A triumph of identity is in the ash trees. In front of the Agriculture Building on Rollins Ave. is a row of six green ashes, young and bulbous. You can’t see it now, but there was a time two weeks ago when you could stand outside the construction on Johnston and see the last breaths of autumn on their purple leaves. Most of the trees in Columbia by then were bare, and the green ashes were just hanging on.
The second tree from the left was in accelerated decline. Completely naked, already set in its roots for the winter, surrounded by leafed trees. There was nothing different about that tree. It was the same age as the other trees, which all looked identical. It was born and raised on the same soil. It was flanked by two matching ashes. Its environment was perfectly identical to theirs. And yet, it acted differently. Something untraceable in its DNA — or possibly something even more ineffable than that — had made it unique. Nothing to anticipate it. Don’t you see how beautiful that is? I look at my perceived destiny, from my uneventful youth in Midwestern Illinois to my uniform education at a journalism school. There’s no destiny.