Earthworms’ Castings: Ginkgo for Xmas

By Jean Ponzi

Trees have taught me how Love and Capacity for Care branch out at different paces. And how leaving out Awareness can get you stuck being just a stick.

The Christmas my brother was hosting our family in his family’s new home, I wanted to give them what embodied love from me, a tree. Specifically, my first arboreal fave, a Ginkgo.

One of the oldest lives on Earth, the order Ginkgoales dates back 290 million years. Fossils similar to Ginkgo biloba, the persistently thriving last of this line, way predated any of us Homos living here. 

My brother lives in Chicago. I saw my gift of Ginkgo as a place-based asset for him. Individuals in this ancient clan tower along the stately streets of older Windy City neighborhoods. I figured his digs in the suburbs would need some street cred. Musing on the outcomes of my gift, I imagined Gingko gossip: How do T-Rex and Frank Lloyd Wright compare as neighbors?

My relationship to Nature was just budding back then, toward becoming Green Jean. This is a Lifetime Evolution, and that was less than the first third of this lifetime, so far. Typical of our (compared to Ginkgo) toddler species, I thought I knew a lot. About stuff like generosity, and trees.

Winter Solstice is not a busy time at local nurseries, so a guy came right out when I pulled into his lot and marched into their rows of trees, scanning tags to find a Ginkgo. 

Could he help me? Yes indeed! And yes, they had one Ginkgo, balled in burlap, and snugly heeled into not quite frozen soil. So elated was I by this lucky find I missed his fishy stare, that narrowed to Stink Eye when I insisted on buying this tree. This was really not a good time, he advised, to be buying – let alone planting – a tree. It could void the company guarantee…

I needed it for Christmas, I blathered, for my brother in Chicago blah-blah-blah. So excited, so pleased with myself. So into being Giver-of-Tree-Girl.

If this professional plantsman had come right out and said, “Lady, are you NUTS? This is WINTER! You plant trees in FALL and SPRING. THIS TREE WILL DIE!”I might have paid attention, maybe. 

Instead, I paid him $60, a chunk o’ change for me back then. He heaved that burlap ball onto the passenger side floor of my trusty ’69 AMC Rebel — and could not shut the door. I had to leave the window rolled down. The tree’s leader stuck outside the car, a good foot into icy air. 

On the drifted plains of Illinois, I heard a woody snap as I pulled through a toll gate. Darn, I thought, if it had broken a little farther down, I could close the window. 

You know what happened. A noble individual transitioned on that six-hour drive. I joyously presented my kin with a dead stick. 

My dutiful, grateful brother kept it standing outside their new picture window until he could plant it. We talked about it on the phone. I couldn’t wait for him to see those exquisite tiny leafy fans emerge from knobs along the branches in spring, for their first autumn golden shower. He bore with his dipstick sister warbling Ginkgo is a glorious tree!

That one’s glorious legacy is a note-to-self on what I don’t know. The prompt to ask and listen, instead of blabbing and barreling on. Being able to discern when self-center is driving, and how to shift toward what is generous, truly.

From one Xmas, when one extremely generous Ginkgo took root in me.

Thanks to The Healthy Planet, home of Jean Ponzi’s little green stories since 1997, to KDHX St. Louis Independent Media, hosting her Earthworms show conversations since 1989, and to the EarthWays Center of Missouri Botanical Garden for employing her resources since 1995.