Palm Trees

The palm tree across the street

The palm tree across the street

I like palm trees. Actually, our entire family likes palm trees. They symbolize warm weather, dry sunny days.

Over the years, I invariably got my vacations during the long, miserably gray, cold, rainy winters endemic to the west coast, the raincoast, of Canada. Craving a reprieve from the rain, we would bundle into our little motorhome and head south along the I-5, barely stopping until it warmed up. Our first indicator of a better climate was when we finally saw palm trees. It became a game with us, a tradition: who could spot the first palm tree.

Climate maps of California show that the drier and warmer characteristic of southern California extends in a long skinny finger up the central valley, with the fingetip just touching the city of Redding. As we descended from the mountains of northern California’s Shasta area, everyone would stop what they were doing and start to look out the windows. The watch had begun. Then, as we came down that long slope of freeway heading into the city, the silence would suddenly be puctuated with a, “There’s one!” and, “I see another one!” We could all relax now because we knew that, with the arrival of the palm trees, our vacation had truly begun.

Unfortunately, people meddle in all things. That includes the genetics of palm trees. Varieties have now been developed that thrive in colder climates. I see them at our local nurseries. There’s even one across the street from where we live. I watched the neighbours plant it in their front yard several years ago. A palm bush, its leaves brushing the ground. It has grown into a real palm tree over the seasons, strong and healthy.

But when I look at it from our kitchen window, I wonder if it knows it really shouldn’t be here. Or does it know nothing at all of other places or climates. Does it shiver when its leaves are covered with snow, when the frost grips its fronds? Does it think, “Please take me with you,” when it sees us loading up the motorhome or is it steadfast in its garden, the only home it has ever known, laughing at us as it watches us scrambling about, desperately trying to find better soil.

When I look at our neighbourhood palm tree, I wonder, does it think about me?

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