The parable of the mistaken oak

Last fall I sat on a lawn under an oak tree, surrounded by music and children. I brought home some acorns, researched, prepared, and planted one. It lived in the back of my fridge, in simulated winter, annoying family members just trying to put away the yogurt.

Last month, I decided it was time to create spring. I peeked: my acorn was swollen, with a little white nub barely beginning to push out. I nestled it back in its soil and put it in the countertop greenhouse in the sun to warm up.

Within a couple of weeks, there it was: a bright green shoot! I did it! I grew a tree from seed! There was a persistent doubt in the back of my mind, though, that it was a little too easy, a little too quick. And wasn’t this stem just a little on the tender side?

A few more days and it was clear. The true leaves came out on the sprout and sure enough, this was definitely not an oak. Some little seed had slipped in with the acorn and gotten my hopes up. I left it for a few days, but ultimately, I knew it had to go. Back to patiently waiting.

And waiting.

Was it really going to sprout?

Did I dare peek again? What if I disturbed tender new growth and ended what I wasn’t even sure had begun?


And then: Is that it? Right there, the pale little… well, it looks like a tiny stick. Right at the surface. No, right there.


I think that’s it. It is. It’s half an inch above the soil now, it’s definitely growing.

Some more waiting.


It’s turning green at the tip. Now this looks like a stem that could become a trunk, something with a bit of substance to it. I water carefully and tend to hold my breath when I look at it. I can’t wait for the leaves to unfurl; how long is this going to take?

I’ve been writing for publication for several years now. I get paid modestly, to match my circulation. When I got my first gig, I remember feeling like shouting, “Hey, look! I did it! I’m a writer now!” But I also remember a little something in my mind chiding me about defining myself by paycheque, and the uncertainty around is-this-the-best-use-of-my-time-and-talents has never truly gone away.

Until these last few months. When I’ve been writing more hours a day than I have since before my kids were born and not earning a cent off of it. Since I’ve ignored the pay per piece options and sunken eyeball deep in a book I believe in.

This feels more real, more true for me, like something with a bit of substance to it. The pages are stacking up and I tend to hold my breath when I think about it.

Worth waiting for.




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