The Forty Year-Old Pine Cone.

Apr 2, 2012   //   by Steve Wooding   //   A Slice of Lemon, Articles  //  1 Comment

Pine ConeIN SHORT: How much longer are you going to chose to wait to build the life that you were intended for?

“The potential of the average person is like a huge ocean unsailed, a new continent unexplored, a world of possibilities waiting to be released and channelled toward some great good.”

(Brian Tracy, Canada-born self-development author and traveller)

(~816 words, approx. 5-8 mins to read)

On the chimney breast in the house I grew up in were a few mementos of events past. One of them was a short section of a branch with three large pine cones on it. My Dad had picked it up when we were out walking one day on holiday in, if my memory is correct since I was only about 4 or 5 years old at the time I think, the Isle of Wight. It looked like it had been blown down during high winds which they’d apparently had recently.

When we got home, he stripped the bark from the branch, leaving the pine cones attached, cleaned it and varnished it, then mounted it on the chimney breast in true early 1970’s interior decorating style, where it stayed until we moved house about 15 years later.

When we moved the pine cones on their branch were packed away into a box which, as many boxes do after a move, ended up in the loft in our new house. And there they remained for over two decades.

But late last year however, my dad found them in that box in the loft. He’d built a shed a few years previously – my family has an odd history with designing and erecting garden sheds, usually of large proportions and military-grade sturdiness* – and decided that the pine cones would make a suitable ornament to the outside of the shed. I imagine finding them probably also resurrected memories of events that were now almost forty years ago. So he nailed them there, on the shed wall.

They weathered the next few month’s winter chills, many frosts and a little snow.

And then last week they opened.

Despite being varnished and mounted, used as an ornament for a while then lying forgotten for a decade shy of half a century, they finally had the conditions and environment to fulfil their purpose and they opened and dropped a hundred or more perfectly preserved seeds.

I don’t know what you’re thinking right now, but I had one of those small moments of amazement, followed by a string of thoughts.

Perhaps you’re already thinking the same kind of thoughts I’m about to share with you, but since I don’t know what you’re thinking (despite what some of my friends believe I’m capable of!) I’m going to share them anyway.

These three pine cones were created for a purpose. Within them they held the seeds for another generation of trees and their job was to keep them safe until the right time when the right conditions were present and then, only then, to release that potential.

It didn’t matter that life had done something unexpected and instead of a few months passing before they could fulfil that purpose, forty years went by. They did other things for those forty years. But when the time was right and conditions were right, they did what they were supposed to do.

I firmly believe that every single one of us has a purpose, a reason for being here that’s ours and no-one else’s and I believe that the world is less than it would be if we don’t do it.

I also believe that none of us are intended for a life of constant frustration, misery, suffering, anger, low self-esteem, or disappointment. However, because of the choices we and others make, the world we live in gets in the way of what is rightfully ours – a life of contentment, satisfaction and fulfilment. I do not believe in fate, especially that any of us are ‘fated’ to lead disappointing lives. I believe our choices shape us – what we chose to think and feel, to focus on and act on – and those choices shape our lives.

Like the pine cones, no matter what happens to us, the potential for us to fulfil that purpose remains with us throughout life and only dies when we do. It doesn’t matter what life throws at us, that spark of potential remains there, perhaps buried, forgotten, ignored or denied, perhaps even for decades.

Those pine cones had no possibility of acting to change their circumstances – they had to wait for the right conditions to be present. But we CAN ACT. We don’t have to wait.

No matter how much time may have passed us by, we need to realise that there’s no such thing as too late. And whilst we may have to deal with the consequences of past choices and actions, we can change our circumstances to make HERE the right place and make NOW the right time for us to release that potential that has waited for so long.

Forty years passed by before those patient pine cones did what they were here to do and despite the passage of time they still did it perfectly.

How much longer are you going to chose to wait to build the life that you were intended for?


* One of my brother’s self-built wooden sheds had to be moved to make way for a new conservatory he was building. It was so heavy he had to hire a crane to move it. The crane’s scale registered this empty shed, measuring about 6″ x 8″, as weighing just shy of two metric tonnes. That’s more than the materials used to make a standard Anderson bomb shelter in WW2..!



1 Comment

  • Loved that story, Steve, and I may borrow it for a sermon! Reminds me of a quote I picked up earlier this year: “It is never too late to be what you might have been” – George Eliot.

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