Walnuts As Teachers

Before this week, nineteen years had passed since my last job interview. It’s an odd feeling to rebuild a life. My first attempt was to try something completely different in a new place, but after a few weeks it was clear that was not my fate. So, I returned to Philadelphia for a tear down of the old in the hopes that I could craft something suitable on the old foundation. Many bags of trash put out on the curb later, my house is feeling open and airy, my mind not so much.

My new job is to find a full-time job. At this point, I’m simply looking for a place to land where I can be productive and part of a community. Oh, and health insurance should be on the list, too. My emotions swing back and forth. Looking over the listings, in all of their specificity makes me feel a touch inadequate even though I know my life has been rich in experience and hard-won skills. How to package oneself as a desirable commodity is the daily question.

Sorting through the old papers that document the contours of my pre-digital dust life, I found a list of qualities that must have been written down by colleagues as part of a 360 degree review process at work years ago. I’m grateful to have it, though I’m not sure whose handwriting it is. I don’t grow cucumbers anymore, but that line brings back bittersweet memories of my community gardening days. At first, I chafed against the perceived confinement of the job boards. Then I tried playfulness. Could I reimagine writing cover letters as a personal quest? That made me feel less exposed and worked for about a week. The more you crank out, the less painful it is. I’ve had a few inquiries and sampled some of the next-generation HR apps, including one-way video screening where you talk to the camera and upload your hopefully perky self into a hiring portal.

The first few weeks of my search around the inter-webs for opportunities that would be a good fit for a Philadelphia researcher with a flair for foresight and database management were productive. But in the past week or so, those postings seem to have dried up. I’ve been off of social media for a couple of years, but this job search has dragged me back into the digital dopamine rush, though admittedly at a slower pace. How many times a day can you check the job boards anyway?

Today, my gut told me to go outside and look for guidance in nature. We’ve been blessed with very moderate weather this August, though a bit rainy. I took myself over to Bartram’s to see what messages might be there for me. I walked down to the water’s edge and the tide was out with wide mud flats exposed, decorated with tufts of spatterdock. Where I normally do my mud larking, broad drifts of wood debris filled the coves. A large tree had toppled over, eroded from the bank. I haven’t seen that happen before, but my colleague says the intense rains are making the river run stronger, if not higher. I felt for the tree, still clinging to its green leaves. A towering presence that had suddenly lost its footing in what once seemed solid ground.

I picked my way across the flat gathering up a few pieces of broken crockery, one piece had delicate brown bands. Then a glint caught my eye. It was the sunlight on a translucent bit of stone embedded in the silt. I’m not good with geology, but the tight grain and solid heft makes me think it might be quartzite, mostly a smooth cream tone with a streak of grainy black through the center. It took a few minutes to free it from the moist clay that embraced it. It wanted to go home with me. Later, after I rinsed it off and turned it over in my hand, I got the sense it may have been a hand tool, a hammerstone or ground stone perhaps. There were indentations where a thumb and fingers could grasp it while using the pointy end to strike a blow, maybe on a piece of flint.

It’s quite lovely, actually, and I’m glad for its company in this quiet house. I relocated most of my nature gatherings to Valley Forge before I left for Seattle. A friend and I arranged a lovely spiral next to Valley Creek between Mount Joy and Mount Misery, which seemed entirely appropriate. She checks on it for me. In the weeks that followed, the shells, pebbles, and feathers made their way into the creek and perhaps on to a more distant watershed journey.

This stone with its bold streak through a sparkly translucent central band is such a stark contrast to the ceramic shards. How does geologic time compare to human time? When I get impatient, I have to remember that we don’t really understand time. I think about Momo and the men in grey at the time bank and the lotus of consciousness, each blossom more beautiful than the last, and the pressure to sacrifice those petals to the bankers who smoke them in order to maintain their feeble presence in this world. I have to remember that when interview questions are posed about how will you do too many tasks at once with no guidance. I think we should be able to shape a world where that isn’t necessary; where people have the time that they need to be thoughtful and act with care.

Next to the cider press I saw a tangle of passionflower with its squiggly flying-saucer-like petals. Later I looked up its medicinal properties, and the leaves, steeped as a tea help with anxiety. The universe provides what is needed – a blessing. 

