Falling Grace

In the fall, despite ourselves, we flirt with tree worshipping. 

Our main idol, a glorious, mature ginkgo, lives in our side yard. Her arms stretch upward, fifty feet, and her trunk bends at the base, leaving us in fear of a strong north wind.

Come October, everyone watches her progress.

The call, “The ginkgo leaves are starting to turn!” brings us all outside to inspect. Sure enough, the lime green leaf has a gilt edge now. Through the weeks, the edge turns to a full fan of blazing color. Her golden glory stands in bas-relief against the crisp blue sky.

The ginkgo lags behind the other trees, wanting her full share of adulation, so we hope against the first hard frost, which she cannot withstand.

This year the frost waited, and the ginkgo had lost nearly two-thirds of her leaves before one morning’s breakfast was interrupted with a small child saying,  “Mama, the ginkgo’s doing it! The leaves are falling!” Golden fans fell like snowflakes; our idol undressing in a matter of hours, leaving her skirt at her ankles.

Then the true fun begins.

Two inches of golden, silky leaves lie beneath the tree, and the predictable leaf fights start. The children jump and roll. The dog, mysteriously, eats the leaves (his only vegetarian habit). My five-year-old gathers the small fan-shaped leaves into a bouquet for the dinner table.  Amid the chaos, the ginkgo stands proudly, children bowing down beneath her.

We are thankful for our ginkgo. Sometimes, our thankfulness is tinged with a bit of pride.

“It must be one of the prettiest trees in the county,” my husband says.

And it is. And we revel in its beauty, and give thanks to the One who made it.

The children’s play brings to mind another set of children: these holding palms instead of leaves and bowing to a person, not an idol. They sing hosannas and praise God–for His gifts, for His love, for His salvation.

And I remember another tree–this one also shorn and bare, disrobed with a disrobed man upon it. Our tall bare tree, its arms stretched wide, reminds me of the cross. And I find that I am worshipping not the tree, but the One who hung upon it.


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