For the last 10 years or so of my life, living in a 100 year old cottage some ten miles south of San Diego, CA in the town of National City at the Sweetwater Zen Center. Guarding my back door, and the entrance to the Quan Yin Garden has been a towering, also 100 year old, palm tree along with two others that march past two more cottages, the third one overlooking a busy city street.
For at least two years and probably more, the South American palm weevil, Rhynchophorus palmarum has been making it’s way north from south America and Mexico killing palm trees in what appears to me to be a fairly random fashion — truly a problem immigration. It’s generally thought that the warming of climate change is the cause of their migration north.
Apparently they arrive by air and burrow into the center of the crown of many types of palm trees. With tall palms like ours it’s unlikely anyone will spot the damage before it becomes very obvious, which is too late. The whole leafy or palm frond petals l die off making an ugly mess, not unlike this picture of this much shorter tree:
And so it was with my friend. I had no idea he was sick or needed help. It seems like only last winter he was throwing dead palms at my cottage using a strong southern storm for power. Amazing how hard the huge fronds can be tossed in the by a brisk or stronger wind! Maybe that was a cry for help I simply didn’t understand, or maybe not. I simply didn’t and don’t know. Once I learned the two palms were coming down because of the beetle I found a place high enough to see the damage, and it looked shocking just as the picture above does.
I did think to appreciate and apologize to ‘my’ tree when I was told he was coming down the next day. Which was hardly enough considering how long he’d held watch.
The tree or four guys arrived in two big trucks, one pulling a large chipper and one with a built in crane. The destruction began.
The pattern of activity was one man raised on the crane with a chain saw who immediately began sawing off both dead and live fronds which fell to the ground not unlike giant pickup sticks might. The two guys below fed those six and seven and maybe even eight foot long fronds into the chipper. Chippers, while they do what their intended to do which is grind up big stuff into small stuff, make an awful grinding sound of many more decibels than I’m comfortable with.
Dudley, my 11 year old tuxedo cat was horrified. If he could have stopped the sound with paws over his ears I’m sure he would have. Instead, he glared at me for allowing such a disturbance while he climbed in my lap for comfort. I understood the feeling.
When the guy on the crane moved to ‘my’ tree, it wasn’t long before one of those cut fronts bounced off my kitchen window shattering glass clear out into the living room. It was only luck that my roommate wasn’t working at the table under that window as she often does.
The next part of the operation was for the guy with a larger chain to first tie a length of safety rope — good, stout line I recognized as often holding 40 foot boats to a dock — around a section of the trunk. The trunk was cut from the top down in increments of two or three feet, then dropped into the back of the other truck. The first piece they landed in the truck in that fashion resulted in a huge thunk that compressed the truck, adding to the seeming chaos. When they got to ‘my’ tree I could feel the ground shake with each drop. I was grateful they hauled those pieces away instead of forcing them through the chipper.
The yard was covered with palm dust, inches deep in some places, some of it heaped on my back step.
I’ve tried to think of ceremony that would have been appropriate, or might still be if I can open up in that direction. I’m not quite used to opening my back door to the missing palm. I am,however, enjoying the more open space and wondering how best we might make use of it. Shade trees come to mind and I’m thinking it might be best to plant one a couple of feet south of where my big old palm stood.
The birds, many of whom made their home in his crown are drifting back. The palm dust was hauled away, paths were swept and today a gentle rain will, I suspect, largely complete the cleanup process.
Perhaps Anna Nalick was mistaken when she said in her song Breathe, life isn’t quite “like an hour glass glued to a table.” Or maybe not.