It had been one of the toughest years of my life. My mother’s illness took all her resources and mine. Flying back and forth from California to Florida after my father’s death to set up her new life whittled my life down to the nubs.
A friend suggested I attend a weekend retreat she’d just completed. It became my first step towards living an examined life.
Our last process was to pair up, go off into the high desert and find a token that would remind us of the work we’d done that weekend.
My partner found his token right away and trudged around with me, pointing out rocks, feathers and assorted desert debris as possibilities. Nothing felt like a fit.
He was cold and wanted to get back to the compound.
”Are you looking for something special?” he asked.
“ A pinecone” he said flatly. “You’re looking for a pinecone in the desert.”
I nodded again. He shook his head.
When I was a kid, we lived next to a forest for a while. I would wander around under the canopy of trees. They made me feel secure. After that, whenever I ran across a pinecone that wasn’t where it should be, like in a city or on the beach, I brought it home.
I saw it as a sign that all would be well.
“Right, he said, shivering, “ but you know that’s probably not going to happen.”
A few steps later, I saw what looked like a pinecone. I raced over but it turned out to be a parched sunflower. “Ok, I said, “if I don’t find what I’m looking for, I’ll take this.”
He threw up his hands and said he was heading back.
Just as I too was about to give up and go back to the sunflower, there it was – a real, honest to goodness pinecone! I scooped it up and held it against my heart.
“Thank you“ I whispered “I knew you were out there somewhere.”
When it was time for me to tell why a pinecone meant something to me I said: “I’m going home with a renewed belief and trust in myself. I learned that whatever it is you seek, don’t settle, because what you really want just might be a few steps away. And, that no matter what, if I can find a pinecone in the desert, I can do anything.”
I still bring pinecones home when I find them in an unlikely place.
You’d be surprised how many there are out there.