Chopping and Cradling

PS re 20 July: If enough of us practice the knowledge, that’ll happen faster.

Chopping and Cradling
21 July 2018 10.21 am
A rhythmic whacking sound. In a neighbor’s lot a man chops off palms fronds. I see him hanging way up near the top of the tree, right under the canopy, secured by a harness to the trunk. Local palmereros still practice the ancient skill; they work their way up and down the tall date palms with their hands, feet, arms, thighs, thick ropes, a harness. There is this whack preceded by a sharp, thin, sibilating swish that riles the ear as the killer-sharp curved blade flashes and palm fronds one by one are hacked loose and crash to the ground. It can happen that with one of those blows the rope is slashed and the man crashes to the ground. One of the palmereros taking care of our date palms said one of his cousins died like that.

10.38 pm
That palm-pruning was perfectly timed for me – it cut away useless thoughts about the big world and ancient history out there and brought me back to my here and now.
On an impulse, I went into the garden and picked lemons, filled a bag with the yellowest and most spotless. Then arranged an unorthodox bunch of ice-white rhododendron and crimson bougainvillea, interspersed with laurel and rosemary branches, in a transparent vase improvised from a bulbous plastic 8-liter water bottle that had its top cut off, and suggested to hub we visit a friend and bring this along. “Call first,” he said, “he’s likely on vacation.”

Of course our friend was in his store (which, he explained, had remained closed the previous day) and we arrived to celebrate a happy occasion: overnight he had been metamorphosed into a grandfather: barely twenty-four hours earlier his daughter had given birth to her first child, his very first grandson! Joyous hugging ensued, the smartphone was pulled out and baby photos proudly presented: “Lucas is his name! Here just twenty minutes after he was born”, “This here when he was first given to me to hold, I was scared, God, he was so tiny.” Our friend held out his cupped hands before him, gently, cautiously, as if still cradling the baby, and still not quite believing it was real,as he stood there, eyes shining, a tear glistening on grey-black stubble.
A snapshot was taken of the flowers, to be transmitted forthwith via WhatsApp to the radiant mother.

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