I ambled down the trail towards the farm and along the way paid a visit to my favorite walnut tree. The nuts were already dropping, to show how nature progresses, gradually. There were nuts encased in a solid green hull. There were black squishy balls and nuts protruding from others. A few freed walnuts could be found in the grass. There’s a process. You can’t necessarily make it go faster than it’s going to go. You can’t expect a green hull to offer its treasure without some amount of muss and fuss. There will be decay. It will take time. But the nut will be there at the end of the process. I hope I’ve moved beyond the green hull phase. I have no idea what kind of timeline is involved. It’s been so long since I played this game, and the rules seem decidedly different.

I saw a few old colleagues, and we exchanged warm hugs appreciating the gloriously tall sunflowers growing at the farm. We see things in much the same way. We reminisced about the days not so long ago when people opposed GMOs. Another friend was tending her twilight garden of silvers and purples with a salvia of the most intense purple I’ve seen in a while. She pointed out two Franklinias that had finally taken off. Franklinia are notoriously picky. You often need to plant four or five to get one of them to survive. But this summer, two of those trees with their delicate white and gold blossoms were putting on a magnificent show under their companion trees the white pine. It’s a reminder, even when the odds are not in your favor, success may be just over the horizon. When I headed back to my car, I saw I’d parked next to a cedar full of bluish-sage berries and picked a sprig to take home. Maybe for my next read aloud I’ll try, Celia’s Song by the late Lee Maracle. It’s about indigenous culture of the Pacific Northwest and they use cedar on a hot iron skillet to cleanse a space. Cedar is a protective healing plant with anti-inflammatory properties.

A friend reminded me today, remember that when we are feeling isolated or disconnected to visualize that we are each woven into the glorious tapestry of creation. I can’t promise that I’ve fully banished all the worries prowling around the edges of my consciousness. But I know to listen to my gut, which may be a more reliable advisor than my brain when facing so much uncertainty. Today, my gut was right. Nature and God showed up for me with offerings to calm my anxiety, purify my space, and reset my clock, so that I have more realistic expectations. It’s a wild game we are in. The one thing we can control is how we feel when we are faced with the spectacle. For me, right now, staying grounded is important.


Thank you stone consciousness.


Thank you passion flower consciousness.


Thank you cedar consciousness.


I am grateful for all of the gifts bestowed upon me and the beauty of the world around me.

18 thoughts on “Walnuts As Teachers

  1. jacquelyn sauriol says:

    Neighbors had a passionfruit vine that covered 75 feet of back fence. I am quite sure if they had let it go it would have, by virtue of the passionflowers and fruit, been lifted into another galaxy. There is nothing like passionflowers. I made some excellent brews with the fruit as well.

  2. jacquelyn sauriol says:

    In college, I lived near a bunch of walnut trees. Sort of out of town in a Sears kit house from the 1910s. I gathered a few buckets of walnuts, let them soak a week. (i had read a book about it, was 1990 or so). I sat down and cleaned them all up, and after about 2 hours I had accidentally dyed the skin on my hands a beautiful dark brown. Black-like-me kind of brown. So for about a month I had the hands of a non white person, sepia colored hands. It was a trip, I tell ya. Good lesson.

  3. arcadia11 says:

    i was about to turn off my computer and go to bed when i noticed your title in my inbox. i had to sit back down and read your story. i’m glad i did. it’s amazing and wonderful how
    one person’s adventure can ultimately become someone else’s adventure and on and on.
    i was with you the whole way. i’m grateful too. thank you for reminding me. sweet dreams.

  4. Monika says:

    thank you for sharing your thoughts….we too are facing much uncertainty, more than usual. ,such love until such time

  5. Nice says:

    I read all of your articles and don’t feel smart enough to comment. This post touched me so profoundly. Beautifully written and expressed. since I found you I’ve followed you and I love how deep you dive whether it’s through the pressing urgency of our dire situation we are facing or your thoughts and feelings about life, your life. I hold you up in prayer my friend. Though we have not met, if and when we do someday, I know we’ll connect and our spirits will resonate with one another. Be who you are and embrace who you’re becoming. Namaste. Dandelion love.

