The infamous ginkgo tree, located between Holland Hall and Regents, is perhaps the most beautiful, if not controversial, tree on campus. We all know the routine — every year when fall comes around, the ginkgo tree grows and then enthusiastically drops its grape-sized yellow berries onto the ground for students, professors, and passersby to stomp to a pulp on their daily commute. The tree itself is impressive, with rich, golden, fan-like leaves that cover the sidewalks in a vegetal impersonation of the yellow brick road. But the berries? They stink. Clinging to the bottom of my boots, I have sat in class embarrassed at the odor emitting from my shoes, hoping my peers would take one look at my yellow stained soles and be able to pass off the smell as an unfortunate byproduct of my walk to class, rather than poor hygiene.
But perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from my initial dismissal of the odorous ginkgo tree. The ginkgo is theorized to be the sole descendant of the tree family that existed during the time of dinosaurs. And, despite the smell, there’s something unabashedly inspiring about the yearly repetition of the berry routine. Over its long tenure on Earth, you would think the tree could have changed the way it smelled. But it didn’t! Something so natural, so long lasting, and so proudly unpleasant is what makes the ginkgo an inspiration for Oles of the past, present and future. Maybe there are parts of ourselves we don’t like so much, something that other people wish we would change. But if that is part of who you are — much like the smell of the beautiful ginkgo – so what! The tree is still loved, cherished, and venerated across history. So take a lesson from the ginkgo. Be you. And let’s be honest, who isn’t a little smelly from time to time?
Claire Boldt is from Appleton, Wisc.
Her major is political science.