There is a saying that goes “from small acorns grow mighty (great) oaks”. I thought about this as earlier today I went for a brisk walk in my nearly local park where there are several mighty oaks, some older than me. I have been fascinated with oaks trees, something I see as quintessentially English, ever since I was a child, and have wondered at the thought something so small and insignificant can produce these magnificent trees. The difference from the last time I walked in Blenheim Park, was then I didn’t notice acorns on the branches (no doubt because this is a seasonal thing) but this time the trees were being seen in their full glory with canopies of green leaves from impressive branches, alongside masses of acorns, with a few having dropped already, lying on the ground.
I recall first coming across the “small acorns mighty oaks” saying in my first major community project that I helped start, and soon embarked on my third career (after teaching and computing) as a full time community activist, around the turn of the millennium. One of my colleagues was taken with it so much, as it seemed to epitomize what we were attempting, and often reminded us. The project we were involved in was called Growing Together, and the title happens to be pertinent to this discussion. The centre piece of our practical aims was transforming a piece of derelict wasteland into a beautiful garden and involving those with mental health issues as part of their therapy and rehabilitation. We saw ourselves planting small acorns with the view these will eventually grow into mighty oaks. In a small way we succeeded and the project continues to this day. It was appropriate that in our garden were oak trees and two, as I recall, would be put in the “mighty” category. This saying was soon to become an intrinsic part of our mission statement.
As I viewed the acorns I picked up today, I realised how small and insignificant these are. They would become even more insignificant over time as they turn from green to brown and shrivel. Most of the acorns I saw today will drop to the ground and maybe picked up and maybe recycled. A few might be eaten by passing squirrels. And even fewer will go into the ground and die, and if left alone will become oak trees and maybe mighty ones like some of those I saw today. The acorn and the oak tree are metaphors on life itself if we are not to be overwhelmed or distracted from things that make life meaningful.
While the metaphor may be appreciated by those of all religions and none, I couldn’t help thinking of the words of Jesus, not about acorns but something that operates on a similar principle: “except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit”. Today and tomorrow, I will be attending the funerals of two people I held dear to pay my respects. In the midst of life we are in death and we are reminded how fleeting life is, yet to be celebrated, and that death befalls us all, Then there is always the acorn to reflect on, concerning which, if allowed and having died in the ground, will become a mighty oak.