Friday, January 15, 2010

Playing with Pattern

Please Note: The following post was written before the news of the horrible earthquake in Hati. I, like you, am watching and praying for those unfortunate people who have and are suffering from this catastrophy and doing what little I can to help.

Ah, the joys of winter. The days when shivering souls' thoughts turn to memories of tropical breezes and gently swaying palms.
Palm trees.......Living near palm trees have been intermittent part of my life through the years. Unfortunately, I cannot say I'm looking at any now, but I'm not looking at snow and ice either, so I can count myself lucky so far.
Even though at the moment I am looking at some spiky vegetation, I never tire of looking at palm trees, those tough survivors of prehistory.
You must admit they are very weird trees. I like to think of them as something more akin to a rhinoceros' horn than a bona fide tree. The long, seemingly weak trunk that insists on piling more growth on top of itself in the order of scales rather than grained wood, and topped by inefficient-looking tassel-like things that flops and windmills at every breeze. Not really leaves at all.
The invention of a mad scientist, I say. The fronds look more like some plastic material and don't seem too suitable for photosynthesis. And the tree has a most inefficient way of discarding dead fronds. Discarding big hunks of them leaving a wound where they had been attached. Or very carelessly not quite shedding the things, allowing the fronds to hang down the trunk giving shelter to who knows what kinds of vermin. Really.
Their roots are a joke. Although, I have almost never seen a palm uprooted or one that has fallen over unless it is the result of a hurricane or some other extremely powerful force. I'll give them that.
And fruits? Either strange cat-o-nine tails loaded with dates which have to be cut off or big, thumping bombs that fall so close to the trunk they develop into more competitive children that steal soil nutrients (such as they are) and finally, the sun from it's parent.
They really should be the total failures of the plant world. Yet persist, they do.
Once, when we were living in the Middle East, a friend of mine woke one morning to find that the slight bump in the center of her living room floor had developed into mound caused by a palm sprout. It has slept there for years but, for some unknown reason, decided that morning (or night before) it was time to grow. "Must have been the Kool Aid the kids spilled", she thought. She and her landlord had one devil of a time rooting the thing out--had to take all the tile out, break the cracked concrete and dig a deep hole.
In any case, I am charmed by them. Palm groves grow in graceful poses. I have drawn them, painted them, and spent hours looking at them. They are like a corps de ballet in the breeze; dancing and tossing their heads to the music of the wind. They softly rattle their fronds against each other, clasping and unclasping green fingers in the air, making hypnotic shadows on the ground revealing the secrets to weaving in their shadows for some astute ancient woman to unlock.


Linda Starr said...

I love palm trees. At my last house a palm sprouted right next to my raised vegetable bins I guess it got enough water to grow. I also planted a jelly palm (butia capitata) and loved the taste of the fruit. Here's a link to the post of the fruit on my tree

Nora said...

After I finished reading this I turned on the television and Victory Garden was on The show was all on palm trees. Then I had to take the dog out. First thing she chased a squirrel up a palm tree in the backyard. If been having problems starting a series of paintings and I think this has pointed the way.Thanks