I imagine everyone who lives in the country has his or her favorite natural treasures, something frequent and familiar that one considers as a blessing, or totem of time spent int he outdoors.   Today, I’m thinking of two phenomena that reside at different edges of the universe, yet both can be viewed right outside my door: acorns and the Milky Way.  And like everything in creation, these two wonders are linked in mysterious ways.

There are some traditional and expected autumn sights and sounds—migrating geese and song birds, the return of the fall Chinook salmon, colorful leaves—as well as tricksters that you know are out there hiding, but only reveal themselves in their own good unpredictable time.  No one truly knows when our native oaks will produce their next acorn crop.  Unlike apples and other annual bounties, we typically have to wait years before the oak mast bears fruit.  This autumn’s crop looks to be massive!

Acorns fall to the ground with a popping sound, and it is a conundrum to me how such a thick and seemingly impregnable seed coat allows for the escape of a simple rooted embryo. A vast majority of the mature seeds on the ground have already been attacked and perforated.  An oak-dependent parasitic wasp bores its pinprick of an egg into 90 percent of the acorns, rendering them useless as a viable seed.  Still, enough wild acorns escape the wasps to become slow growing seedlings, and a few of these sprouts will become the grand giants.

White oaks are the symbol of this land I live on.  They are the only tree hardy enough above ground to welcome this harsh climate of five month summer/autumn drought, and from below, to find just enough nutrients from the thin, rocky soils.  Yet, here they are.

On weeknights, I typically arrive home after the sun has set and I purposefully park a ways from my house in order to enjoy an always-confirming five-minute walk home.  At this late September time of year, nightly skies are typically crystalline and, particularly, on moonless eves, there is no filter between heaven and earth.  It is one marvelous thing to daydream while watching a few stars, but another to be able to witness the intergalactic splendor of the Milky Way.  Reminding one of a rainbow, these multitudes of intewoven shining suns arc across the universe, connecting yesterday with forever.  What an absolutely astonishing sight!

The Milky Way seems to tie the rest of the night sky together.  Invisible cords of gravity bind the constellations and planets to our solar system, then as a frequent gift bequeathed to the interstellar residents, the Milky Way blows a kiss in the form of streamers of shooting stars.

The worlds of sky and earth come together through one’s senses.  Plucking a yellow-green acorn from an oak and planting it can transform a landscape, while the Milky Way was planted long ago.  Acorns carry the seeds of one species, while our galaxy reflects the beginnnings of an ancient creation.  One acorn provides a tiny nutritious bite of sustenance; one yellow star can sustain an entire planet.

Just like the acorns, one can’t depend on seeing the Milky Way every night.  Along with the natural curtains of clouds and moonlight, there are the increasing unnatural imipediments of city lights and a belch of visual haze.  Sadly, in cities, you can’t look for the Milky Way—you’re lucky to be able to discern and count individual stars.

Due to their respective affinity toward day and night, it is impossible to see both acorns and the Milky Way simultaneously.  They inhabit opposite positions of light.  Because acorns are small entities, you have to wait till after the morning shadows burn away before they come into view, and even then, these seeds blend in against the stone gray bark and the seemingly millions of camouflage-covering pinnate leaves.  Pulling back the leaves will allow the light from one of those Milky Way stars, our previous sun, to illuminate each of those delicious little acorn delights.  And if we could peer inside the basic elements of both the sky’s beacon and the acorns, we would see clearly that they originated from the same cosmic dusts, the stuff of our own marrow and smile.

I’m not sure what holding a piece of the Milky Way would feel like—scalding hot or simply a bright beam of ethereal light—without heft or smell, but surely containing worlds of magic.  On the land where I live, like a guardian angel, the Milky Way follows you wherever you walk at night.   It appears to keep the same position in the sky, holding the same angle from every majestic vantagepoint, always appearing as a colossal ribbon of light, there to make us marvel, wonder, and be grateful. ~

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