Dear Quixotree followers,

You are a select (and very small!) group of tree lovers and others, and Quixotree owes you an apology. Quixotree has been very inactive throughout the northern winter and spring, marooned in that large brown gash on the planet that runs from the atlantic to the himalayas. It is a place where trees generally choose not to visit.

Since returning from southern europe in late October Quixotree has not left the region. By historic standards it has been a wet and (of course) warm winter here in Arabia, but still the trees do not grow. We need less hummus and more humus.

But hope springs eternal. Northern europe is belatedly showing signs of becoming habitable again. A sickly spring is slowly succumbing to an inevitable summer. There are fears of another “year without a summer” (the year 1816 lacked a ¬†european summer, because of an historic low in solar activity and a major volcanic event at Mount Tambora in Indonesia). But summer WILL prevail. In England, it will rain at Wimbledon for the tennis, and then the clouds will clear for the short northern summer. Quixotree will be there, bathing his eyes in verdure.

And – as a sign that nature must conquer in the end – my apple tree three and a half thousand miles from here has decided that it cannot wait any longer if the bees are to be kept busy.

bees required - no previous experience necessary

bees required – no previous experience necessary

Bring on summer! *

* with apologies to antipodean friends.


For the last two months I’ve been enjoying a “virtual fall” in the blogosphere, courtesy of trees lovers across the (northern) temperate world. At thanksgiving I give thanks to bloggers who’ve shared with me the glories of autumn from Washington State to Wuhan. And let’s not forget those on-line antipodeans already tempting us with the hopes of next spring, from Canberra to Cape Town (thank you – you know who you are). The internet liberates us from the constraints of local horizon.

Here where I live – in Central Arabia, 400 kilometres from the nearest sea – we have only two and a half seasons. The two main events are summer (very hot and very dry) and winter (warm, sometimes hot, and dry). Between winter and summer is a short transitional phase, with rain, dust, sandstorms and occasional sand induced total eclipses of the sun, literally darkness at noon. Conventional temperate culture dictates I should call this half season “spring”. I’m not sure what the arabic poets make of it.

The rhythm of the seasons is deeply ingrained in the (western?) temperate psyche. The arabic world prizes poetry, but for a westerner it’s hard to imagine a literature without the deeply embedded theme of the seasons of life. No doubt arabic literature celebrates other nuances of life’s passage. I would love to explore this further…¬†This seasonal rhythm runs very deep with us temperate folk. I remember how disoriented I was in the year I spent shuttling between London and Johannesburg. No jet lag (maximum 2 hour time difference) but 12 months of complete season-lag.

So here in the Middle East Quixotree is suffering from ADD – Autumn Deficit Disorder, and cannot join the colour-fest. I can only sit quietly (by the pool) and dream of chilly nights and the crunch of dry leaves underfoot. I have no autumn images to offer.

One thing I’m sure the arabian poets must celebrate is the bounty of the date palm, Phoenix dactylifera, a calorific gift to Arabia and Southern Asia for at least 8000 years. I have no wonderful autumn images I can share with you, so here instead is the splendid date palm.

Phoenix dactylifera – bounty in a harsh environment

twenty to seventy calories a piece

at the market