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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.

walnutsI picked up the walnut and squeezed it to not only reveal the nut beneath but a flood of memories as well.

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.dirty fingers

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.

365 Reasons to Smile – Day 91

Eastern_Grey_SquirrelI pretty much like everything about fall with the exception of the stink bugs and squirrels.

I’ll always dislike stink bugs, but I don’t always dislike squirrels. I just have an issue with them in the fall because they go from being cute critters to being dangerous rodents.

Their transformation is directly related to walnuts falling from the trees. The more walnuts that fall, the more dangerous the squirrels become.

They are like addicts going after the next fix, and they’ll risk almost anything to get it. Sometimes that means running almost directly under my German Shepherd’s nose while he’s on a leash. The squirrels are never at much risk of being hurt by my dog when he lunges, but I am. There have been a couple of times when I feared having my shoulder torn out of its socket.

But the squirrels’ courage around my dog is nothing compared to their courage on roads. When I’m behind the wheel of a car, I generally don’t notice the squirrels that stalk the roads just waiting for nuts to fall. But when I’m on my bicycle, I notice.  And when a nut does fall, there isn’t just a mad dash to get it. There’s a competition.

The squirrels certainly don’t care if there is someone on a bike hurtling down a hill right at them. They run in front of the bicycle anyway.

Which is why I’m glad that I just had my bike serviced and the brakes work.

And I have proof that they work well. They work really, really well  – even under dire circumstances.

And that always makes me smile.

Day 91: Bicycle Brakes

Day 90:  Heroes Day 89: The Cricket in Times Square  Day 88:  The Grand Canyon  Day 87: Unanswered Prayers  Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard  Day 85: Being Human  Day 84: Captain Underpants  Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank  Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry  Day 80: The Outsiders   Day 79:  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day 77: People Who Touch Our Lives   Day 76:  The Rewards of Parenting    Day 75:  Improvements   Day 74:  Family Traditions   Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 72: Live Music  Day 71:  Sleeping In  Day 70:  Grover  Day 69:  A Good Hair Day   Day 68:  A Sense of Community   Day 67: Kindness    Day 66: Living in a Place You Love   Day 65: Gifts from the Heart  Day 64: The Arrival of Fall  Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird   Day 62: Green Lights Day 61:  My Canine Friends  Day 60:  Differences   Day 59:  A New Box of Crayons   Day 58: Bookworms  Day 57: Being Oblivious   Day 56: Three-day Weekends  Day 55:  A Cat Purring  Day 54: Being a Unique Individual   Day 53: Children’s Artwork  Day 52: Lefties  Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer   Day 50: Campfires  Day 49: Childhood Crushes  Day  48: The Words “Miss You”  Day 47:  Birthday Stories   Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us  Day 45:  Play-Doh   Day 44: First Day of School Pictures  Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes  Day 42: Appreciative Readers  Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote   Day 40:  Being Silly  Day 39:  Being Happy Exactly Where You Are  Day 38: Proud Grandparents  Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies   Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories  Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want  Day 34:  Accepting the Fog    Day 33: I See the Moon  Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap  Day 31: Perspective  Day 30:  Unlikely Friendships  Day 29: Good Samaritans  Day 28:  Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet?    Day 27: Shadows  Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads  Day 25: When Harry Met Sally  Day 24: Hibiscus   Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck  Day 22:  The Wonderful World of Disney   Day 21: Puppy love  Day 20 Personal Theme Songs     Day 19:  Summer Clouds  Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s Victory Day 17:  A Royal Birth    Day 16:  Creative Kids Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle   Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His Masculinity Day 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter     Day 12:  Round Bales of Hay Day 11:  Water Fountains for Dogs    Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers  Day 8: Great Teachers We Still Remember Day  7:  Finding the missing sock   Day 6:  Children’s books that teach life-long lessons Day 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment     Day 4:  Jumping in Puddles   Day 3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill    Day 2: Old Photographs Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street