The Pinecone

16 August 2019 in Heather, Writing


Grief knocks the pinecones from my limbs. I can’t pick them up, which makes me wonder if grief is really to blame, or did I deliberately let them loose to lose you, to claim good riddance and then bemoan: I can’t pick them up.

More than four seasons pass. I was always a late bloomer. Yet, here they all are again. Fifteen, sixteen, so many months to remind me of you.

I twist like a child in elementary school, attempting to whittle my waist. “Helicopters!” shouts the long ago gym teacher. My swaying does not dislodge you. It takes grief, sweeping through like a storm, to knock the pinecones from my limbs.


I leapt. I left. And you were free. I told you when we first met: Love was easier when I was hidden. I handed you that secret the way other men offer flowers, not anticipating you would turn invisible, too; not anticipating the disguise you’d borrow to move thorough graduate programs and grocery markets, unnoticed.

I leapt. I left. And then heard you stooping with grief. You changed the pitch of the forest, creating space for a different key. But music would not bring me back. I hid in the ground covering the arrogance of my act. I’d leapt.


Years before I became a tree, I picked pinecones from the summer lawn. Mom doled out chores, and I filled plastic gallon buckets, hands turning sticky with sap. I spread my arms wide, palms open, hoping to catch love the way flypaper catches flies. “I like things to be easy!”

I picked pinecones from the lawn, saving them from the pulverizing blades of the lawnmower. I thought philosophically: This is pointless. Because, from pulverized pinecones, new trees might grow. Years later, I would learn it takes fire to scare the cones into releasing their seeds.

I held my hands to my nose and inhaled.

My therapist said, “Put your shame in the palm of your hand.” Oh, yes. I could feel it, soft and harmless in one direction, sharp and cutting in the other. The sap on my fingertips made it hard to let go. I flinched and felt myself pulled up like a puppet on a string. The key changed, and once again, I became a tree. Free.