Can palm trees do that?

Sea smoke and frosty trees on the river

This “partial letter to friends in Florida” is taken from Barnaby Porter’s book, Twelve Miles from the Rest of the World.


Let me tell you about yesterday morning. I went down to the shore as usual to check on things. It was still . . . whisper still. All the trees, most impressively the tall pines, were trimmed in pink and white hoarfrost, and the sun, which is a little higher these days, was beaming down through them with the bright promise of spring sometime in the not too distant future.

hoarfrost on evergreen boughsThe river was royal blue with frozen trimming. Every once in a while, I could hear that sound like eggshells being crushed as drifting sheets of ice shaved over the rocks on the shore. Some old squaws were upriver somewhere, gabbling the way they do. Two gulls stood at the water’s edge, waiting on the tide to bare the flats. Everything was bright white, green or blue . . . and sparkling like cut gems of every color.

I thought about your oranges and lemons and limes as I looked up into the frosted pines. I thought about your balmy, Gulf breeze as I listened to the stillness and the snow squeaking under my boots. And I thought, too, about bare feet and wearing shorts, the palm trees, chameleons in the bushes, alligators in the ditches, sand in the bed and all those Florida things that never change with the seasons.

Just then, though, I noticed something to bring my vision of Florida to its knees. On a hidden cue from the warming sun and in total silence, the pines overhead slowly released their clinging crystals of frost in an ethereal shower. The flakes drifted down around me so gently they seemed to float, each a tiny prism of rainbow light against the clear blue sky above. They filled the air, millions of them, everywhere, glittering, and not a sound.

Can palm trees do that?


Barnaby PorterArtist and author Barnaby Porter has had a varied career in marine research, aquaculture, and woodworking, among others. Most recently he partnered with his wife Susan as co-owners of the Maine Coast Book Shop & Cafe in downtown Damariscotta. Barnaby currently serves on DRA’s Board of Trustees. For more about Barnaby, click here.

Sea smoke and portrait photos courtesy of Barnaby Porter.