Loading my car on a sunny afternoon after a recent quilting gathering, I noticed these bright yellow fan-shaped leaves scattered on the ground. Ginkgo leaves! Old friends! I first met this unique tree and its bright leaves when I was a young college student in 1963 at Maryville College, Maryville TN. We all know that familiar smells can retrieve strong memories. What memories are stirred by a few fallen leaves? First, you must know that in 1963 I had not experienced fall and the fallen leaves the cold weather brings! I was born and raised in Miami, Florida where hibiscus, bougainvillea, and poinsettias were the bright year-round companions I knew well.
I first met this unusual tree and its golden leaves when I was a young college student in 1963 at Maryville College, Maryville TN. We learned in biology class that this unique tree is considered a “living fossil”–meaning that fossils recognizably related to the modern ginkgo trees have been found that date back 270 million years.
With leaves on the ground, I thought, there must be a source nearby. I looked up and saw two tall, elegant trees dressed in the same yellow-gold of the leaves on the ground. I admired their splendor, then grabbed my camera.
Savoring the intense yellow of the leaves and in awe of the abundance of those leaves still clinging to their tree, I stopped what I was doing. Paying attention, being in the moment, is a central part of creativity! I admired my surroundings and my good fortune to be alive, and to really see these two particular ginkgo trees. I decided to take a closeup of the leaves before leaving. As I returned to the car, I carefully chose two particular ginkgo leaves from the ground to accompany me home.
More memories followed me that day. As a young woman I had not had much encouragement to explore my own creativity–that would come later. Yet I’ve always had a camera to record events and observations. The four years I spent on that campus allowed me to learn more about the world and to learn about who I was. I do know I was picking up leaves then and taking them with me to admire later.
In 1963 Maryville College was a small, co-ed, liberal arts college of 850 students located in east Tennessee along the foothills of the Smokey Mountains which look much like our Ozark Mountains. I had graduated from Hialeah High School in a class of over 1,000 students. Baldwin Hall, the dorm I lived in the first two years, had been used as a hospital during the civil war–or so we are told. I found the campus lovely. I admired a spreading white dogwood tree outside my dorm window that had a strong branch of pink dogwood blossoms as a result of a careful graft by biology students done years earlier.
Baldwin Hall (upper right corner in the group of campus photos) was razed decades ago. Yet my memories are clear of the relationships, experiences, friendships and even some conflicts with the other young women who lived together. Campus life gave me a “breathing spell” before entering the work world of adults. I’m glad I had those years to start to mature.
Creativity is full of surprises and unexpected paths. Can you locate the ginkgo leaves in this section from a recent quilt of mine? This quilt began a series of quilts which is still unfolding.