneath the lone pine that grows there, exposed on the sparse grass of winter. Lying with them were the remains of cones from previous seasons—faded, broken, gnawed upon, some flattened underfoot and ground into the earth.
     I picked up one that recently dropped, its unspoiled pattern of interlocked scales resembling plate armor, smooth and uniformly colored a glistening tan. I pictured what it would look like in a month or two if left beneath the tree: moisture and temperature would force its scales apart, preparing them for propagation or to furnish food for small animals. If I carried it away I would be robbing it of its natural function. Or would I be?  No small tree that started would be permitted to continue to grow on this mowed area.
     I began walking toward my building, holding the pinecone in my hand, inspecting and admiring it. Once in my room I put it on my desk where it rested, remaining within my field of vision and on my mind as I went about my necessary tasks. I pondered the power and energy that was contained within the small cylindrical bit of vegetation, each of its small scales capable of producing a tree that could tower over me. If only I could grasp its full significance, I thought, I might glimpse a small bit of the universe—perhaps even of creation itself.
     The following morning, as I walked to my car through the scatter of pinecones, I stopped and, removing my hat, filled it with a dozen solid cones. I took them to my room, put them in a basket and placed it on my file cabinet, where they still rest. Over months, the cones changed: their scales spread apart; they became hard; their color deepened to a rich, profound brown. To me, they seemed even more mysterious and enigmatic. I continued to ponder them.
     Sometime later a friend visited me and asked why I had a basket of pinecones on my file cabinet. I struggled to put into words the reasons that I had arrived at in my mind for my keeping them there.
     “It’s to remind me of the beauty, complexity and yet utter simplicity of nature,” I replied. In return I received a scowl, a shake of the head, and silence.
     A few moments later, one of my fellow tenants stopped by my room. He, too, noticed the file cabinet display. He is a bold, straightforward, no-nonsense sort of guy.  “What the hell you doin’ with a bunch of pinecones?” he asked.
     I began to answer. “They remind me of the beauty …”
     “He used to live in the country,” my friend interrupted, “They remind him of home.”
     I let it go at that. It was as good an answer as any.   
ADDITIONAL READING:

KEEPING PEACE IN SOUTH AFRICA Part 1

KEEPING PEACE IN SOUTH AFRICA Part 2

THUNDER MOUNTAIN LENAPE NATION POWWOW

FERAL BIRDS: THE LATEST COMMUNITY HAZARD

OF FIREFLIES AND LIGHTNING BUGS

BLACK FLIES AND OTHER INSECTS: Then and Now

WATCHING CORN GROW

BEAR STORIES ACROSS THE NATION & BEAR CONFRONTATIONS: SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

DRESSING FOR BLESSING: GOD AND FASHION Part 1

IF I COULD CRY

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