When I saw my first palm tree in Cali, Colombia I was already in my mid-twenties and had never been south of Washington D.C to which I travelled on a high school trip. I accepted the teaching job in Cali because they offered it to me and I was up for the adventure. My plane landed in Cali around nine o’clock at night. It was August and still well over 30 degrees as we stepped out into the inly black night. I will never forget that first drive from the airport into the city on a road lit up by small cans of burning oil placed along the road by local farmers. Joseph, the husband of one of the Principals, maneuvered the family SUV expertly along the poorly paved road. We kept driving out of the small circles of light cast by the tin can candles and we would, for a few moments, find ourselves hurtling through darkness. Cars zoomed past us on the left. How could they be going faster than Joseph, I thought. Then I began to see the palm trees, some close to the road and some farther away but still visible. They must be giants, these Colombian palm trees. Much later I learned that the wax palm, Colombia’s national tree, is the tallest palm in the world, reaching heights of 70 metres. For me, they were the eighth wonder of the world. No matter how bumpy the road became, metaphorically or literally, I always felt lucky to live among such majestic palms.
Palm trees grow in Monterrey, Mexico but I couldn’t shake the feeling they were being planted there against their will. Stunted and sickly looking, the Monterrey palms lean over avenues where the kids of the rich and famous drive their cars too fast. It’s true that Monterrey has a humid sub-tropical climate and there are actually 130 types of palm trees that grow outside the tropics but the Monterrey palms just don’t seem to belong there. We could, however, write a shoe box full of odes to the crazy Dr. Seuss trees on Highway 57 between Monterrey and San Miguel de Allende. We called them “those crazy Dr. Seuss trees” until we learned that they were actually Joshua trees which happened more recently than we’d like to admit. (Photo Credit: Sandy Redding at Flickr)
Oh, there are palm trees in Barcelona… in front of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia and along the beach and every where in between. It’s the Mediterranean; people would expect no less than a ridiculous abundance of palm trees. But I never expected a palm tree of my own, a palm tree just outside my window. How will I ever make do without a palm tree again?
What do palm trees make you think of? Do they make you want to travel? Where?