that warning from the past, that call to the future, what the gentle leaves of the ginkgo trees are still trying to tell us.

Excerpts from The Whispering Leaves of the Hiroshima Ginkgo Trees by Ariel Dorfman:

On Aug. 6, 1945, a 14-year-old schoolboy named Akihiro Takahashi was knocked unconscious by a deafening roar and a flash of blinding light. When he awoke, he found that he had been thrown many yards by the detonation of the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima. He had survived because his school was about a mile from the epicenter of the blast.

Dazed and burned, Akihiro headed to the river to cool himself. Along the way, he witnessed a scene of apocalypse: corpses strewn like rocks, a baby crying in the arms of its charred mother, scalded men peppered with shards of glass, their clothes melted, wandering like ghosts through the wasteland, the unbreathable darkened air, the raging conflagrations. In an instant, some 80,000 men, women and children had perished. In the days and months that followed, tens of thousands more succumbed to their injuries and the effects of radiation.

I met Mr. Takahashi in 1984, when he was the director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. By then middle-aged, his body was a testament to that war crime and its aftermath. One ear was flat and mangled, his hands were gnarled, and from a finger on each grew a black fingernail.  “You must see the hibakujumoku, the survivor trees,” he said to me, almost as an order, at the end of a long conversation in his office. “You must see the ginkgos.” […]

The ginkgo, I learned, was an expert in survival, a species found in fossils 270 million years old. These specific trees had endured because their roots underground had been spared the nuclear annihilation. Within days of the explosion they had sprouted new greenery — surrounded by Hiroshima’s horrors of carbonized bodies and black rain and wailing survivors. The ginkgos, Mr. Takahashi said, expressed better than anything he could say through an interpreter the endurance of hope, the need for peace and reconciliation. […]

I am haunted by deeper, more ominous thoughts about how this great survivor now seems threatened by the depredations of modernity. This is a conflict between nature in its most pristine, slow and sublime form and the demands of a high-speed society that, armed with an astonishing technological prowess, wants to expand everywhere, burrow through any obstacle in its way, communicate instantly with infinite efficiency. The battle is one the earth is losing as this sixth extinction, a man-made extinction, wreaks its havoc on land, water and air, on our plants and creatures.

I am far from being a Luddite. In this isolationist, chauvinistic era, I welcome the human connections that our global communications networks enable. They at least offer a glimmer of what we might achieve, the peace and understanding between different cultures and nations that Mr. Takahashi dreamed of all those years ago in Hiroshima. Yet, as we heedlessly rush into the future with our arrogant machinery, will we ever stop to ponder the consequences? How many species are threatened today by our insatiable desires, our incessant overdevelopment, our inability to measure joy and happiness by anything other than the latest gadget?

The Hiroshima ginkgos, the tenacious older siblings of the tender green trees in front of our North Carolina house, were able to resist the most devastating outcome of science and technology, the splitting of the atom, a destructive power that could turn the whole planet into rubble. Those trees’ survival was a message of hope in the midst of the black rain of despair: that we could nurture life and conserve it, that we must be wary of the forces we unleash.

How paradoxical, how sad, how stupid, it would be if, more than seven decades after Hiroshima opened the door to the possible suicide of humanity, we did not understand that warning from the past, that call to the future, what the gentle leaves of the ginkgo trees are still trying to tell us.


Notes:

Comments

  1. Great post, David and an even greater reminder. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We are on the brink of destroying lives of all kinds yet again…I don’t understand, I won’t understand.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. A powerful reflection. Thank for a great share David. 💛

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    The Ginkgo Bilobs tree has a message … the only organism that survived the atomic bomb seven decades ago!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Amen.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. yes, we need these symbols of hope, hope is what keeps us going, even in the most challenging of circumstances. this is a lovely post and so perfect for the times we live in. by the way, the ginkgo tree has always been my favorite tree, bearing my favorite leaf.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I cry for the animals, trees, soil, and Mother Earth that continues to forgive and sustain our single-use bottle obsessive culture. And then I breathe and share an extraordinary story like this, in effort to influence by example.
    Thanks for always supplying something incredibly gorgeous in an ugly society.
    Paula

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Powerful and moving story, David! ♡
    Diana xo

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Will we never learn?

