To refuse would have been churlish, so I agreed to be on the house committee of my building. My first assignment was to pare the palm.
By SUSAN DE LA FUENTE
To refuse would have been churlish, so I agreed to be on the house committee of my building. My first assignment was to pare the palm to get someone to shave off the tall, shaggy palm tree next to the front door. We were bombarded with complaints: the thatch below its fronds was a bird sanctuary for pigeons, and even more horrific, bats flitted in and out at dusk.
â€œThe bats must be banished. It's like something out of Dracula,â€ insisted Lea from next-door.
â€œEnvironmentally beneficial though,â€ I said, not knowing where I had picked up that piece of trivia.
She sorted endlessly through her â€œfile,â€ an unruly stack of crumpled index cards and dog-eared scraps of paper, looking for the tree-man's number. His name had slipped her memory, but she'd know it if she found it, she said. He was â€œone of a kindâ€ and he charged by the meter. I sat patiently, wondering if she'd ever find it. I also wondered how you measured a tree that soared to the roof of the building.
True to form, Meir the tree-man arrived a few days before Rosh Hashana. It was hard to see his face, as his straight hair drooped down a few inches below his ears, but he looked like a true man of the woods. I was never sure what hours he worked but he had a wealth of equipment: chains, ropes, ladders, and iron rungs attached to the trunk for hand and footholds.
Adina, whose third floor window faced the palm, said that he sang as he worked. He sang of Rosh Hashana, of Yom Kippur, and of a high and lofty God (Kel ram venissa). When he reached the pigeons though, he waxed really lyrical, with a rendering from the Song of Songs.
â€œO my pigeon in the clefts of the rock...â€ he sang.
â€œSounds appropriate,â€ I said.
Thoughts of Tarzan wafted through my mind, especially as Meir's truncated speech came in sound bites la Raful maybe because he was deaf in one ear from fighting in Israel's wars. He had been an electronic technician for many years.
â€œHow did you get into this line of work? Get to the 'top of the line', or dekel (palm tree), I mean?â€ my husband asked.
Meir had practiced on a very shaggy tree in his own backyard. After many failed attempts at burning, chopping, hacking and so on, someone had clued him in on how to shave off the trunk.
â€œHe appeared one day in my synagogue, and told me the secret. Must have been an angel from heaven.â€
Though no longer young, Meir suddenly had a way to make a living.
â€œDo you know what this is?â€ I asked my grandson, pointing to the green fronds above the succa. â€œThis s'chach roofing came down almost from the heavens from the very top of that tall tree. It was cut down by the tree-man. Let's take a walk later to the tree house he built right outside his synagogue.â€
Of course, I wasn't totally sure it was the work of the tree-man, but it did seem appropriate!