Journey for a Pinecone

If you read my blog last week, you’ll know that I have a thing for fire towers: those widely abandoned, rickety structures in the woods that were once used to watch for forest fires. Today, they are attractions in state parks and hubs for hooligans to hang out in after dark.

This weekend, a close friend and I drove 250 miles across Minnesota on a mission to climb a fire tower at Itasca State Park.

We found it in a nicer condition than other fire towers I’ve seen; this was definitely a kid-friendly tourist destination — unlike the fire tower in Pequot Lakes which had a kid-sized hole in the wire fence at the top of the steps.

It came as a surprise to me, a fire tower aficionado, that the coolest philosophical moment I experienced on that trip didn’t come from the tower, but rather, from a pinecone on the ground.

It’s pretty obvious that acorns grow on trees. I also don’t think anyone would have trouble agreeing that pinecones are related to seeds and how trees reproduce. I understood all this well enough.

But I had never seen a pinecone fall out of a tree.

Have you? Imagine it. We’re talking like a 50-foot tree, and those pinecones are way at the top nestled into the higher branches.

I’d never imagined it. So it took me off guard, as we were walking down Bohall Trail, when I learned that that soft but ominous thumping sounds we had been hearing were the products of these slender, pink-tinged pinecones hitting the ground.

We stood under this tree for a couple minutes, and in that time, dozens and dozens of these alien pinecones fell to join us on the ground.

It blew my mind. So that’s how pinecones end up on the ground.

It was a lesson in awareness for me — in opening minds.

It’s nothing important, really. I didn’t learn anything new. But it showed me that even when I think I know everything, there’s always some part of it I haven’t considered or that I have taken for granted.

There’s always something beautiful I haven’t yet seen.