Fall is here and the harvest is on! The squirrels in my backyard are going at it, scampering down the hillside and into the garden, the pair of them snatching up stray acorns. Stuffing the acorns in their cheeks, they bounce away looking for the perfect spot to bury their treasure, which based on the multitude of sprouts last spring, is under my fledgling Japanese maple.
Most of the time, most of us are like my backyard friends. We want that acorn, whatever it is––monetary success, school excellence, athletic acclaim, workplace recognition, home décor worthy of House Beautiful––clenched tight in our hands, or between our teeth, up close where we can touch and taste it. We grasp that nut and squirrel it safely away because we don’t believe there’s more where it came from.
In the Christian spiritual tradition, Jesus told his followers, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body is more than clothing…Instead strive for [God’s] kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” (Read Luke 12:22-34 for the whole story.)
We might say that’s all well and good, but what did a guy in first century Palestine know about mortgage payments and stock market crashes and economic downturns and layoffs, unemployment and endless shopping at the mall? How can we trust in goodness and provision when we live in a culture that thrives on lack and spending, when even if we have enough money, we’re told we can never be truly happy until we buy the right car, the right clothes, the right zip-code, the right lifestyle?
Maybe there’s a lesson in my backyard. I want to believe the reason that so much of the squirrel’s stash turned into seedlings last season was that they paused in their frantic activity long enough to notice that everything they needed and more was available to them through the generosity of our Creator.
I hope that when I wasn’t looking they bounded closer to the house risking an occasional encounter with my cats and found the hundreds of acorns littering the ground just off my deck. Enough acorns to feed a squadron of squirrels or a small band of Ohlone there for the taking because, (1) unlike the Ohlone, I didn’t have the time or inclination to become intimate with acorn mush, and (2) I was too lazy to rake everything into my yard waste bin.
Depending on your point of view, that acorn pile is either (1) a royal pain––when you’re trying to pull up seedlings by their scrawny foot-long roots––or, more accurately, (2) ABUNDANCE!
Believing in abundance, believing there is a stockpile of goodness and grace can be risky, especially when the material evidence around us suggests otherwise. From a squirrel’s perspective, acorns are scarce in the outer limits of my garden. But, for the squirrel willing to venture beyond the familiar and comfortable perimeter into the heart of the garden, evidence of God’s extravagant generosity is littered everywhere.
I want to be one of the brave squirrels, willing to trust the unknown. I want to be like Rocky (that fearless squirrel of cartoon fame), flying planes and seeing the world from a new vantage point. I want to look up from my hectic scramble of transporting children, folding laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, paying bills, grooming pets, typing, filing, and all the other daily activities that conspire to keep me at a distance from God and abundance.
I want to be the consummate Zen squirrel, schooled in the art of prayer, squat on my haunches, front paws in the air, neck craned, nose to the wind, sniffing the chill in the autumn air. I want to breathe in and out and notice the joy and beauty that is as others have said, “the sacrament of the present moment.”
This harvest season is as good a time as any to take stock of our lives. As we rush from office to errands to commute traffic to school play to post office, let’s squeeze in time for quiet and reflection. What do we really need and do we have it? If we seem far from God and abundance seems lacking, perhaps it’s time to change our choices.
©Cathy Warner 2006