I went for a walk this morning and found a pine cone. How exciting! How thrilling! What a way to start a story. But when I found the pine cone I was in the middle of one of two roads that had divided in the woods. The road I had travelled ran through fields with no trees in sight, not one, and certainly not a tree that has pine cones. So where had it come from?
Had it rolled there? Had it dropped from a fir tree and rolled all the way down the hill and somehow onto the road? Except, there was no hill.
Or was it dropped by a migrating African Swallow. Flying high up in the clear blue sky clutching its treasure before its grip failed and the pine cone fell to earth. Perhaps, but it was a very ordinary pine cone. There was nothing to attract a Swallow.
Perhaps it had been carried there. A child might have collected it when out walking and then dropped it by accident as they became tired on the walk home. Maybe their daddy picked them up to carry them home for Sunday lunch and the pine cone fell from their hand.
Had it been a find by a squirrel that was then challenged as a thief? Running from its pursuers was the squirrel forced to relinquish its precious? No. Squirrels might take a pine cone but not out of the woods and onto an open road.
I looked at the pine cone and found myself transported back to a little café I like in Amsterdam that has a fir tree outside. A café where I have sat and watched the sun go down while eating Madeleines.
I shook myself. Perhaps it had been placed there by God. As a test. Arriving in a shaft of sunlight from the heavens it would puzzle and bemuse, but would it lead to faith?
Now the pine cone was starting to annoy me. I turned my back. I walked on. A little later I returned.
The pine cone was no longer there.