The Strength of a Gingko Tree —

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of

strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

Rachel Carson

The woman who exposed the dangers of wholesale pesticide use in Silent Spring was ferociously attacked by chemical companies and other special interest groups. But she held fast to her position, arguing from the viewpoint of a distinguished naturalist and biologist, and ultimately became a major figure in the environmental movement. Perhaps that strength which she displayed (despite metastisizing breast cancer, among other challenges) came from a lifetime of contemplating the beauty of the earth. And of the sea — which was her original love, and which launched her career when she wrote The Sea Around Us.

On the Smith College campus in Northampton, a cradle of staunch and dedicated women and scholars, is this venerable gingko tree, planted in 1901:

It’s easy enough to believe in Rachel Carson’s words when standing in this centenarian’s presence, that contemplating its beauty will indeed lend its strength for as long as the onlooker needs it.

(This post may seem to come out of the blue, but I realize it actually doesn’t. My friend Jen of Random Acts of Writing today posted photos of her early morning walk out in nature. Obviously they held a deeper meaning for me than I was aware of, because having written my own post, I realize that Jen herself for me exemplifies Rachel Carson’s words. Perhaps there’s someone in your life who represents them for you?)

This entry was posted in Etcetera, Nature, Pioneer Valley, Quotes, Wisdom and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to The Strength of a Gingko Tree —

  1. reb says:

    Wonderful woman! We wouldn’t see any Bald Eagles, just to name one example, had they not done anything about those pesticides …
    That’s a beautiful tree … it has ‘seen’ a lot!


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Over a hundred years old, yes, it’s seen a lot. The massiveness of it shows in my photo, but not its height. Especially for a gingko, it’s huge!
      I remember when Silent Spring came out serialized in The New Yorker, which is where it had its greatest impact. It was a revelation.


  2. I am quite touched by your comparison, my friend. Thank you.

    And what a fabulous tree, the Smith College gingko tree. One wonders what stories it would whisper! xoxo


  3. Smallpeace says:

    What a beautiful way to start the day.


  4. What a magnificant and wonderous tree right there in NoHo! I should wander to its shade everyday and ponder the sights it has seen. Thank you so much for sharing!


  5. thank you for that wonderful quote. I’m embarrassed to say I had not heard of Rachel Carson but I’m glad you have introduced her to me now.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      As I recall (it’s a long time ago) she’s a marvelous writer. The Sea Around Us (if the sea is one of your loves) I think was especially good. And of course Silent Spring was a stunner.


  6. 2e0mca says:

    When I go to Kew – and especially when I take other people – I always insist on dragging them round to the Gingko. One of the elder statesmen of trees in Kew, it stands as an example of life that predates the dinosaurs. Gingko’s are a truly ancient species and exhibit reproductive methods that are more similar to animals than to plants. The good news is that councils in England seem to have adopted the species as suitable for planting on our streets alongside the London Plane, Lime, and Japanese Cherry. Amen to Rachel Carson for her visionary work in this area 🙂


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Interesting, Martin. I didn’t know how old the species is. That’s fascinating —

      All I know about their reproductive methods is that when male gingko trees and female gingko trees get together (on the same street, for instance) — their offspring litter the ground and smell foul. Hmmmmm.

      But, as my Japanese friends showed me one afternoon, rejoicing at all the fallen nuts we’d found in a “stately home and garden” we visited together, the offspring are delicious when they are cleaned and boiled and cooked. They put the smelly nuts in a plastic bag (which didn’t completely contain the smell) and we drove home with them — they made the youngest of our party sit in the back seat and hold the plastic bag out the window all the way home! And she had to clean them and boil them. Also hmmmm.

      They do still plant gingkos here on city streets, but they are strict about planting only one sex.

      Actually I think they’re beautiful, and the “design” of the leaves is especially beautiful.


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