A walk around the block—we tend to think of it as a numbing experience. It's just a walk around the block. It's the same block with the same cars and the same people and the very same smells and sights and sounds. Like some swinging pocket watch of a stage hypnotist, the sameness lulls us to sleep. We walk and mutter to ourselves that we need a change, we need a vacation.
Yet, beneath the drowsy familiarity of where we live are layers of complexity and subtlety. There are things right there that we might find if we had the right tools. If we were to map the neighborhood, how would we define it's lines of demarcation? Streets? Landmarks? Trees? What implements would we use? Maps? Surveying tools? A sketchpad? A camera? An inquisitive mind?
As I walk down the street I come to a major thoroughfare. Everything changes at that point. The sleepy familiarity of my street, my block, my neighborhood; it all shifts. The boulevard cuts through the town and divides it. People use it to get someplace else. I feel my pulse quicken as I dodge the traffic and cross the street.
The landmark that I use to spot this point of demarcation is an overgrown palm tree, in the yard at the corner between here and there. I ignored the palm for about twenty years. Then I realized it was there. The best view of the palm is where I am, across the bustling boulevard. It has the most lovely folds of tone and texture. It dances and laughs in the breeze. It yields to wakes of the fast-moving cars. It lays heavy with winter rain and seems dry and still in a summer heat wave.
I've tried to photograph the palm for awhile. Each time I've failed. It is elusive, harder to photograph than it might seem. Perhaps it dislikes being captured in two dimensions or in shades of gray. No matter. I tried again today, waiting for stillness. Waiting for no traffic. And I finally got an image I felt worthy of sharing. So, here is the tree that divides the neighborhood. Behind it is home. In front of it is the beyond.