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Yes. A great post.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thank you David. So hauntingly beautiful and so timely.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Beautiful.
    Too bad we’re not Ginko trees.
    If I tweet this and tag him, do you think he’ll understand? I think he wont read more than 2 lines 😦

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Dave, your timely share, impacts…I ponder and ponder your share… I tear up and I think of the generational impact of Japan’s ties to my family…will keep pondering. The ginkgo trees survived the unspeakable destruction…and I think of what God said in the Bible about a rearmament of his people always surviving…/// I hate to think of the possibility of further, future use of nukes…how could a sane person(s) think this is an answer? /// Friday evening, I stood for a time amazed at the all the bees on row of flowering mint…the mint was covered with bees & other insects…busy at surviving by gathering sweet nectar…in their world at that moment life is totally sweet…the varieties of bees astounding, their beauty a gift…and I was struck by how they side by side at times on opposite sides of the same flower (as the mint flower is a 360 elongated cone that tapers on a shaft) that they all managed to co-mingle getting about with their lives and I thought What A Lesson We Should and Could Take from the lives of the Bees…get on with our lives while co-existing…the bees were audible,humming and busy…not bothering another…and the circle of life is in our hands…and for a tiny part of our world, that of the bees do we help them by planting herbs and flowers to give them substainence in return for pollinating our crops that give us life…do we garden organically…do we take to heart that We as people have the responsibility of being good stewards of the gift of this World? We must find sustainable ways to get along, amidst our difference…not destroy the place we are blessed to call home…/// **I’ve noticed that their is one Bumble Bee that sleeps on a mint flower. This morning I was elated to petted it, twice…and I thought what a gift…**/// **PS Mostly, honeybees on the Sunflowers and the flat, large,open faced, Chartreuse “Colored” anise scented, Fennel flowers host a variety of bees, wasps and insects…our yard is an oasis for birds, animals and insects…always fun to watch the bats fly over at dusk…/// We can if we try hard enough to soften our ways…with a lighter touch…as we live on this nourishing, beautiful planet…our home…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes. That’s it.

      “Friday evening, I stood for a time amazed at the all the bees on row of flowering mint…the mint was covered with bees & other insects…busy at surviving by gathering sweet nectar…in their world at that moment life is totally sweet…the varieties of bees astounding, their beauty a gift…and I was struck by how they side by side at times on opposite sides of the same flower (as the mint flower is a 360 elongated cone that tapers on a shaft) that they all managed to co-mingle getting about with their lives and I thought What A Lesson We Should and Could Take from the lives of the Bees”

      Like

    • Thank you Christie

      Like

  14. Yes, yes, how stupid it would be if we all, and especially the-powers-that-be, don’t listen and remember the horror of the near end, the suicidal destruction of humanity. May peace prevail…along with the ginkgo tree. Beautiful and stirring post.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. To be honest, I am shaking my head that we are actually even contemplating such horrors, and sadly, I don’t think that either individual currently sitting with his finger near the trigger full appreciates the magnitude of what he is contemplating. I think it is ego, hubris and testosterone run amok, and it makes me sick with worry.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. A moving and beautiful post and as always, nature urges us to change, shows us it’s always possible to heal in tragic situations and always shows us there is another way to live and grow together…..We of course, continue to believe we know better. 😢

    Liked by 2 people

  17. powerful words. and, heartbreaking.
    Its almost as if we’re all watching, helplessly, a play. And the man in the play is utterly blind and lost, destined to a terrible end.
    Can’t we all, just wake up David?

    Liked by 1 person

  18. God knows what North Korea will do

    Liked by 1 person

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