Lessons from an Oak Tree

“Incoming!” my husband announced as we sat on our deck enjoying the fall evening. Covering our heads and beer mugs, we listened to the familiar sound of an acorn, dropped from a hundred feet above, hit the roof with a crack, bounce off the patio table, pop up several feet, strike the wood deck, ping off the metal railing, and land near the fire pit twenty feet below.

We’ve been under acorn siege since late August, so we’re getting used to the constant bombardment. A month ago, without warning, an acorn hit me square on the noggin, knocking off my glasses. Mike regretted laughing at me when he saw the nut-sized knot and bruise on my forehead. It was a painful demonstration of Newton’s theory of gravitational force.

Since this is our first fall living in the woods, we’re not sure if the abundance of acorns is typical. I do know oak trees have what’s called ‘mast years’ when they produce a bumper crop of acorns.

Scientists are a bit baffled by the phenomenon. Most experts agree masting has nothing to do with the upcoming winter forecast, but it remains one of nature’s mysteries.

In a non-masting year, oak trees produce just enough acorns for birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and deer to store and eat. In a mast year, an oak tree can produce 10,000 acorns! With more acorns than critters can possibly eat, there are plenty of leftovers for acorns to potentially become trees.

Oak tree, I get you. Sometimes I’m more productive than others, and there’s no rhyme or reason as to why. One day I can walk two miles, clean the house, paint the dock, grocery shop, check in with family, and write a chapter of my great American novel. Other days, I’m still in my pajamas at three pm convincing myself frozen pizza counts as dinner.

Some scientists believe the ebb and flow of acorn production help oak trees keep themselves in balance. Sometimes the tree is focused on reproduction; sometimes it’s focused on growing. That’s a little mind-blowing! An oak tree ~ a symbol of patience, strength, and endurance ~ is wise enough to keep itself in balance, without explanation.

Let’s take a cue from the mighty oak. It’s perfectly natural to have days, or even years, when we kick it into high gear and times when we need to take it easy. Following our instinctual wisdom is nature’s way of keeping us balanced so we don’t go completely nuts.

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