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The Lens of the Ginkgo

Ann Kendall

Your veins carry history and change your leaves from spring green to the goldenrod of fall. The shade you provide in the thick of summer vanishes amidst the swirling rain of leaves, and sunlight filters through the dark of winter. You, alone in your survival – knew the dinosaurs that walked here; you have no siblings, no cousins, your grace knows only your line. Alive, you are a fossil to your time and mine – you are sacred and resilient – a blast survivor when there were none. Your autumn crown is what they write about – as your colors shift and your leaves slowly let go as the calendar turns. On the most magical day, your jewels dance their way down to hide the cragged sidewalk below – changing it from a pedestrian road to the path to longevity.

Into each day come those moments when escape is all that I can consider – no major life event has altered this desire, though some of those events have multiplied my longing to flee – if only for a few moments. Sometimes, the distress is intense; other times, it is long brewing; at all times, a lens is my companion. Some days, my direction is clear, and I know what I need to see to find relief; other days, snippets can crop up anywhere along my path. Most days, I am on foot, but I have no aversion to stopping the car randomly or exiting the subway if needed before my destination – it’s all for the moment of the shot.

Yesterday’s escape was half-planned – news reports indicated that my favorite strand of ginkgoes on Swann Avenue was about to turn into a golden paradise. I’ve been monitoring it for a few weeks, and since we were already out walking nearby (and in need of coffee), it seemed like an appropriate detour to head in that direction – the ginkgoes were beckoning. This area of the city is a myriad of one-way streets, and I’m fairly certain the city changes the directions of these streets from year to year, which always leads to some confusion – negotiating this area is a two-person operation; one person to drive, one person to peer down the wrong-way of the one-way to catch a glimpse and report on the ginkgoes' status.

After nudging and nestling the car into place, my eyes are drawn to the canopy above – I  still see green, but whispers of deeply hued golds are touching the lower leaves – we’re almost there but not quite. It’s easy to stand in the middle of this street – anyone that chances down its narrow confines either resides here and knows that lookers like me are here for respite and photos, or they are a fellow seeker and are also busy pulling out their own lenses. There is no breeze on this day; all leaves are stable – waving just a bit but not ready to go. A week’s worth of seeds are then planted for me – today’s photo will be a glimpse into the almost, but tomorrow’s photo will be a glimmer of what a new day may bring – a little more hue, a little more wind. In three days, the temperature will snap quickly, and in four days, the winds from the north will gather. As five days come to pass, the gentle vortex will most likely come to be.

While I usually can’t predict when my need for escape will overtake me, it is, at the same time, a constant – I need the moments, the lenses that take me away from the chores,  the work, and the exhaustion. My predictions of the coming days for the ginkgoes may be mirrors of the turmoil that is to come but also the resilience that these trees share with the world. The ginkgoes are survivors; their roots dig deep under pavement with little oxygen; six of them survived Hiroshima – and leafed out the very next spring, still alive today. I have them, and they have me – we are solid against the storm, we are together in the wind, we are unafraid of the blast that may come.

Ann Kendall's creative work has appeared in Humans of the World, Sad Girl Diaries, Faith & Form, Thought Notebook and Wanderlust. An Assistant Professor of English at Heritage University, Ann is currently working on an MFA, focusing on creative nonfiction and poetry. Instagram @akendallwriter.

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