They cut the ginko tree down

Harry Reynolds


Someone complained about the ginkgo, and it went down.

Michael Grovier 

    It stood on a corner of the library grounds, peeked over the shoulders of the sidewalk, threw shade on people sitting on the iron bench and told a story if you listened. The breeze carried its voice in murmuring songs.

    For over 200 million years, ginkgo trees have remained as they are – unchanged. A ginkgo can live more than a thousand years.

    But let us dismiss such things out of hand. The tree at the library smelled, as is the nature of a female ginkgo, and that was its doom. Had not the axe been wielded in the name of one patron and the library board’s ignorance, it might have stood to a time when the library became the stuff of archeologists’ dreams.

   This particular ginkgo was more than a dinosaur. It was born of the second Great War, when men and women brought down monsters. They left families, boarded trains and crossed oceans. They lived and died in foreign places. They left legacies of life and death. After the years passed and enough dying done, a proposal was made to plant a tree at the library to honor the soldiers. A committee was formed, things were contemplated, and it settled on a ginkgo. Why the ginkgo?

    It was a promise of the ginkgo’s longevity in a time of armies fallen. It spoke of blood soaked ground. It spoke of freedom’s champions sacrificing their lives for something greater than themselves. Those were the reasons.

   After the graves were filled, the tree moved on into the dimming years of veterans. The war is gone, the veterans are gone, and the ginkgo planted during the war in honor of the warriors – is gone. 

   We do not know sometimes, what we have. 73 years runs a high tab on memories. Granite and granite and granite spread across the land. Heavy metal plaques hammered into walls; legions of statues found homes on courthouse lawns, in cities and parks. Monuments and books compel us to remember; they keep the war alive. The soldiers came home from killing to forget. It was the nature of the living who witnessed the maiming and killing. But, we knew not the fighting and knew not the killing. So, we build monuments, hold parades, write books and make movies.

   We chopped down a monument in the form of a tree on the library lawn in the name of a disgruntled patron. There is sadness there, something that drifts just out of sight.

   The ginkgo is gone.


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