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Gingkoes Across the Years

Be still and aware of God’s presence within and all around.  


I don’t remember the first time I saw a gingko tree, but I remember the first gingko leaf I saw. I was in the third grade and our class assignment was to make a leaf collection. I had gathered a number of leaves from my neighborhood; maple, willow, cottonwood, maybe some oak.  With my mother’s help, I pressed them between sheets of wax paper

with an iron to preserve them. My father delivered the prize of that leaf collection, a gingko leaf. He worked for Chrysler Corporation and there were gingko trees outside his office in Detroit. He collected a few and brought them home to me. I was thrilled. The leaves were beautiful and foreign.   I’m still collecting gingko leaves.

In October I attended a talk at St Paul’s Church given by Phillip Newell and Cami Twilling. They have published a book, Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul, that shares lessons from Celtic spirituality - one of those being that not only are we made by God, but we are also made OF God. The wisdom of the Divine is deep within each of us, and all living things. Phillip Newell challenged us that morning by asking: will we allow the light that is Jesus to see the light within all things? Cami Twilling later invited us to go outside, find a tree or a patch of ground, stand quietly with our hands on our hearts and speak out loud this prayer of meditation: say our name, then say, “I am here, I am listening”.


I walked outside the church into the morning, the noises of the city around me. Kitty-corner from the church, was a stand of young gingko trees, slowly fading from green to brilliant gold. Following my meditation I collected a couple of the leaves. I thought about that first gingko leaf my father had given me. And about the notable gingkoes I’ve found here in Virginia.

Roanoke and Blacksburg both have an abundance of the trees. You may have seen the glorious gingko at St John’s church in Church Hill, or those in the Windsor Farms neighborhood in the Museum District that line Massey Road. Just recently I realized we have a very nice one off the back parking lot at our church. 

But my new favorite is a massive gingko on the campus of UVA in Charlottesville. It stands on the northwest side of the Rotunda designed by Thomas Jefferson. “The Pratt Gingko” was planted in 1860. Maybe you know gingko trees are living fossils, dating back more than 250 million years ago. They evolved before any of the deciduous tree species we live with today and were one of five dominant species of trees in North America 150 million years ago, disappearing from the fossil record 7 million years ago when the climate cooled. I invite you to go and find a gingko and enjoy their beautiful gold leaves before they fall.

As you take in the splendor of the last Fall colors, let me share a prayer from another book by Phillip Newell.  Sounds of the Eternal, A Celtic Psalter offers a series of prayers for each day of the week. Here, we are to see the Divine in all of Creation:

You are above us, O God, you are within.

You are in all things, yet contained by no thing. 

Teach us to seek you in all that has life that we may see you as the Light of life.

Teach us to search for you in our own depths that we may find you in every living soul.

Craig DeBussey is a retired physical therapist who is active in woodworking and travel. He is currently serving a term on our Endowment Foundation. He hopes you will get by to see GPPC's gingko tree this week while the leaves are still on.

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