Requiem for a Gingko Tree: A Tiny Story of How A Leaf Can Touch A Life

A TINY STORY OF HOW A LEAF CAN TOUCH A LIFE

by Pam Verner, CUMC member and keyboardist

As a young teacher, I loved learning my craft by listening to the wisdom of the older teachers. Their intriguing project stories often seemed to stick with me for use with future classrooms where they might enliven the lessons for my students. I often looked for things that might bring history to life! 

A very revered kindergarten teacher named Georgia Stewart, used to so look forward to autumn so that she could collect the leaves from the gingko tree at her church for a project she did annually with her 5 year olds, studying pioneers–probably Pilgrims—if it happened to be November. 

When I heard the word “gingko”, my ears perked up because I thought I knew from my own science classes that the gingko tree was extinct and she must be mistaken. “No,” Mrs. Stewart explained. Someone a long time ago had planted an actual gingko tree at her church and the church had kept it alive for years, preserving for future generations. 

“The tree is NOT extinct…it lives at Central United Methodist Church!” Its bright yellow color every autumn was a symbol of hope and promise to the little Sedro-Woolley congregation. 

I never forgot that story of the little church that loved what we thought was an extinct tree back to life. And when I chose a new church to attend in my new home town of Sedro-Woolley, I remembered Georgia Stewart’s story of making “tiny pioneer ladies in sunbonnets” from its leaves, with her kindergartners every year. I went looking for Georgia’s church.  And sure enough, the tree was still there.  Almost perceptively inviting me in.

Sadly, our huge gingko tree at the front of the church was mortally wounded in a recent storm and had to be removed after so many years. 

But, in true CUMC fashion, someone decided “No, this can’t be”, and immediately, before we knew it, a brand-new gingko tree has been planted and will no doubt thrive, and we’ll continue to be inspired by this simple tree.

DID YOU KNOW??

Per Wikipedia, the Ginkgo biloba, known as ginkgo or gingko, also known as the ginkgo tree or the maidenhair tree, is the only living species in the division Ginkgophyta, all others being extinct.

It is found in fossils dating back 270 million years. Native to China, the tree is widely cultivated and was introduced early to human history. It has various uses in traditional medicine and as a source of food. The genus name Ginkgo is regarded as a misspelling of the Japanese gin kyo, “silver apricot”. 

Per Professor Roger Cohen of Yale University, the gingko tree is the OLDEST tree on earth and is revered for its beauty and longevity. The ginkgo is a living fossil, unchanged for more than 200 million years.

So, yes, ok…we get it…

… maybe we did get a little carried away over all this tree stuff! But, we were having “creation time” in our liturgical year when the storm hit. Pastor Cody had been reminding us of the sheer wonder of the earth—God’s creation— which nurtures us, sustains us, sometimes scares us, and for which we hold such responsibility. And, we had been singing hymns like For the Beauty of the Earth and I am Your Mother, Do Not Neglect Me…

So you’ll just have to understand!

 

gingko2

At our Central UMC we have a history of maintaining a lovely campus. We are deeply grateful for the sheer beauty of our environment, especially here in our lovely spot in the city that dubs itself “Gateway to the Cascades”!

In the month of September, we celebrate the “Season of Creation” in our liturgical year, a time when we offer our worship to God in a more “creation-connected” way.

And so, as a concrete expression of that spirit, we have always LOVED our gingko tree, right next to the entrance of our church, as a perfect expression of Creation’s beauty.

Which is why we were all somewhat heartbroken when, two weekends ago, the storm took our beloved tree. Yes, it was probably about 100 years old, but still…love is love…

Story has it that it arrived at our “old” church in Sedro-Woolley, early in the 20th century, thanks to a missionary named Erma Rexroth. She brought it with her from…China…or maybe India… (If someone knows for sure, please call the church!). It was planted in her honor.

Story also has it that our gingko lived at the “old” church until the early 1950’s, when our congregation built a “new” church, at our present Polte Road location. Of course, the congregation could not bear to leave the beloved gingko tree behind. This was love, after all…

They got a truck. They dug it up. The root ball rested on the truck bed. The top of the tree was held by Leon Greene (sadly now deceased), who rode in the back of a Volkswagen bug, carrying the “top” of the tree, which couldn’t fit into the truck. The somewhat precarious caravan inched its way to the new church. The tree was transplanted, and miraculously survived to be enjoyed there for probably at least 50-60 years.

So, goodbye old tree. Thank you God for this expression of beauty, enjoyed year after year.

We are reminded of one of our favorite hymns:

For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.

gingko1 

Thanks to Becky Fletcher for the pics!

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