Sharing in the Wonders of Camp
Did you ever wonder why squirrels can eat acorns and people can’t?
When I was a fresh-faced 15 year-old and wandering around the forest on my break from dish detail at camp I wondered about that very thing. As an eager 16 year-old C.I.T, I still wondered about that and in my few moments alone as an insanely busy junior counselor I managed to squeeze that thought in through my somewhat frazzled brain. Why can’t I eat the acorns off the oak trees like the squirrels do?
My question was finally answered in California History class in my senior year in high school. The California Indians held the key to this perplexing question and not so much by answers but rather actions. These industrious people gathered up the acorns then sent them through a kind of water-bath process that removed the natural tannins and then they made cakes from the mush that was left. The tannins had to be removed or a powerful tummy ache would follow. Squirrels on the other hand had a digestive system that allowed them to eat this golden food for the span of their life. A perfect plan.
So, the following summer, week one of summer camp, I noticed our new nature director sitting outside cabin one, chatting with my campers while cracking open a handful of acorns. Naturally, this activity piqued my curiosity.
“Gee, I don’t really know much about acorns but if the squirrels eat them then maybe we can see what they taste like too.” I wondered to myself why college didn’t teach him everything about the humble acorn but I couldn’t let him feed these things to our campers so I kindly stepped in. “It would be best if you didn’t eat those.”
“Why not?” he said, a little annoyed that I’d stolen his thunder.
“Because you’ll get a powerful tummy ache and that will not be good for our campers or you.”
“Okay, smarty. You know so much, what should we do with them?” This was a direct challenge, and well, I had an obligation now to see it through.
“You have to clean them and crush them and sift them through water to get the tannins out. Squirrels can digest that stuff and we can’t so we’d have to take them out.”
“Good to know.” Yes it was and it was a good thing that I had wondered about that and that I had that history class, and that I kept someone from feeling desperately ill, and…well, you just never know the journey that wonder will take you on!
This is my first wonder-blog post. I know there will never be another first like this for me and it's exciting and terrifying!!! But I think we can all relate, at least in the realm of "wonder" to those burning questions - big or small - that seem to come up for us when surrounded by nature.
I took a photograph once, prompted by the love-of-my-life at the time, of a tree that looked surprisingly and eerily like the head of a deer. Now, had I actually seen a deer romping through the woods, I would have been delighted and a little stunned. But seeing this wooden representation served as a reminder all summer long to stop and look around. I wondered if it was a result of divine design that this wooden replica showed itself to a handful of us counselors that day or was it simply chance?
There are always questions but even today, I think of that moment and can't help myself - I look up at the Creator and smile and think how can He do such big things for such a small me? It does sort of beg the question...