Oh Tannenbaum!

IMG_8172

this is one of a set of angels I have had since I was a little girl….looong ago!

A lighter note of Christmas is the tree saga that goes on in our house. No doubt many of you have your own tree sagas! This is a picture story, as what are decorated trees for but to stare at in wonder!

Most of you know the various theories of why trees are decorated at Christmas time. There are Christian legends about barren trees bearing fruit when Jesus was born, thus trees are decorated at Christmas, but everyone knows trees were decorated long before Jesus was born. Older legends vary from people bringing evergreens into their homes to remind them of the coming spring, to people decorating trees outside because they felt when the leaves fell from a tree the spirit of the tree abandoned the tree (not a good thing). By decorating a tree the spirit would be happier and stay.  (Here is an interesting article about Christmas Tree traditions). Regardless of the legends and traditions, my theory is people in the Northwest decorate trees because it is generally so dark and dreary this time of year, and the days so short, any good reason to have lots of lights on to brighten things up is reason enough! And all those ornaments only add to the sparkle.

Last night on the phone, as we talked Christmas trees, my brother said, “I thought you cut trees off the roadside?” Well, yes, many years ago, pre-Mikey, I use to go to the road bank of our property, usually after work, in the dark, and cut a small tree.  Then in the light of day I would discover that besides being gangly, it was a rather yellowish tree, road bank soil not being terribly fertile, but in my termination to cut only trees that weren’t going to make it anyway, I would decorate my malnourished tree, and of course the transformation was always magical!

IMG_8182

A happy snowman!

Then there were the potted trees of various sizes and varieties. One, a non-native spruce, my parents planted for me after Christmas behind the pump house. It is now very tall, doing well in its new homeland, with roots creeping into the well. There are cautionary consideration with potted trees.  Another ex-potted tree is politely staying compact and doing well elsewhere in the woods.

IMG_5339

our resident potted tree, which looks more magical at night with the lights on.

One tiny potted tree, the kind sold in groceries stores, died in the pot only to be reborn many years later when a small shoot appeared. For decades, as it has grown, we have hauled it on the porch each winter and decorated it. Now it is so large, and in such a large pot, it stays in the back yard where we adorn it with lights and plastic, wind-hardy ornaments. It is a member of the family, I have lived with it longer than with Mike. Like a child who grows up and doesn’t leave home!

IMG_9802

the branch in the vase thing never looks as good as it does in magazines, but it is a place to put lights and ornaments!

For a few years we went to the local tree farm where we would cut a small, but beautiful tree, large enough to fill our living room and be filled with a lifetime collection of ornaments.  Though I’ve sold many at garage sales over the years, I still have the usual lifetime collection of ornaments.  I use to have a second-string collection of ornaments I would haul to work each year, whether at the Community Center in Quilcene or the Visitor Center in Port Townsend, to decorate workplace trees.

IMG_5208

Last year’s angel tree.

My life collection is down to favorites for small trees. There are the angels, whose population has grown enough that last year our tree was a tiny all-angel tree…using a ‘fake tree’ (a sign of aging?). There are molded metal Santa’s, snowmen of various materials, tiny teddy bears, the misc. collection of wooden ornaments, some from my friend in Germany, and other misc. one-of-a-kind gift ornaments.

IMG_8162_2

One of the three birds…..they are red, gold and blue. Aren’t they sweet?

And then there are the three birds. Over the past several years I have proclaimed at the beginning of December “I am not going to put up a tree” (generally I’m the one who takes on this task, though Mike has willingly helped a few times). Then I remember the three birds. These are glass birds from Poland, bought at the old Wild Bird Store, the one that burned on highway 101.  I adore these birds. One year I bought a metal tree-like thing just to hang them on, with a few other sparkly ornaments. That was a non-tree year. I’ve done the branches-in–a-vase thing (which never looks like a tree, as Douglas Fir branches tend to hang like weeping willows when put upright in a pot) just to have some place to hang the three birds.

IMG_8168

Sparkly snowflake, gotta have sparkle to enhance the lights!

This year I made the no-tree proclamation early in December. Burned out from the sale of mom’s house, having a lot of shoulder and back pain, I had no interest in crawling in the attic and getting out boxes of ornaments. Bah humbug.

IMG_8106_2

The ultimate Charlie Brown tree, this year’s potted tree…was happily put back on the porch, still ornamented, once the Noble Fir was brought home. Nativity set made in Quilcene by a very talented retired gentleman.

