When we moved into the neighborhood 17 years ago, a friend of ours, Estelle Stanfiel, gave us a house-warming gift of $50. That gift has grown into an asset that Nebra and I consider invaluable.
With that 50 we purchased a palo brea, a green-barked desert tree, and it has grown into a giant on the hellstrip near the street. In the shade of its large umbrella has grown what I like to call an ecosystem of its own: verbena, lantana, brittle bush and agave to name a few of the plants growing beneath its protective limbs.
As an added gift, every April it turns into a glitter-ball of yellow flowers that dominates the landscape over several blocks. I think it is beautiful. To look up at night through its golden foliage into a street light by the driveway, well, it is truly mesmerizing.
In little time, the yellowness shatters, covering the sidewalk a half inch deep in flowering matter. And it begins to migrate. Down the street in splotches, some wind blown, some deposited by vehicle tires, some by human foot. Should I visit Nebra at her office a mile and a half away, I fully expect to see our palo brea yellow in the parking lot, courtesy of her car. I like that idea of spreading the glory all over town.
Estelle, a true Kentucky belle who celebrated many a Derby Day at Churchill Downs alone in her Phoenix apartment with a mint julep, died about seven years ago at 82. I hope she somehow knows the gift turned into a joy for us and a memorial to her equally-colorful personality.