Within the past few days, The Washington Post ran
a story on the front page about the local acorn
situation. I was fascinated. This is something
that I was completely unaware of. I guess that
I have not taken enough walks in places where
oak trees proliferate (the canal is overhung
by sycamores, persimmons, maples,
and numbers of weed trees). It seems that this
year,many, many oak trees in the area have
produced zero acorns. Not just a reduction, but
completely none. In fact, this phenomenon has
been observed up and down the east coast.
There were numbers of comments on the article.
There was your typical liberal proposing that this is
some dire new effect of global warming, some new
plague that our nefarious industrial technology
has somehow foisted on the earth. There was
your typical neo-con insisting that the author
and his sources were just crazy and not looking
in the right places. There was your typical young
person asking why such a trivial tale graced the front
page. But one old codger, perhaps more of a
woodsman than any other commentator, offered
the observation that oak trees do this from time to time,
in cycles of about 20 years. He made the theory that
sometimes the population of squirrels becomes so
great on the annual nut harvest, that they succeed
in eating nearly all the acorns so that there are none
left togerminate, take root and grow into new oaks.
When the oaks all skip a year, the result is that
large numbers of squirrels die during the winter
of starvation, so that the cycle can begin again.
He did not offer any explanation as to how the oak
trees get together and decide on such marvelous
behavior. But somehow it sounded more believable
to me than any of the other comments.
Perhaps, why I had not observed any such event
myself, is that the squirrel who calls my backyard "home"
these days is looking so fat and waddling that I
fear one of these days he will misjudge a leap and
find himself on the ground face-to-face with one of
my cats. There are several black walnut saplings
back there, along with a couple of mulberrys and
the lilacs and other tall bushes. One in particular,
near my backyard, is growing so tall and straight
that I know it will be producing wonderful beautiful
lumber, in another 60 years or so, and I take
special care of it for that some other woodworker
who may enjoy them. The squirrel cleaned out each sapling
in turn, systematically, although I've seen evidence
that he is not completely greedy and short-sighted
but is burying a goodly number of them for future
I don't know where his family is, He probably doesn't know either.
I am not giving anyone anything for Christmas.
We are celebrating the death of materialism this year.