I’ve been letting the fan palm in the courtyard go native. For weeks I swept the incessant drifting blossoms from the patio. An endless scattering of the tiny white blooms carpeted the little rug just inside the door. The berries that followed were messy, their dark blue-black skins and sticky brown seeds clinging to cat fur and bare feet. I didn’t know what I was getting into. I wanted to offer food and shelter to the birds. Our big, beautiful, wide tree put out strand after strand, each one laden with fat clusters of the dark fruit. I wonder if it ever ends. There are still four long branches dangling from the tree, now thin scraggly chains of berries. I don’t even know what they’re called. Palm fruits? They are not dates. But the sparrows and the starlings and the mockingbirds and even the occasional raven have all feasted on them. It makes my heart glad. It is worth the mess, I tell myself. During that day and that night of fierce wind two weeks ago, seven of the long berry-less branches blew down from the tree. They were huge, at least 13 feet long from base to tip. The ends that attach to the tree were big and hard, surprising in their heft. They reminded me of oars, made me want to save them to make sculpture. I gathered them one by one into a pile near the gate. I imagined myself with a big garage with deep wide shelves, places to fill with palm berry branches and other found treasures, and the space to build sturdy sculptures taller than people. I am not a sculptor, but this kind of longing ignites in me. Those berry branches lit it up.
At the wide, rough-barked base of our palm tree lies my little garden. One night, after a big rain, two wheelbarrows full of the cut-off leaf bases came tumbling down, a small auburn mountain beside the hedge. So, when the wind turned fierce, I was leery of debris. I talked to the tree often. “Please,” I said. “Please don’t hurt my garden.” (These are the conversations I felt guilty about later, wishing my pleas had been as hearty for the birds who disappeared in the storm.) I appealed to the goddess, the angels, the wind and garden gods. “Please, may the garden be unharmed.” When the first branch was flung from the sky, my black cat leaped from the patio chair and raced inside. I walked out to see. It had fallen across the bed of annuals. Its dense base landed in the dirt, curved around the yellow pansies. It happened again and again. Each time, I walked out to see. Each time, the branch had fallen just so–two inches from the marigolds, a graceful arch beside the tecoma, just to the left of the Chinese poppies. It looked like each branch would have required a delicate operation to place it where it landed, something involving tongs and tweezers, not that crazed, reckless, thrashing toss of the wind from treetop to ground. Not one of those big rowboat oars crashing down from the heavens harmed our garden. “Thank you,” I said. And again, “Thank you.” Our palm, the angels, the wind gods, all were taking unbelievable care. By the seventh branch, fallen just so, I was numb with awe.