An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of February 26, 2012
issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort adjoining Chichén Itzá Ruin in
YUCATÁN, MÉXICO

LOOKING AT ROYAL PALMS

Each afternoon at 4PM I offer a walk around the Hacienda focusing on plants. During each walk we pause to look at the Royal Palms, featured on our page at http://www.backyardnature.net/yucatan/royal-pm.htm.

I like to consider things ecologically, so much of what I have to say about Royal Palms relates to how well adapted they are for surviving our yearly six-month dry seasons. For example, the fronds of most palm species are flat -- their leaflets, or pinnae, arise in a single plane -- but the pinnae of Royal Palm fronds stick out from the midrib in all directions. This arrangement increases the fronds' surface area exposed to moisture-laden night and morning air streaming past the frond. In the talks I tell how sometimes Royal Palm fronds wick so much humidity from the air that streamlets of water run down the trunks. I point out how smooth and corky the trees' apparently absorbent bark is, and how the trunks bulge midway up, where water is stored.

Giving the same presentation day after day, eventually, the import of what I'm saying slowly dawns on ME. In fact, over the months, gradually my mental image of the Royal Palm has come to have less to do with the tree's stateliness and its associations with old hacienda entrance lanes, than with its environmental engineering.

It's as if the Universal Creative Impulse had commissioned an engineer to come up with a tree-size organism capable of surviving six-month dry seasons, and the engineer, without reference to esthetics, produced the Royal Palm. In the Royal Palm you don't see decorative elements or superfluous add-ons. The Royal Palm is pure functionality designed for utilizing limited resources with maximum efficiency.

And yet, to the human mind, the Royal Palm is beautiful.

Toying with this thought, eventually you realize that once ANYTHING gets to be known well enough, and seen in a broad-enough perspective, it also turns out to be beautiful.

Moreover, on Earth our experience is that as soon as beings arise with adequately complex minds, eventually a sense of esthetics spontaneously comes into being. Also, it seems that such highly evolved minds automatically recognize beauty in anything that does a good job being itself.

The evolving Creation, then, presents itself as an ever-more efficiently functioning positive-feedback system, in which the final result is a unified state of self-aware beauteousness.

How delicious to find myself so vividly aware of this, and to know that despite all the inept, hurtful, destructive and stupid things I've done in this life, finally I have sense enough to look around, see what's going on, and to be stunned into a state of praise-singing by the utter wonderfulness of it all.