Monday, May 3, 2010

The Spring of 2010

A white pickup truck, its passenger door dented and its truck bed expanded by a wooden frame, parks at the end of our driveway. A man steps out. He’s familiar. He points at the cabbage palms straddling our driveway, and in broken English asks if we would like him to trim the brown, shriveled fronds. My husband says, “Yes, and would you take a look at those.” We all shake our heads at the three coconut palms that stand like skeletons in our front yard.

We’ve had many cold winters here in Florida. Northerners would laugh at our idea of cold, but you must understand that once you move to the deep south, you get rid of your parkas, sweaters and wool socks. First, you pack them away under a bed or in a closet. Perhaps you’ll go skiing over spring break or visit family up north over Christmas. But then a few years pass, perhaps five or ten, and all those things you were saving are suddenly dated. They have shoulder pads and high waists, so you finally pack them up and give them away.

This winter, however, was unusually cold in Florida, and aside from the damage to our agriculture—strawberries and citrus to name a few—back yards and front yards across the state have suffered. In our yard, the coconut palms suffered most. The gentleman from the truck trims our cabbage palms, leaving only a few bristly fronds on top, tosses the shriveled foliage in the back of his truck, and then slowly approaches the coconuts.

During past hurricane seasons, we would trim heavy clusters of coconuts from the trees so the large woody seeds didn’t turn into missiles during a storm and find their way into one of our neighbors’ windows. The thick green fronds shielded the front of our house from the harsh afternoon sun. Now those fronds have turned brown and droop down the trunk. Everyday, we squint through our front window, looking for a hint of green at the very top that might mean they are still alive.

As my husband sweeps the driveway under the cabbage palms, the gentleman from the white truck walks beneath our coconuts. Is alive, is alive, is dead, he says. The news is worse for the three trees in our back yard. One alive, maybe. Two dead. He’ll come back another day when his truck bed is empty and cut them out for us.

Yes, winter was tough on Florida this year. Iguanas, thrown into hibernation by the cold, dropped like stones from the trees. Brown lizards are decidedly absent this spring. Haggard coconut trees line medians and frame front doors. Thankfully, the Iguanas weren’t dead when they fell, though they looked it. And the brown lizards that were thinned out by the cold were not indigenous and the green lizards will now thrive again. The coconut trees that survived will regain their crown in a few years given a bit of extra care. The dead ones can be replaced. But sadly, the spring stands to be much worse for many along our panhandle and possibly other parts of the state. Sadly, the oil spill of the spring of 2010 stands to devastate the coast lines of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Perhaps many others. Sadly, we may lose a great many things that can not be replaced.

On a lighter note - Congratulations Charger Baseball - District Champions 2010

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