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11APR05 - Macroday Fruit

Pine Cone: the conical or rounded woody fruit of a pine tree. "Compact Oxford English Dictionary"

I think children are naturally born collectors of things. I came home today after taking a walk with my four-year-old, very soon to be five-year-old, with my pockets stuffed with pine cones. These beautiful little works of art were fallen in heaps around some average looking trees. I don't know if they are really pine cones. I don't know enough about trees to be sure about the differences between pines and other coniferous trees. I would like to know, but there just seems to be too many little things to know, and this is one of those things that doesn't seem to stick in my memory.

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It's the beginning of spring. In the northern latitudes where I live it is just starting to get warmer. Oh, it may seem warm to us; but is 15ºC truly warm? It certainly is not if there's a stiff breeze and you are standing in the shade without the warmth of the sunlight.

And there was a stiff breeze today, but it wasn't enough to hold us back. I took that four-year-old little boy for his first bike ride of the year. Last year he was just a little bit too small to be able to learn to ride his bike. We tried, but things didn't get too far. But this year it was quite different. He was completely ready to learn to ride, of course with training wheels.

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We got the bicycle up from our basement where it was in storage. Its tires had gone flat so we had to figure out how our tire pump worked. We got it connected up to that little thing that sticks out of the tire where you fill it with air and the little boy pumped up the tires up. They seemed to be filled just right just at the point where he no longer had any strength to push the pump down anymore.

Perfect. We were ready to go. We got the helmet on his head and left his two-year-old brother behind, who was mourning this fact rather vigorously.

Once we were out of the door and on the sidewalk with a light press of assistance on his back, the little boy pushed down on the petals like we we're trying to learn to do last year; but this time with success! He started moving. He went slowly at first. He needed a little help with parts of the sidewalk that had a slight incline, but he soon built up confidence and picked up speed. Training wheels are a big help.

Soon we had reached a paved bike path in a nearby park and kept going to where the magical trees are. The trees with heaps of freshly fallen pine cones around them. The trees that might, just might, have a golf ball from a nearby golf course underneath them. Wouldn't mom be happy if he could actually find a golf ball, he told me with delight. These were the trees under which the Magpies hide and fly away quickly when they see a four-year-old, soon-to-be five-year-old, running towards them.

The little boy got off his bike and started to pick up favorite pine cones. Since we didn't have a backpack or a carrier to put the pine cones in, the father's pockets were called into service. I don't know how many pine cones I was requested to stuff into my pockets: 5, 6, maybe even eight. There were big ones and little ones; perhaps from different types of pine trees.

Well, we had to go further. So off we went over a hill across a road and by a prairie field, still dry and dead from the winter, with the wind in our faces and the little boy singing a happy song of his own making. And from time to time the little boy would stop, jump off his bike and dart after some funny artifact of the natural world lying in the grass that was wondrous to him: strange looking branches that had fallen off a tree, and were apparently very good for reaching up to poke at things; ordinary looking little rocks; and even pieces of dirt poked out of the ground with the favorite tree branch. Fortunately, I was not requested to put pieces of dirt into my pocket, and even the stones were left behind eventually. We made it home with the pine cones and a couple small, dead, tree branches that apparently had wondrous properties that were well beyond my simple adult comprehension.

I don't remember the first time I rode a bike and I don't think that he will either. But I do remember the spring time in the years when I was growing up which just seemed so special and wonderful after a long, long cold winter. I don't feel the same way about springtime that I did then and I am not sure that I can truly understand the magic of a pine cone. But I sure enjoyed the cold wind on my face and the funny joyful songs that one little boy sung as he learnt that with wheels we can go faster and easier than we can go on foot.

Because I was sure that I would forget this day, I picked out one of the pine cones from my pocket and brought it inside and it used it to make a photograph. Since I rarely delete any pictures that I take, perhaps many springtime's from now I will be browsing through my photographs and come across this pine cone and maybe recall some of the joy of growing up.

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