  6. Ayumi says:

    Thank you for sharing. I admire your amazing skill of describing what you are experiencing, I can feel it. I agree with you. I am really lost and not sure where this is heading but I look around and there are so many beautiful things around in nature and they heal me always. I love reading your posts. So thank you.

  7. Amy Harlib says:

    Thank you so much for this beautiful ‘Walnuts as Teachers’ post. It is an urgent reminder to cherish the natural wonders in the world that Aware People must fight hard to protect, to stop from being destroyed and turned into synthetic biology/nano-things in the hideous globalist predator technocrat world the ruling class is pushing so hard to build.

  8. Kim Pendleton says:

    Beautiful words. You are a poet and a sage. That is your calling. I pray the God of the universe opens up a path for you to use this gift you have AND it provides for your living. Much love ❤️

  9. I A n says:

    Can totally relate to this post as you know, on numerous levels. Starting over in lands anew, or familiar, was definitely not something I ever anticipated having to do again at my age. However, living proof that it’s completely possible.

  10. Sam says:

    I’ve spent the last year and a half studying herbalism and getting to know the plants around me that I have spent most of my life taking for granted to some extent–even though I’ve always enjoyed being out in nature (moving from Cleveland to northern Michigan has helped!) As a fellow being with my own struggles/uncertainties, etc., I, too, immediately get out to nature for clarity and answers–and I’m never let down. Despite my heart sharing some pain for you, thank you so much for these beautiful posts which serve as reminders or impart wisdom for your readers possibly struggling with their own life stuff. Just feeling compelled to send you some love and prayers and good energy from my corner in northwest Michigan. Thank you for your work! (Which I, too, also don’t always feel equipped to comment on b/c mostly I’m just trying to wrap my brain around it!) xoxo

  11. Megan says:

    You write beautifully. Fills my heart when I read your musings. Ever thought of writing a memoir? You have a lot to share. I would buy it. Love and blessings on your journey.

    – M from Whidbey Island

  12. Alison Fletcher says:

    Women of a certain age do tend to get ignored (here in England anyway), but accept any job where interaction with other people is involved and you’ll do fine, I am sure! Or work for yourself. Strangely, I found working with older people gave me energy, whilst working with children drained me. With your intellect though, you should be aiming for high office! Thank you for explaining The 4th Industrial Revolution to me.

  13. Melanie says:

    I’m also heading back into the world of employment after being in entrepreneurship for quite a season. I have followed your work since the “pandemic” and have learned so much from you. Have you thought about starting your own “school” or alternative education option for families that recognize what’s happening out there in schools? I’m a former teacher who just can’t participate in that system anymore. I’m taking a position with a non-profit where we’ll be building a “Gap Year Experience” for high school graduates who are undecided about their futures! You have so much knowledge and passion. I’ll be praying that you find your niche! (I also don’t have health insurance!) I could relate to your post so much.

  14. washington sean says:

    Thank you for this post and sharing your personal challenges — in a way it makes the research you do even more impactful as you are not afraid to weave the personal/emotional struggles with the tangible/material struggles you face.

    I am confident when I say that the right opportunity will find you — and it will find you soon! My only request is that when the uncomfortable phase of negotiating salary and total compensation does arise, that you consider the tremendous value your work here — on your blog — produces for us all. Again, a personal assertion, but I hold no reservations about making it, but I believe a good employer will be able to recognize the immense importance of your work and research outside of your official “job description” and the next chapter in your life promises to weave together the greatness that you already have discovered with a romanticism and appreciation for life that is only yet emerging.

    Blessings and gratitude.

  15. TT says:

    Hi Alison, today’s employment requires so many compromises with the machine, it’s sad to see another one (you!) might have to make them. I know it’s not ideal to sell what comes from the heart but have you considered compiling your beautiful Nature arrangements into a book, with short ruminations in between? It could be a powerful way to introduce your research to an even wider audience while providing you with some income so you can continue. Or how about making and offering quilts? I’ve been in your need-to-rebuild situation many times and sending missives to the machine trying to prove one’s worth is a drain.
    Wishing you all the best.

  16. Paula says:

    Thank you for this post. It was beautifully written. Many lessons to learn in all interactions and always something to be grateful for.

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