I mark it down as one of those inexplicable, delicious, and thoroughly pleasing little events of nature that clearly indicate the presence of celestial humor. That may be a bit strong. Try organic humor. No, make it just pure fun.
It was a brittle, still day. (Stillness is very important here, almost an aspect of readiness.) No wind stirred and there was an absence of rural sounds such as cars and trucks humming along a distant highway or the collective song of resourceful birds. Overhead, the sun was sweetly warm and lent a lazy wryness to the conspiracy about to happen.
I was standing in the kitchen buttering bread for a maverick sandwich when the chain of events began. The walnut fell, directly above me from a branch hanging over the roof over the kitchen. The hard little ball crashed like an abrupt announcement on the roof, a quick, dull splunk followed by a soft rolling sound as it tumbled down the sloping angle of the gravel and tar roof. I looked up, butter knife poised.
The walnut then entered the uncovered hole of the drainpipe (attached to the outside of the kitchen wall) and plunged about eight feet down, ricocheting and rattling in the dark chamber for perhaps a second or more. Then it bashed against the curve of the drainpipe spout and shot out in a westerly fashion like a tiny bowling ball across a Lilliputian alley.
I looked out the window above the kitchen sink just in time to see the walnut skidding across the brick patio. For reasons that only a good time-and-motion man could probably explain, the walnut rolled quickly for four feet, glanced off the edge of a slightly raised brick, and pirouetted wildly on end like a top. When it finished it stopped, slumped on its side, and was motionless. Had it not been for me it would have slipped into walnut obscurity.
I felt delight. Was this not a funny little marvel? I felt serendipity. I also felt a somewhat low-key but irritating struggle within me to be a mature adult and not wax childish over the walnut's curious journey. A falling walnut did not amount to a hill of beans, did it? It fell on the roof, went down the drainpipe, shot out the spout, and pirouetted crazily. So what? Still . . . however . . . maybe. . . .
I laid down my butter knife and went out to the patio and picked up this . . . this, this acrobatic walnut.
To cast a spell, I should entertain fantasy here by conjuring up a walnut genie or fashion some kind of walnut clue to solving an international mystery. But the walnut in my hand - alas, poor walnut - was without guile or any need of the complexity of fiction. Break it open and find what? A guidance system? A tiny engine? A worm on a fun ride? Or a simple walnut? Still . . . however . . . maybe. . . .
I will not lie. I actually went up on the roof the following day under the pretext of removing leaves from the roof. With a dozen walnuts I tried to duplicate the flight of the previous day's walnut. I could not do it. The first walnut I rolled missed the hole. The second, too. The third rolled over the hole and over the edge of the roof. The fourth, fifth, and sixth would not roll near the hole. The ninth went down the hole into the drainpipe but never came out the spout. The rest were completely erratic.
What I have done is to put the previous day's walnut in a special place on the clutter of my desk. Twice, out of nothing more than impulse, I brought the walnut to my ear the way we've all done a hundred times with a big seashell to hear the hum of the sea. No sound comes from a walnut. But because of what it has done shouldn't I somehow honor the little nut?
Or is there something more here, something as mysterious in purpose as the walnut is complex in texture? No. It is a walnut.
Still . . . however . . . maybe. . . .
There it sits on my desk, almost clear.