Through the Blue Glass


They’re still. From where I am, I can count seven fronds in four levels. At precise intervals, the one on top picks up, like it has seen something ahead and recognized it, and it flies upward and does a dance and drops to its normal state. A moment thereafter the fronds below sway side to side, as though they’ve seen that something too. The action lasts a few seconds, and then they’re transfixed in their places again, and they wait for the next wind.

I ask myself, what if it's not the play of wind? I see no wind; I feel no wind either, here in my closed-up room in the office. Could they be merely talking to one another, swaying and nodding as they communicate, talking also with the clay pots and walls and tiles and the black-painted steel columns here in the courtyard by my door? Have they been addressing me as well? They must’ve noticed that I'm gazing at them, while I'm sunk into my couch, watching the light fade on them this fast-dimming evening.

The thought comes: Have the palms hypertension? Have they a blood-sugar problem?

They're not in health. There’s green in them, but there’s also much yellow along the middle of their blades and on the edges of them. The yellow should mean they’re undernourished. (I learnt that in Malnad from the foreman on my coffee plantation. He was telling me about the areca, which are a lot like palms.) There’s yellow also on the spines of the fronds, plenty of yellow, but that seems like a sign of youth in the knee-high to chest-high palms. The yellows glow as I watch, whereas the greens are dull, dull like the reds on the blackened terra cotta tiles, like the grayed sky that peeks through the canopies of the Singapore-cherry round the courtyard.

The paint on the courtyard wall is cream, a paler hue than the yellow in the plants, a cream that’s been drained since the time the wall was last painted. Red soil is splattered along the lower levels of the wall. Baby palms line it. They're one with the wall and they’re not swayed by the wind; the ones that sway are the taller palms just out the door to the courtyard.

I point to the plants when my wife--who works with me--comes into the room. I tell her how they are yellow. “Their spines are supposed be yellow,” she says, "they’re an expensive variety. And they're not really yellow. See?”