By Anna Van Devender
April 21, 2017
“Can we go water the Forgiving Tree?” asks a middle schooler. Her teacher casually answers “Yes,” and two girls head purposefully around the corner of the school building. Next, my eyes question the teacher, who’s supervising her students in the school garden where I recently started working.
The “Forgiving Tree,” I learn, is a young palo verde whose growth is slow due to not being on the irrigation system like its neighbors – yet steady due to the kids’ long-term care. It forgives them. It survives between irregular waterings. It keeps growing. It even produces gorgeous yellow flowers from its low, wispy branches. The Forgiving Tree, it seems, nurtures and rewards those who take time to notice it.
Spring is a time for renewal and growth. Spring is also crazy busy. I find myself in need of some nurturing. And palo verde trees have assumed that role on multiple occasions.
When longer and more frequent car commutes wear me down, bright yellow corridors beckon me to perk up and continue to my destination. Magee is such a sight for sore eyes this month, and even long, hot Ina. Palo verdes help me be patient.
In a similar vein, palo verde trees are a model for taking turns. I had read that the various local species bloom in sequence. This prolongs the nectar source season for pollinators, and it serves the trees themselves by improving the chance of spreading pollen within a species. When I noticed our family’s Mexican palo verde was not yet producing flowers like other nearby plants, I remembered that it was a late bloomer last year too. Now, it has a turn! We as human beings have to take turns all the time. We stand in line at the grocery store, jostle for a drink at the water fountain, wait in an invisible cue to receive a payment, and wonder when our kids will reach developmental milestones. Palo verde trees show off a reassuring order.
Leave it to my 4-year-old to remind me to lighten up. He plays with palo verde flowers and got me to try playing too. While I was tuned into the grand show and deep lessons of the branches above and before me, my little one and his preschool friend started scooping up fallen flowers from the sand. Cute voices, small fingers, and the lovely little gesture of handing me the tiny petals were a respite from a long afternoon. I gently turned the flowers into “rain” scattered above his head. He smiled. I smiled, knowing that flowers can brighten both of our days.