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Autumn Splendor

10/20/2020 | JoAnn Bourquard, Spiritual Director

Category: Blog

Ginkgo Tree Leaves

It is October and very odd that I would be reflecting on the season of autumn.  I am a true “summer person” and clench tightly to every reminder and remnant of summer.  I live very close to the Connecticut River and the “V” formations of the geese flying south coupled with their cries, leave me with a feeling of loss.


What has become a balm to this depressing feeling has been my time on the grounds of Genesis in my role as spiritual director.  Before or after my scheduled appointments, I am able to take a few minutes to drink in my surroundings.  The brilliant red tree as the welcome to the Guest Wing at Genesis seems to defy me to deny the beauty of autumn.  The Kousa Dogwoods at the entrance to the Carriage House allow me to admit that their beauty changes with the seasons but does not diminish.


Most dear to me, though, is the old Ginkgo tree on our grounds.  This amazing species of tree is one of the oldest plants on earth.  It can live for thousands of years and has been a source of healing for many cultures.  In August 1945, Hiroshima’s  trees were in full leaf. When the bomb hit, the heat immediately burned those leaves into nonexistence. The branches were instantaneously stripped away, leaving the outer bark completely scorched. But, the tree was still alive on the inside. Somewhere underneath all of the destruction, a tiny cylinder of “living cells” had to have survived. Fortunately for the  tree, the extreme organization of its cell tissues created a compartment that was immune to destruction. The  bark was just strong enough to protect the life within.


Our Ginkgo tree is larger around than the few others in this area.  In this season, you can see a magnificent spray of yellow on the blue background of the sky. Unlike other trees, the Ginkgo drops all its leaves at once.  It’s almost like it says, “let’s get this over with.” 


I feel so privileged to share space with this incredible tree.  It puts me in touch with the very heartbeat of God resonant in creation.  The life force pulsing through it reminds me of the many times in my life when I have needed a visible image of the divine life force allowing me to endure the difficult places in my journey. And of how resilient I am also.  It also reminds me of how many people have come to Genesis over the years in need of healing and finding it here through challenging programs, the lush grounds, like-minded community, spiritual direction, or artistic creativity. 


Another amazing thing about the Ginkgo tree is that, if you are fortunate enough to see one, it must be brought to its site by human endeavor.  It cannot replant itself.  This month, we have two more young Ginkgo trees as part of our New Life Garden in memory of the Villaggio family.  What an incredible way to memorialize precious family with the firm assurance that life with our God is not ended, but changed.


If you find yourself in need of a visual sign of the magnificence of the Creator to give you hope in these troubled times, treat yourself to a few moments on the grounds of Genesis, or set aside some time to chat with one of us on the staff.  Perhaps like the Ginkgo trees, your inner self holds the key to healing yet to be discovered.

Autumn blessings!

JoAnn Bourquard


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It is the duty of every cultured man or woman to read sympathetically the scriptures of the world. If we are to respect others' religions as we would have them respect our own, a friendly study of the world's religions is a sacred duty.
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