From Megan…

You want the scales of a pinecone to be soft and delicate as a flower’s blossoms; at least, I always do, and despite the brittle wood pieces which make up this strobile scratching against my palm, I wonder what would be if it were soft. Yet the edges of a pinecone are rough and seemingly invincible with its softness bubbling to the surface through the crusted sap coating the resin flakes. They flower as buds do growing up a vine.

This pinecone is larger than the length of my forearm, the reverse of the one my five year old neighbor whom I’d known his whole life gave me before he moved away. On the day before his move, he looked up to me with his blue doe eyes because regardless of the fact I stood on my knees, I was still a head or two taller than him, and he is respectful enough to look those he speaks to in the eyes. He smiled up at me, the classic gap between front two teeth showing as his chubby and red cheeks lifted up.

“This is for you, Miss Megan.”

In his palm, he lifted a pinecone the length of my pinky, the span of his grip. The reason for their move is a sad one, though he seemed to be coping with the death of his father in the best way any young child could possibly process. Besides a shorter temper and speech therapy, he kept the sweet lisp, adventurous smile, and grubby fingers I’ve known for his whole life.

I took the pinecone and closed it into my fist. It was fairly malleable, so I was gentle with it. A bit of sap still lined the edges. Josh ran away from me, back to where, towards the edge of manicured lawn into forest, there stood a tree which split in two fairly close to the base. Burnt needles covered the roots of the tree and he pushed them all aside, trying to find more gifts.

Josh still found nature to be enigmatic and valuable. Living with one hundred acres of conservation land for a backyard can do that to some. Branches often fell across the paths and holes in the ground after thaws tended to be deep, yet Josh was still able to find this small pinecone and deem it significant enough to bestow upon me. I like to think he and that pinecone have similarities. I found nature to be enigmatic and valuable, enough to keep that pinecone on my dresser for a year.

The memories we attach to bits of nature have always interested me. Now, the moment I see a pinecone, all I can think about is the last time I babysat Josh –– the feeling of the sap’s stickiness inching about the skin of my palm, Josh’s twinkling and slightly gap-toothed laugh, his father.

All my small pinecone has done is still on my dresser and bathe in any sunlight that may stream past window panes on particularly sunny day. I guess this is more interesting than anything it may have done, but I can’t help but wonder the path which brought such a small thing to be; the same goes for the large pinecone of the classroom. Perhaps, with these memories twisted into ideas of objects, that empathy is formed, that connection. Each time we see the object, the empathy grows. The pinecone laughs with Josh’s laugh, bringing a melancholy happiness into my grasp. It is more tangible than it could have been otherwise.

I saw my first snow when we lived out west; I believe we had been in the redwoods. I can not remember any of this.

The snow fell in the dry snow kind of way: large flakes, softly and slowly, and with a powdery look. I was wrapped in a marshmallow pink snowsuit, complete with a hood wrapped around my red cheeks. My father must have picked up a pinecone at some point during our trek, and if it came from the redwoods, it had to be large. Perhaps it was as large as the one which sat on my desk in the classroom.

Although I can not remember my first snow, I know for a fact that it happened, and I know where. The rest follows with the visual of a pinecone such as one which could be found from a redwood. It all comes seeping from memory, though not all sweet. Different objects from nature, isolated, help to create a stronger narrative in one’s consciousness, contributing to a connection felt towards the land itself. Pinecones now, to me, are snowfalls, Josh’s laugh, and the memory of Tim.

-Megan Smith

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