If you read the previous post, you might be interested to know that after I wrote it, I walked down the street to my neighbor’s to pick up more downed gingko leaves, and I saw an older man out raking. I introduced myself and said I was his neighbor and a teacher at Sacramento City College.
He looked surprised, this man with soft eyes, and said, “I’m Byron Patterson. I taught English at American River College for 26 years.”
How about that? Another English prof! I taught at ARC for a year in the mid-’80s, and I told Mr. Patterson that.
He shook his head and smiled at the coincidence (though my late friend Julie was fond of reminding me that there are no “coincidences”).
It turns out that yes, he planted the tree many years ago (he’s lived in his house for 32 years; I’ve lived in mine for 23… inverted numbers!), and he often curses the tree this time of year because, he says, “It’s so messy.”
“Yes,” I said, “but so beautiful.” Still, I’m not the one who has to rake up all that gold on the ground.
Then I handed Mr. Patterson an envelope that contained the poem I wrote for him about his tree:
thousands of little yellow fans
artfully arranged on crewcut grass
just before Thanksgiving.
For twenty-three seasons, I have
watched this neighbor’s tree
leaf greenly each spring,
weather the furnace of Sacramento
summers, then shudder itself
into its bright yellow sweater
Now the gingko relaxes into
what is coming, lets go,
sends each fan waltzing its way
groundward like so many pieces
of scallop-edged origami.
As families turn to the table
fat with turkey and stuffing,
I come to the gingko every year
with plastic bag in hand
to retrieve those last spots
of sunshine, bound for glass bowls
spread around my house,
enough to last me
Long live Mr. Patterson and his great gingko tree!