In Respect of The Walnut
My stand-off with a red fox across a small meadow should have been the highlight of my evening bike ride, but it wasn’t.
My highlight was holding a walnut that had fallen from a tree onto a road. I picked it up after my encounter with the fox.
The fox stood very still in his tracks as I walked my bike a few feet closer to get a better look at the beautiful animal. I got my opportunity as he inspected me just as I inspected him. He then decided he didn’t like what it saw and turned to trot into the woods.
I got back on my bike and pedaled a few more miles when my tire hit something and skidded a bit. I stopped to determine what had almost caused my accident.
It was a round walnut still in its green husk.
A walnut tree provided shade over the house where I lived as a child so young that my memories are scattered and limited. I remember spending a great deal of time in the yard with the tree, a wood fence that was built by horizontal, rather than vertical, pieces of wood and a picnic table.
I would sit under that tree pulling apart walnut husks to reveal the nuts buried beneath while I waited for my father to make his short walk home from his office building.
Years later, I learned that my mother had completely different memories of that time. She dreaded the walnuts falling as they were not gems to be uncovered, as my brother and I thought, but were instead dirty objects that left stains upon whomever and whatever touched them. I don’t remember the stains at all.
What I do remember is the beautiful antique furniture in our home that my parents said was made of walnut.
I also remember that my parents had an annual holiday tradition of offering an unending supply of nuts, still in their shells, with a nutcracker. That bowl always contained walnuts.
Those walnuts bore little resemblance to the black ones that had left my hands caked in a dirt and grime, but they did serve as a reminder.
Sometimes we have to look beyond what we initially observe – the inconvenience and messiness that most people carry with them – to discover all they have to offer. Sometimes, the greatest rewards come when we permit ourselves to take on situations that require us to get our hands dirty. And almost all of the time, people and situations aren’t all good or all bad but simply an untidy mix of both.
Our responsibility as people is to train ourselves to always look for the good.