On All Saints Day, we had a hard freeze here in Morris. The next day, our golden-leaved Ginkgo tree unveiled itself slowly as all the leaves fell away within a few hours.
The Ginkgo tree is a huge presence in our neighborhood. It dominates the eastern edge of the school yard and when Fall comes the tree shines with bright yellow leaves every sunny morning.
Our schoolchildren try to guess on which day all the leaves will fall. They are awed when without warning a cascade of fluttering golden leaves slowly then more rapidly begins to fall from the highest branches. This shedding usually catches the kids by surprise but soon they are running underneath the tree with arms outstretched trying to catch leaves with the same enthusiasm with which they will greet our first snow.
Although the Ginkgo tree is native to China it does well in the Midwest climate. The species belongs is the last of what the botanists know as gymnosperms. Its leaves are fan-shaped with prominent veins running from the base out to the edge of the leaf. No other leaves look like the Ginkgo’s.
When all those bright yellow leaves begin to fall, If you didn’t know it, you’d think the tree was dying. In a single day, this huge tree suddenly succumbs to cold. For the rest of the fall and Winter the skeleton of our tree will stand there resisting numbing cold and wind-blown snow.
Spring will bring our tree’s resurrection as its new leaves begin to open, and look for all the world like deep green flower buds, and then open wide like small, delicate verdant sea shells.
One elderly woman told me one day that she was going to die –on that day! I said, “How do you know that?” “I don’t know… I just feel like I’m dying. I can’t describe it. I feel like I am shedding.” (By the way, she lived on for another year.)
I guess leaving this life will be a letting go of all my possessions, all my dreams, all my relationships. That will be a kind of shedding of this life and all its wonders. I will stand bare of it all and rest until the stirring of new life moves again in me.