Until I remembered the three birds (which do not live in the attic, never ever).  I found a sad looking lopsided redwood (I think) in a pot, a gift months ago to Mike from neighbors down the road.  It is waiting to be planted. My most Charlie-brown looking tree ever, I put it on the porch with a few small balls on it. There, that was going to be our tree this year. I brought it in a few days ago to the safety of the house so I could hang the three glass birds on it.

IMG_8152

a tiny mostly-Santa tree.

Feeling festive, two nights ago I got out the small ‘fake’ tree and put tiny Santa’s on it.

IMG_8187

Santa’s amongst the branches of the Noble Fir

Yesterday, after a walk on the beach, I stopped along the side of the road to enjoy the gorgeous sunset, and there were small, perfectly shaped, only slightly yellow, Douglas fir trees.  This time of year every Douglas Fir looks like a Christmas tree, and this little collection of trees looked like a family of miniature Christmas trees. I almost did it, I almost ‘poached’ a tree. After all, they aren’t all going to make it.  I resisted, got in the car, and drove straight to the tree farm.  It was dark and very foggy, I knocked on the door and asked, “Are you still selling trees?”  Well no, not really, but they had two already cut noble firs whose bottom branches had dried out in the drought.  If I wanted something small they could cut the top off one and sell it to me. Hmmm…not many branches on one, the other way too wide for our small living room. We negotiated, I hesitated, then went home with my first noble fir Christmas tree. $20 for a Charlie Brown noble fir Christmas tree!

IMG_8156

Ta-da! Our sparsely branched, but heavily decorated with all those beloved ornaments, Noble Christmas Tree.

Mike came home and was ecstatic! Some of you have children and grandchildren, I live with Mike, and when it comes to the lights and sparkle of Christmas, there is no one better, for me, to share the magic with! (Our tastes in Christmas yard displays differ greatly……but that’s another story.)

In your ‘spare’ moments today, I would love to hear your Christmas tree stories, feel free to share in the comments section!

Oh Tannenbaum, oh tannenbaum! How lovely are your branches!

A Chaplain’s Christmas Message of Peace

chaplains card019“…….the greatest Universe is a world of Spirit, and it is crowded with activities of which we never dream.”

In cleaning out my parent’s home, amongst the memorabilia of their early life together was a Christmas card from the chaplain at the Mine Warfare School in Yorktown, VA, where my dad was assign shortly after my parent’s wedding in November,1943. Yorktown was their first home together, though briefly. Dad was soon assigned to a mine-sweeper where he spent the remainder of the war.

The message, typed in green ink by the chaplain on an 8 ½” x 11” piece of cream-colored paper, was carefully folded into a card with green and red Christmas bells on the front, then copied on whatever color copy machines were around in 1943. Frankly I don’t know how he did it!

Mike and I were moved and inspired by the chaplain’s words, a timeless message about true peace not coming from the material world or through war. His words, poetic, and as poignant today as when they were written 70 years ago, are even more impressive when you consider he wrote them during a “popular” world war.

I share here the chaplain’s message, that you too might find inspiration in it. Which ever holiday your faith celebrates this time of year, whatever your challenges might have been this year, Mike and I wish you true, inner peace this holiday season, and a New Year full of many blessings.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

22 Dec. 1943

Dear Friends,

It is now over nineteen hundred years ago since there appeared on the Judean Hills a special sign which led shepherds to search for the Christ Child.

That was a wonderful night in which Jesus slipped into this world. For centuries prophecy had converged towards it, and an ancient prophet had put his finger on the very town where He was to be born.  Great events have far-away roots. Heaven knew in advance of this event, and angels dipped their white wings into this night and kindled its sky into strange radiance, while they showered their song upon the pasture-field.

We have swept the heavens with a telescope, we have caught and weighed the stars, and in our blind materialism we have thought there was nothing there but what we could see.

But the greatest Universe is a world of Spirit, and it is crowded with activities of which we never dream.

Today we are almost totally engrossed in the effort to bring peace back to this Universe. We are doing it in a material way.  It is the only way our enemies can be dealt with at this present moment.  They have not chosen to trust to anything which they cannot touch with their hands.

But unless we find in life something more than mere materialism, the race which we buy with the sword will not endure.

It was for the purpose of acquainting men with the lasting peace that Jesus, the Son of God, made His appearance those long centuries ago.  He came to offer this peace to the troubled hearts of the centuries.

Since His coming many have taken His life, message, and gift seriously and found that He does actually supply a “Peace that passeth understanding” and which does enduring.

To you He offers Himself again this season as the PRINCE OF PEACE.

