Scrolling through the free stuff on Craigslist.com just days after Hurricane Wilma, you could find mildewed bookcases, bent ceiling fans, and a "30 ft. Royal Palm Tree/Yours for the taking/Perfect shape."
How did the tree get there? Miracles, good karma, and letting go in the wake of a wreckage-spewing storm.
As the storm abated, Sylvia Betz realized she had a beached whale on her lawn on Bel Aire Drive in Cutler Ridge. Okay, so it wasn't exactly a humpback. But it was as long as Willie Nelson's tour bus from roots to crown. The tree had sprouted without explanation thirteen years ago, a sign of rebirth only days after Hurricane Andrew leveled Betz's house. "It just started growing," the 61-year-old says.
In the years that followed, Betz rebuilt her house and watched the tree, the only one of its kind in the neighborhood, shoot up a reminder of nature's resilience. Betz's husband Ken got to calling the tree Andrew. So when it toppled during Hurricane Wilma, pulling up the soft soil and leaving the family van unmarred "like someone was watching over us" Betz felt something had come full circle. It was time for the tree to move on, to be a part of someone else's life, maybe to beautify a highway median or make a little money for a plant-nursery man down on his luck.
"If it can help someone out, I'm all for it," Betz says.
Betz didn't want to replant it and risk it falling onto her bedroom roof, so she placed the ad on Craigslist. Then she swaddled it in quilts and laid a soaker hose on it round-the-clock. She doesn't know how long her friend can last like this, but she's hopeful.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Betz hasn't had much response. A few nursery owners expressed interest in the tree, which is worth about $3000, but none could divert the resources from cleanup jobs. One family showed up eager to cart the tree, apparently unaware of exactly how long 30 feet is. "They didn't have any idea what we were talking about," Betz says.