Day 99 Gumball Pricks

March 18, 2015

(This is part of a 365 project during my 70th year where I write and illustrate a blog on each day's gift.)

When David and I walk together in the park, he often makes a game of kicking fallen sweet gum seedpods, causing them to roll either straight on the paved path or off to the side. He tries to see how long he can keep one on the path before it takes an errant turn.Today the ground was covered with thousands of these reddish-brown seedpods. Many people do not like them because they can trip a walker or impale a curious hand. I think they are fascinating with their “spines” and “hidey-holes” that provide such texture to their spherical surface. And because they can entertain a grown man.

Some people are interesting in much the same way with their barbed shell and hidden parts of their personality. In the 60’s when I was an undergrad at Frostburg studying to become a teacher, my acerbic Shakespearean professor invited four of his students to dinner at his house. I don’t know why he invited me, usually an A or B student but a C student in his class, or why he would want to hang out with any student. As it turned out, his wife was most pleasant and an excellent cook. It was Halloween and, even though trick-or-treaters were disrupting the meal, he took great delight in donning a grotesque mask as he answered every door knock. After giving the children treats each time with high drama, he took off his mask as he returned to the table, chuckling with glee.

As it turns out, the prickly gumballs too have a hidden life. Tamiflu, a medication used to treat the flu, is made from the seedpods of the star anise tree, used for the main ingredient, shikimic acid. Once when a shortage arose, it was discovered that infertile sweet gum seeds also contain shikimic acid though in lesser amounts.

It is interesting what I learn when I look beyond the surface.

My gift today is a seed with secrets.

You can read my other posts on this project here:

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