Time Spent with Trees
The hover of pumpkin pie spice and roast turkey was sliced by a sharper scent. Evergreen. Over the weekend and then following week post-Thanksgiving the question abounded.
“Have you got your tree yet?”
The answer of yes or no to some means a personality that values organization, means a spirit ready for celebration, but mostly it’s a marker of community. You are either inside the tradition or not. But, which one?
The history of the Christmas tree stems from non-Christian traditions that longed to fill their winter starkness with green and darkness with light. In a barely sunlit morning, I’m in the shower attempting to snap life into the week after the long holiday weekend. A pungent punch of pine needles or flash of red and golden bulbs perhaps could do the trick, though once again we did not purchase a tree.
“They don’t look like they used to.” Dad’s referring to the trees in the yard. “Still, I had fifty or sixty good years with them.” He’s remembering the storm that took many of their branches last year. I can hear my father talking to himself in the next room. He must be staring out the window.
It’s December and the cover of even sparse leaves gives way to gaps of gray sky between their boughs. Lonely branches perhaps, lonelier at least than years past. Yet, my father gazes across his lawn on a winter morning still connected to, and in appreciation of, his time spent with trees. This feeling in a lean time evokes another assumption of such a connection to greenery.
“Have you got your tree yet?” The question will inevitably follow me for the next four weeks.
My answer of ‘no’ evokes downcast eyes in sadness or raised eyebrows in curiosity. How I answer the follow up request of ‘why?’ ultimately determines my membership in the perceived community.
Most recently my response is rooted (no pun intended) in missing my family across the sea. My niece was with us one Christmas and the following year we did not have the heart to attempt the magic without her. This is a reality that many know well as their families shift and change, but it is not unique to our time spent with trees. Nor does it even require a tree.
“Have you got your tree yet?” Why do we not ask this question the other forty odd weeks of the year?
Although our living room window sits vacant of a zig zag silhouette, outside we are blessed with trees in varying degrees of green and years of life, each one able, should we so choose, to be strung with lights. And those lights are lit with hope no different than the tucked in for winter buds who dream of spring.
Somehow our relationship with trees is not as well defined except when strung with artificial flash. After all, many today use plastic or fiberglass, other kinds of materials, that check a box but do not embrace time spent with trees. Yet, all summer my father sat underneath shade of the aged trunks. He hauled water for drought stricken new roots. He spent moments and hours, and his life in many ways can be described through time spent with trees.