«The sparrow and the palm tree»

A creative non-fiction essay by Lorraine Kerslake Young.

On the outskirts of a small Spanish village, on the Mediterranean coast, a palm tree stood proudly in the middle of a roundabout showing off its perfectly arranged large evergreen leaves that spiraled in a fan shape from the top of its trunk. Birds would come from far and near to admire its beauty and perch in its shady branches.

However one summer its beauty was eclipsed by a concrete fountain which the town-hall had recently erected just a few months before the local elections. It was strategically placed in the centre of the roundabout, so that the children could not go and play in its water, at least not unless they wanted to risk their lives crossing the busy road first. The passersby no longer noticed the palm but instead stopped in awe to admire the coloured neon lights that shone from the water at night. The local cafés took advantage of the new attraction and placed tables and chairs out on the pavements that looked onto the fountain. The neighbours were delighted, now they could enjoy an ice-cream or relax over a drink watching the lights. However the bright lights frightened the birds who decided to move away to other palms further from the town centre. The lonely palm tree was devastated and soon had no-one to talk to since the concrete fountain was too arrogant to bother to converse with a simple palm tree.

One day a large rusty red-coloured beetle arrived. She said she had travelled all the way from Africa and her wings were tired so she asked the palm if she could stay. The palm tree was only too delighted to have somebody to keep her company and let her stay in the cool of its leaves. Shortly after, the red beetle lay about 200 eggs at the crown of the palm, where its new young leaves were just beginning to sprout. Within a few days the grubs were almost as big as the female red beetle. The army of larvae began moving towards the interior of the palm excavating tunnels and large cavities in the

base of its trunk. Their powerful hungry jaws fed voraciously on the poor palm, yellowing and wilting its leaves. Shortly after the larva underwent metamorphosis and after devouring the palm tree decided to move on to attack other palms in the area.

Several months later men in green overalls from the town-hall gathered round the affected tree, shaking their heads and looking at it in anguish, only to return with green funnels that they inserted in the trunk of the palm and filled with liquid. By the time winter had come the palm had lost all its leaves and even its beautiful crown had been destroyed.

Time passed until one day a pair of young sparrows landed on the ruins where the palm’s crown had once stood. The female was a creative little bird and wanted to find a suitable nest location where she could protect her young and remain hidden from predators, including the noisy green parakeets who had taken over the other birds nesting places. The palm’s trunk proved to be the perfect place, so the clever sparrow laid her eggs there. The young couple took it in turns to incubate the eggs, and twelve days later the eggs began to hatch. The clever mother raised her young and taught them all they needed to know before letting them abandon the nest and fly off into the wild world by themselves.

The following spring she returned with her family accompanied by other inquisitive birds who had heard of her perfect secret nest hidden in the cavities of the palm’s trunk. One day, as she sat patiently on her nest in the midday sun, waiting for the miracle to occur, she noticed how a shade had appeared over the nest. Puzzled she looked up, only to find another miracle: a healthy green shoot had appeared at the crown of the palm and was turning into a fan shaped leaf.