Cheri and I decided to take a walk yesterday around the neighborhood. Actually, in the spirit of all honesty, Cheri decided we were going to take a walk yesterday. The usual plan arises, just as I have settled in to getting a few different things done, that she will ask, “So – do you want to take a walk today?” This is where after almost four decades of marriage, I have learned to pause, and actually think about the consequences of my response. My knee jerk reaction is to say, “Not really – I have some other things I’d rather do instead…” This is not a good reaction. This is not good at all. So what I do instead is to, again, pause, and no matter what I WANT to do, what I want to do is of course take a walk with my wife, even if I’m really thinking about what I WANT to do instead.
So, we took a walk. It was a nice, warm, humid, and strangely enough, windless morning. It felt like someone had stuck wet sponges in various areas on my body. On top of that, the rains that fell earlier this week, and had washed the pollen out of the air, had also managed to grow a whole new crop, and so my allergies managed to come alive, with coughs and wheezing. Lovely time. My whining, why-me-the-victim perspective lasted about a block, when I notice a real mess on the sidewalk a number of yards ahead of us. I also noticed a small furry animal racing as fast as possible around the tree positioned above the mess on the ground.
As we got closer, I realized the only thing that could move that fast was a squirrel on a mission. Further, the mission the squirrel was undertaking concerned nothing other than his survival in the months to come. The squirrel was operating in a small oak tree, and the mess on the ground all over the sidewalk were indeed acorns. Dozens, and maybe more than a hundred acorns, scattered all over. As we got closer, it was clear that only half of the little nut clusters really had nuts in them. The other half were left only with the little caps or hats that the acorns wear, empty, as the tasty part of the acorn had been absconded by the worker squirrel. I felt like I was watching a Chip and Dale cartoon, as they swiped all the acorns away from Donald Duck.
I couldn’t believe, first of all, that so many acorns could come out of one little oak tree, that barely stood fifteen feet tall. Secondly, I couldn’t believe how much work that squirrel was putting into getting the acorns in the middle of August, with hopefully more than a couple of months to go before snow was on the ground. At least, I hoped that was true, but with all those acorns, I began to wonder if the squirrel knew more than I did. I began to recall a couple of things about squirrels and acorns. First, I read once that squirrels don’t hide nuts and seeds and such from the trees to that they can find them once winter sets in, but instead, that SOME squirrel will find them and survive. Even though it looked like an individual acorn IRA in the making, if we were to observe all the squirrels in Fargo, we would notice that it is more a truly community squirrel thing, with everyone doing their share to make sure that acorns were stored and easily available once they were needed. That’s not a bad image for us to take along as we think about what we do as part of a community, and in what ways do we and our neighbors benefit from each other’s work. I know that up in Grafton, where Cheri’s mom lives, and her brother still farms, that there is a long tradition, when this time of the year rolls around, that corn and potatoes and zucchini and more gets shared among the neighbors, as one person’s garden bears fruit, and everyone enjoys it. In our “citified” lifestyle, that is a rare occurrence, but hopefully I will remember the kindness our neighbors showed even in little ways when it comes time for me to make the peanut brittle around Christmas time.
The other thing I found to be amazing, but absolutely makes sense, is that the persons in charge of surveying things have discovered that across the country, and probably around the world, wherever squirrels exist, literally thousands, and perhaps even tens of thousands of trees come into being and grow each year due to the acorns and other nuts and seeds squirrelled away in little holes in the ground, and the forgotten, which burst into life the next spring to start new small oak groves and apple orchards of their own. They predict that way more nuts and such are harvested by the little animals than could possibly be consumed, and so part of the natural order of things is that God simply put them to work ensuring that with the harvest of nuts, the future of all those different types of trees would continue and flourish.
We talked about all of this, while we laughed at the huge mess on the sidewalk left by the busy squirrel, and the walk wasn’t so bad after all. I guess it’s nice to walk with your eyes wide open, preparing to see what might be seen, that can help us recall the work and gift of God to our world, even in the form of a little furry fellow. It does, however, require a sense of being present where we are, and intentionally paying attention to what is happening around us. Otherwise, we might as well stay in bed with our eyes closed. Life is worth living, so get up and do that today.
Word for the day: argute. Pronounced ARE-gyoot, it’s a neat little word that has fallen into disuse these days. When someone is “argute,” we are saying that they are sharp, perceptive, or even shrewd. The word comes from the Latin, argutus, or arguer, meaning a clarifier, or making things become clear and understood. With a little bit of shade, someone who talks argutely is very good at having you come to understand things from his or her perspective, so that it always sound like the truth. They aren’t liars, just… shrewd. Of course the word has a cousin, that we have mismanaged for a number of years: argue, which has come to mean to disagree or find fault with or fight over, when originally to argue meant to simply put forth facts in a way that would make things clearly understood. Of course, if I am to be argute, I will argue in a way that “helps” the other person come to believe that what I am saying is the true truth.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.