The Ginkgo Tree of Giannini

by Patricia K. Colleran

The Ginkgo Tree of Giannini

She told me once:
"It is the oldest tree on campus."
And I stood under its yellow expanse
gazing through the great golden dome
of buttressed branches and flame-lit leaves.

It was November then
and the leaves remembered
with their brilliant fire.
The last show of the sun
before the winter rains.

I remember the story she told
of the ginkgo tree,
the temple tree of the ancient Chinese:

A monk wandered once
for months and months,
searching for a resting place,
a place of consolation
a place to build his temple.

And after he crossed the final mountain
with blistered feet he came to rest
beneath the bare branches of a twisted tree.
Laying there his own twisted limbs,
resting there his grey, tired head.

And as he nearly slept he prayed,
repeating once again his wish
for a golden temple resting place.

Then, without warning, the bare branches trembled
Bursting forth with golden color
Sheltering with a great golden dome
Showering him with great golden leaves.

And so today the ginkgo tree
becomes once a year a golden temple.

I think of this tree as I sit everyday
with mountains of papers and deadlines to meet.
My mind wandering like the ancient monk
roams from the room
down the stairs of Giannini
crosses the grassy green
to rest wearily
Beneath the golden dome
of the golden ginkgo tree.

The Ginkgo Tree of Giannini was first published in UCBerkeleyNews: