Susan R. Williamson Boca Raton (LD)
Trimming The Robellini Palm Tree in Front of My Condo
I never notice I need to bring out the clippers until one day it rains
and a palm frond slaps me in the face as I try to cross into the entrance
to my front doorway. It’s not a grand residence, our Florida condo.
When we arranged for landscaping out front. I chose this tree. It was
a lot younger, three separate trunks growing together, knee high because
I thought my husband would like that and he did.
Symbols of Florida at the doorway, swaying in the breeze. Palms out front
would be a miniature nod to Palm Beach, the grand avenues or the public
gardens and guarded entrances to private communities, their Royal Palms
towering above gates. As I reach up with the clippers, I try to avoid
the spines, sharp and visible near the base of the branch. I never knew
they were there until the first time I was stabbed.
Until the light changed I couldn’t see what hit me. Not a spider or a mosquito
but a palm thorn, heavy like a rug needle and sharp. I’ve learned a thing or
two about this palm as it now stands alone.
It’s grown taller than the railing of the stairs to the apartment above.
Squirrels like to take the thatch for their nests by stripping the bark,
stealing what’s left after a frond is cut before it spikes the next frond.
It’s alone now, the two others that lived with it are gone. Squirrel damage,
or maybe this one was the strongest. I’ve had it for just about fifteen
years now. I can see it from my desk, through the window.
A solo act, withstanding the sieges of the squirrels, hurricane winds,
the bluejay that comes to hide a peanut, wedging it between the bark,
the little anole lizards that rest there, red throats puffing out to attract
mosquitoes and gnats. The black snake curled at its base, the Cuban Anole,
foot-long green lizard with the yellow and red stripe under its eyes.
Every year around this time, I trim it back hard, only a tuft of fronds left
at the top. In this hurricane season the branches are so tall and lush they
whip around in the wind and throw water on my window. Sometimes I think
it’s my husband about to come through the door. But it’s just the palm tree,
throwing its weight around with the waving green fronds. Standing
out there alone now, like me. Nobody is in the other room, or coming home
later. It will have to weather more storms alone. And so will I.
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