It is your Chaplain’s sincere desire that this season will afford for you more happiness and enjoyment than you may even now anticipate. And may the year which is ahead bring to you the attainments which will afford you the greatest pleasures.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth Peace and Goodwill toward all men.”

IMG_8117

The card is signed on the back, but I cannot read the signature. He remains an anonymous Navy chaplain.

Your Chaplain

See other holiday season posts:

Oh Tannenbaum!

Seasonal Reflections

The Turtle and The Star

(feel free to share the link to this page with others)

Letting There Be Emptiness

A popular adage says when we let go of something we create space for something else. It is a simplistic saying for a dynamic, complex process.  Letting go, like grief, and usually involving grief, has many stages of releasing and holding on.  It’s a process of emptying, and sometimes it results in finding or creating something new, but often we learn to live with the void.

There’s been a lot of letting go for me this past year.  When both you and your life mate are diagnosed with cancer and other health challenges, you let go of many ideas about your life together in the near and distant future as your days shift around appointments, treatments, changes in abilities, income, and routines. I’ve witnessed this in the lives of many friends, too many.  Mike and I have been through this before, but Mike was not so much a participant as a witness.  In one respect this shifting and letting go is what life is about. No one is exempt, we all experience it on many levels.

On the material level, as I waded through the mucky process of emptying my parents’ house of 41 years, getting it ready for sale, there was the letting go of a lots of “stuff’! Not only did the treasures and everyday items from two lives have to go, but things here at home had to be gotten rid of to make room for items hauled home…as I said, letting go is a process, and sometimes we hold on!

a house once full of the collections of two lives, sits empty, waiting for new owners.

a house once full of the collections of two lives, sits empty, waiting for new owners.

Watching friends go through this house emptying process, I notice that how a person experiences it has as much to do with their relationship to their own past as with their relationship to their parents.  For me it was an uncovering of forgotten stories and learning of new ones. Some stories came through discovered letters, diaries, saved articles, etc. Knowing I was dismantling her material life, but unable to participate in it directly, Mom would occasionally remember something, ask about it, then tell me the story the item recalled.  Though there was much I wanted to ask, and sometimes I would, I learned to wait and see what might surface, for in her mind, she has already let go of many things, and many stories.

Like many parents, over the years mine unloaded on my brothers and me most of our own paraphernalia and memorabilia, but there were still bits and pieces of our pasts tucked away in the attic, or found in drawers and closets.  One such item was my doll house.

IMG_0683One time I brought my doll house home and set it up. I don’t remember why, as an adult, with no children, I did that, but it lived in a corner for a while. I enjoyed the process of setting it up, but after a few months realized it was taking up valuable space and collecting dust, so I hauled it back to my parents’ attic, to be mostly forgotten.

IMG_0678

So there it was, in the attic. I kept moving it around mom’s house as I emptied rooms. I could not bring myself to haul it off to a thrift store and listing it on Craig’s list brought only mild interest, and no buyers. This is a very well furnished house from the 1950s! Besides the little molded plastic easy chairs, a couch, beds, pink bathroom fixtures, and red and white kitchen set, it includes a small vacuum, tiny stools, a card table that folds, (as card tables should), lamps, a telephone, and other tiny household items. Not fancy, but very utilitarian was my doll house! Ebay has several collections of the same little hard plastic furniture for sale, but few of the sets I looked at were as intact as mine!

IMG_0679Today I mailed all the furnishings of my doll house to Enterprise, Oregon to become part of a little girl’s life I hope to meet someday, the daughter of a ‘virtual’ friend, Jody of Wild Carrot Herbals (maker of our favorite body care products!).

The house, built by my dad, will go to another friend for her granddaughter.

Mom’s house sale closed two weeks ago.

IMG_8073

After sending the boxes of little plastic furniture off at the post office, I drove to a favorite trail at Dosewallips State Park. As I walked out to the beach, the almost-solstice sun was disappearing behind the trees, the low light transforming brown, dried up beach grass into a field of gold. I felt exhilarated, I love the openness of this particular trail, the feeling you are walking out into the water. It is a sparse place, not barren, but only the beach grass grows there. The emptiness allows fluidity – birds fly through, resting on the beach, the tide comes and goes, filling and emptying the river estuary. A place where the emptiness allows a peaceful, simple beauty.

As I looked off in the distance a singular ‘honk’ a few feet from me caused me to turn and see a swan flying by at eye level.

I am enjoying this letting go.

Happy Solstice to you all!  May there be spaces in your life for new the light!