Look for the wonder. Repeat.

November 29th, 2019

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(published in The Daily Memphian)

Every year no matter what. And it’s happened again. And again I’m thankful.

Despite it all.

Right outside my window is a ginkgo tree, and another on the other side of the house. Every fall they engage in an ancient mating dance, a spectacular competition for attention. So exhausting is the effort, it doesn’t last long. So intense is the result, it’s explosive. And then it’s gone.

One morning they’re both green, a bit less green by afternoon. Overnight, they turn. The next morning, they shed light, a brilliant yellow so bright it shines through window shades and burns off gloom, a yellow that turns every other yellow green.

And the next day, it seems, it’s all gone. Their leaves fall as one, leaving the host naked and alone, covering the patio and everything on it with their loss.

That day was today. 

“Watch your step out there,” Nora said, “the dogs just left a message in the ginkgo leaves and I got it.”

So it goes. One day, it’s all beautiful. The next day, it all turns to crap. Or maybe that’s not the message at all.

My family has been visited by death, near death and deadly threat, by deceit and heartbreak, by cancer in varying form, by Alzheimer’s and plain old dementia, by diabetes, alcoholism, kidney disease and kidney stones, emphysema, bankruptcy, divorce, blown dreams and blue toe, broken bones and torn muscles, curved spines and crooked deals, stupid mistakes and senseless loss, rejection and reflux, gum disease, blood disease and general disease. Foot surgery, knee surgery, heart surgery, spine surgery, and neuropathy made the list. This year, spine surgery has returned, and knee surgery will reappear in the new year.

And so it goes.

But we’ve also been visited by each other, by shared experience and gained appreciation, by children and grandchildren, by a lot of friends and a lot of delightful silliness, by unforgettable moments and uncontrolled laughter, by faith and hope, and love. And by waking up today.

We’ve been visited by the privilege of life, the gift of perception, and the opportunity of choice.

Ginkgo trees are regarded as living fossils, literally writing their history in stone dating back almost 300 million years. And they’ve done that dance every year a billion times around the world, and right outside my window. To see the wonder of it, I only need to look.

Ginkgo trees don’t leave you with just a memory; they leave you with the promise of their return.

The first time I wrote about them was just before our granddaughter’s first Thanksgiving. Just after she turned two, the leaves turned again. Just after her third, her little brother arrived, and they turned again. And now – just after she’s turned eight and he’s turned six – just after their brand-new little brother hit five months – I look out the window and think again of all that I’m so very fortunate to have.

This week they’ll run in our house and jump on me and make my back twinge. And that will be just fine. I’ll hold the baby and he’ll smile, and everything will be just fine.

That kind of thinking bears repeating, and I find it much more rewarding than dwelling on the likes of creaky bones and bunions.

Despite it all.

I’m a Memphian, and I give thanks for the wonder of it all.

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