Monday, June 25, 2012


Running in an unfamiliar neighborhood, I passed a house, back up against the park, with a banana and two palm trees in the yard. Three blocks later, two more palm trees. It was raining hard, but not cold--around 60 degrees, gray sky offsetting the heavy June greens. For a moment, I was somewhere tropical, on a beach, maybe, or just before a real storm. A couple more blocks and yet another palm had pride of place in a full-on Victorian Eden poised to lure susceptible travelers into a B&B. It was a small palm beside a huge house, three or four stories, gables and gingerbread and tastefully bright purples and blues, easily twice the size of any house nearby, defining its own private world on a street of modest homes--a world with a lily pond and a cast bronze heron and that out of place palm tree next to the dogwood (still in bloom).

Either I'd found a little-known local torrid zone, or palms don't grow only where I think they grow. Or gardeners are out at night with felt blankets and smudge pots and buckets of horticultural love. Making their own weather within the invisible borders of those garden rooms.

There were Frisbee golfers in the park that afternoon as well. I felt a little foolish out there, ready to explain to inquisitive passersby that I needed to run and this was when I had time to do it; oddly enough, no one asked. Not because they were all safe inside. I crossed paths with people hauling groceries in flimsy plastic bags and man on a tippy bicycle loaded down with returnable bottles and cans. I didn't ask them, either--they needed food/cash and this was when they could get it. They had the course all to themselves. 

Sometimes you just need to get out of the house. Sometimes it's all in what you notice. It wasn't an unusually rainy afternoon, not for this climate. The palms weren't the towering coconut palms of fantasy white sand beaches, but they weren't planted last week. But so what if they were there all along, if only I'd bothered to look? It's the looking a different way this time--whatever the reason--that can redefine a landscape.

It's raining again today. I'm inside, looking out, revising and reordering and plodding through mental weather. No soggy socks, no silent explanations to strangers on the street. My garden has no palm trees. Dogwood, rhododendron, vine maple, cedar, an aging Ponderosa pine. Weeds. But maybe it's warmer than it looks from here.

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