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