The Pinecone and the Wind

The girls and I did a pinecone craft for Thanksgiving; one I found on pinterest and that turned out to be a moderate success.  My problem was in thinking I needed the hot glue gun, which meant I had to do most of the gluing, so I ended up feeling like I was doing the whole project, watchful and slightly disappointed eyes on me ... waiting for their turn to do what was promised earlier.   

Lesson learned.  I know, I know, Elmer, you’re right. 

They did, however, get to pick their own pinecones on a walk, which conveniently took place on our way to the familiar park behind our home; the pathway of which was shaded by a few pine trees.  We paid attention this time, to the pinecones that speckled our on-foot journey.  We picked them up and held them in our hands.  We saw the difference between those which were closed tight and those that were more open.  We thought the open ones would be better for holding in the feathers, so we spent some time finding the perfect "turkey cones".  Some had been open for too long and virtually disintegrated due to rot as we picked them from the ground; others were too tightly closed.   But there was one that was juuust right.  Not too old, not too new, not too big, not too small.  

One down, one to go.  The three bears continued their hunt.  


Oh, wait, the park, yes, the park.  Some swinging-and-photo-partaking was to be had: our collective zen.  

On our way back home we looked for the second perfect turkey pinecone. 


Did you know that there are male and female pinecones?  And that the female kind are the ones we most typically see.  The females stay closed over a period of time that can be up to several years in order to protect the maturing seeds she holds inside.  When the seeds are ready, she opens up and allows the wind to take them.  The open pinecones you see on the ground are ones that have completed their reproductive duty, and have been released from the tree. 


As we searched for the second pinecone, I got to witness something new to my eyes.  I stood on the sidewalk while May asked if she could go down onto this small yet somewhat steep dirt path where she saw some pinecones below.  She has been asking to do this for a while but the park always seemed to await us with enough urgency that I have brushed it off somewhat successfully.  However this time, I saw what she was thinking, her finger pointing at several potential turkey cones and so, I said, “YES”.  

She went down the little but steep dirt path.  Hadley threw her razor down to follow her, helmet and all.  I helped to locate pinecones from my perch on the sidewalk while they enjoyed their mini-adventure amongst the sparsely planted bush.  “There’s a good one, no, right there, look down, no, not behind the plant, in front of it”, I directed from above.  

And, eventually the second perfect turkey pinecone was held captive in Mayson’s hand.  

Hadley, closest to the sidewalk, began to make her way up the (small) hill.  I offered my hand but she seemed more determined to find her own way up.  The one whom readily accepts my hand whilst climbing into our bed in the wee morning — which she is beyond capable of climbing up onto by herself — did not accept my offering this time.   I felt okay with that because, well, she was wearing a helmet of course.  


Truthfully, I didn’t have a choice in the matter; I was too in awe of her focus to feel rejected anyway.  

She stood by my side and we watched as Mayson’s shoes struggled to gain traction in the dirt.  I opened my mouth and reached a hand out for her, ready to offer help, but before anything productive happened, Hadley jumped in front of me and said, “I will help you, Maycee”.  She quickly and confidently shuffled down the mini-hill toward the sturdy and secure tree trunk to the slight-right, reached a hand out for Maycee to her slight-left.  And together they helped each other up this tiny but challenging incline that, to my camera-ready-eyes viewed as an astounding accomplishment.  

Not of the physical kind so much as of the loving kind.  

The trusting kind.  

The problem-solving kind.  

The we-can-do-this-SEE-Mommy kind.  

When we got back to the house the girls were in need of naps so I washed the pinecones of their cob webs and dirt while they slept.  

Their geometry caused me to slow down, as they have done before.  They have caught my eye behind the lens on multiple occasions.  Have you looked at one lately, really looked at one?  They are beautiful.  Their earthy colors and perfect geometrically aligned pattern really should cause us all to stop.  To be amazed at Mother Nature’s creation.  

Though my thoughts aren’t quite as educated as the quote below, I share it to show I’m not the only one who marvels at the sight of a pinecone, and furthermore, perhaps there is something to be learned...


Pick up a pinecone and count the spiral rows of scales.  You many find eight spirals winding up to the left and 13 spirals winding up to the right, or 13 left and 21 right spirals, or other pairs of numbers.  The striking fact is that these pairs of numbers are adjacent numbers in the famous Fibonacci series: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 13, 21…Here, each term is the sum of the previous two terms.  The phenomenon is well known and called phyllotaxis.  Many are the efforts of biologists to understand why pinecones, sunflowers, and many other plants exhibit this remarkable pattern.  Organisms do the strangest things, but all these odd things need not reflect selection or historical accident.  Some of the best efforts to understand phyllotaxis appeal to a form of self-organization.  Paul Green, at Stanford, has argued persuasively that the Fibonacci series is just what one would expect as the simplest self-repeating pattern that can be generated by the particular growth processes in the growing tips of the tissues that form sunflowers, pinecones, and so forth.  Like a snowflake and its sixfold symmetry...

-Stuart A. Kauffman, At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity.


Symmetry, patterns, organization … can we not draw parallels between the lives we try so hard to make sense of and that which Mother Nature has not only figured out but offered in abundant display for us to take in — and be taken aback by — if we choose to pay attention. 

So, while I may have taken over the project, and while it wasn’t quite the crafty-hit that I was hoping for, I learned a couple of things in the process that might go amiss on the lives of my girls but will not go amiss on me.   

In Mother Nature’s Lesson on The Pinecone, I reminded about trust .  To trust that there is more order and purpose than what we see in moments of chaos and confusion and fear.  That to open up and let the wind take our thoughts, our worries, our concerns … and even, dare I say, a small piece of our children … away is not only necessary, but natural.  That by letting go a little bit, so much is gained.  That by allowing to transpire what will transpire anyway — that our kids will naturally need us less — only good can be experienced from the bonds created in the small moments of trusting in someone or something else.  Of trusting ourselves, instead.  

So, this Thanksgiving, I want to thank you for reading.  It has been a meaningful addition to my life, maintaining this small blog for what has been about one year, now.  To think my words might spark a thought is all I need to keep me going; perhaps you will look differently at a pinecone the next time one is opened up and at your feet.  

Now, if only the intranet would connect so I could post this in real time.  



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PS: I wrote this post by candle light, on Thanksgiving Eve, while the girls were fast asleep.  The power went out, twice, but the second time for a much longer period, which put my prepping and cooking to a halt.  Luckily, not much was mandatory in the kitchen, so I opted to enjoy the forced electrical outage by typing, typing and typing until the computer battery ran out.  

 © Houseman 2013