Unexpected Treasure (Trying My Hand At Optimism)

Right about the time our city went into covid lockdown, my car was broken into (yay!), and the lock on my trunk jammed. Since I wasn’t driving much anymore, I deemed getting my car fixed as “unessential.” So my crazy-lady trunk — full of art supplies, forest school tarps, and other random bins of homeschooling stuff — sat full.  Its items remained unsorted; its contents forgotten.

Months later, we finally began to venture out a bit. I had my car fixed and we met up with another family for a day in the canyon. It was only then, in the parking lot, that I thought:  maybe I should clean out my trunk.

So I began to sift through all of our things from the Spring. In among my son’s fur viking vest from his co-op’s Spring play, a bag of unreturned library books, and a box of twine, I found the molcajete, or grinding stone, that our forest school kids used in their nature kitchen.  

Then I spotted a mystery paper bag– unmarked, rolled up, and stuffed beside the Molcajete. A moment of dread and panic set in as a I imagined the 4-month old snack that might lay within. 

But as I opened the bag, I found something else– acorns the kids had gathered for their forest kitchen. They had wanted to go through the traditional process of making acorn flour, and had harvested a nice supply for their work.  Now, this method of making acorn flour is very laborious, involving lengthy periods of drying, soaking, and shelling in various repeated cycles. So, despite numerous attempts at making acorn flour, the kids never managed to wait long enough, and only ever produced green acorn mush.

Now, however, they had inadvertently waited 4 months longer than they ever would have been willing to wait on their own. And amazingly, these trunk acorns weren’t moldy or rotted. They were perfectly dried. I brought them down from my car, and the kids immediately went about shelling the acorns and grinding them into actual acorn flour.

Now I know, the flour wasn’t even edible, since we never soaked the acorns. But when the kids put their joy into shelling and grinding, they found treasure there. They took that bag of dried acorns, born from my broken-into trunk and months of covid shut down, and added their imagination and their play. And they ground beautiful golden flour. 

It was a reminder of what kids can do, and to try to find joy in the small moments. This isn’t easy for a die-hard pessimist like myself. These past six months are not what I ever could have planned for, and it’s not what any of us wanted. These are tough times. But sometimes we can find a little bit of hidden treasure inside what seems like, at best, a bag of stale old nuts.