8.26.2016

Palm Connection

Is it possible for a human being to have a spiritual affinity for certain kinds of trees? Because I think I have such an affinity for palm trees. I didn't always, but I definitely do now. Whenever I am anywhere near palm trees, I am filled with feelings of contentment. Without exception, palm trees make me happy and I enjoy looking at them. There is no specific palm tree or species of palm tree that I am most drawn to. Any type will have the same positive effect on me.

The case could be made that this is the result of simple Pavlovian conditioning over time. Since I live in Wisconsin, where there are no palm trees, the appearance of palm trees in my surroundings usually correlates with being on a trip somewhere tropical, most likely a vacation destination involving lots of fun activities.

It's a strongish theory. Even though my life is basically one big vacation filled with friends, family, and fun on demand, I love the novelty of traveling to other places. But there are a couple significant flaws in this theory. I also like traveling to places sans (without) palm trees and I don't have the same spiritual affinity for, say, the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland (exotic and amazing though they are), even though I had loads of fun when I was there. Also, I have an affinity, albeit somewhat attenuated, for the various varieties of palm fronded friends that inhabit the botanic gardens right in my home city of Madison WI. So the palm tree connection would seem to be only weakly linked to geography.

Another possible basis for my affinity for palm trees - and one that seems to address the problems of the aforementioned theory - may have to do with the mood boosting effects of Vitamin D. Most places with palm trees tend to be sunny places and sun exposure ramps of levels of Vitamin D in the human body, which has putative beneficial effects on mood and well being and general good health. Wisconsin (as well as Ireland) is in the northern latitudes of the United States and sun exposure, the only natural way to achieve healthy Vitamin D levels without supplementation, is reduced, especially in the winter when we are all indoors or bundled up to hide from the cold. So the availability of palm trees and my internal levels of Vitamin D may be highly correlated, and if my Vitamin D levels are directly correlated with my mood, this could explain why I am drawn to palm trees.

Do you have alternative hypotheses? Please leave a comment and expound.

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