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String pulled on the Ginkgo tree this week

gingkoMy favorite tree – and I have hundreds to choose from here at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods – is the huge Ginkgo tree in front of Corbe House, where I live.

The tree is huge! Sister Rose Ann Eaton and I just went out to measure the circumference of the trunk – 205 inches! While engaged in this pursuit, Rose told me a story she had heard from Sister Marceline Mattingly now in her nineties. Marceline remembers when the Ginkgo tree had only a single trunk. A storm broke the tree down near its base. As the tree regrew, it developed the multiple trunks very evident today. The tree’s shaggy bark, many trunks melding into one another and the sheer width of the branches lend distinctiveness, character and interest to “my” tree.

I have a small collection of memories involving this lovely Ginkgo tree. When I ministered at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College many years ago, one of the students came back from a long weekend with an engagement ring that she joyfully showed us. The very next day, she and her friends were playing in the blanket of yellow leaves beneath the tree and she lost the ring! Nell Steinmiller Trainor, then Dean of Residence, organized dozens of students in a pattern resembling spokes on a wheel. Inch by inch, the students carefully sifted through the leaves and – voilà – the ring was found! I think of that successful search and rescue every fall!

This obliging Ginkgo tree has grown in ways that invite kids to climb it. My nieces and nephew, my cousins’ children and now their children have all sat in its branches. I don’t need to see the photos to “see” in my heart’s eye, all the kids who have found adventure high above the ground but safe and sound on sturdy branches.

Most amazing of all is the show the Corbe House Ginkgo tree puts on every autumn. Its lime green leaves stay green until early November. In the course of a day or two, all the lime green leaves turn the most amazing and brilliant yellow. Such a visual display alone would evoke wonder, but the tree has one more delight to offer us!

On one and the same day, this mighty and majestic tree loses every leaf! As if someone pulled a string and released each leaf simultaneously, the yellow leaves tumble down to form a deep and brilliant carpet of leaves – a carpet for those who walk past to admire or to scuffle through or to ask, “How does it happen this way year after year?”

Thank you, Corbe House Ginkgo tree, for the delight and amazement you offer in every season!

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Sister Denise Wilkinson

Sister Denise Wilkinson

Sister Denise was the general superior of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods from 2006-2016. She previously served as a high school teacher, college administrator, postulant/novice director and director of advancement and communications for the Congregation. Currently, Sister Denise serves the Congregation in various volunteer positions.

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  1. Avatar Dannette Richards on November 18, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    This is my favorite tree too! I love talking to friends and hearing them describe which tree is their favorite. It’s amazing that so many of us can describe one of the trees as “my favorite” and we all are able to remember exactly which tree the other is describing.

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