The Evergreen

The Evergreen

We brought home the tree this past weekend–from the wind swept farm upon McKinley Hill in Jacksonville. I don’t know if it’s really called McKinley Hill, but those are the people for whom we remove our mittens to scribble stiffly: “twenty dollars and oo cents” in frozen ink each year.

We thought about waiting for more snow to lend more of the holiday feeling, but we opted for what we had, not knowing if the weather would offer more or take what little remains.

The sun was bright on the hill and the view spectacular, and so was the wind which made for little argument over which tree was best. (Even the new guy at the baler was surprised at how quickly we returned dragging a balsam behind us.)

It was such a tiny tree that it hardly needed shortening once home, but my husband took off a foot any way–with the chain saw–which my 16 year-old defended, “He’s a man. He has to use the most powerful tool available.”

At the farm, a simple hand-saw had been employed by our resident enthusiast: Eleven-year old Aidan who also pulled the tree carriage down the hill and just as enthusiastically dragged it back up while my husband loaded the evergreen onto our Civic.

I love seeing trees atop of cars. I like counting how many pass us in a day. This is not p.c. of me, I know; many of my rural friends feel compromised cutting down a Charlie Brown rut from their own woods, while others forgo the tradition altogether and hang ornaments from evergreen boughs.

This year I actually considered this, not with environmental consciousness, but with fatigue. I didn’t want to face the dramatic overhaul that is required in tiny living room to accommodate a tree; but this year’s choice was so trim–we only moved a single chair.

Our tradition is to leave the tree unadorned as long as possible to appreciate it for its simple gift of green.  Next we add the lights, and these too are left twinkling in solitude to inspire us on dark nights.

The last step is to add the ornaments, unwrapped from their boxes, labeled with dates and gift bearers, and carefully placed upon the boughs for the right effect of color, shape, medium and reflection.

We add egg nog and festive finger foods to this occasion, and then do the same with the holiday leftovers when it comes time to pack up the ornaments after the holiday.

The tree itself remains, lit and then unlit, until I can finally bear parting with the Balsam beauty in favor of order and an extra chair.

The Christmas tree is one of my favorite traditions along with the advent calendar and a daily reading from National Wildlife’s, December Treasury.  A tribute to the Evergreen is today’s offering:

Evergreen Reflection, Kelly Salasin, December 2011

The  Ancients

    One need not go into history to find the reasons for veneration of the evergreen tree or bough as part of the Christmas season.  They are of the enduring things of this earth, and man has known them as long as man has been here.  The pine, the spruce, the hemlock, the fir – all those conifers that know no leafless season – have been held in special favor when man would have symbols of life that outlast all winters.  And even more enduring, in geologic time, are the ground pine, the ground cedar, and the club mosses, most venerable of all the evergreens. 

    We gather them now, even as the ancients gathered them reaching for the reassurance of enduring green life at the time of the winter solstice.  For the pines and their whole family were old when the first man saw them.  Millions of years old, even, even at a time when millions of years had no meaning.  When we gather them we are reaching back, back into the deep recesses of time.   But, even as the ancients, we are reaching for reassurance, for the beauty of the living green but also for that green itself, the green of life that outlasts the gray winds, the white frosts, and the glittering snow of winter.

    So we bring in the pine, the spruce, the hemlock – and now, because of the cultivation of Christmas trees on a wide scale, we do so without desecrating the natural forest.  We bring the festoons of ground pine and partridgeberry, feeling a kinship with enduring things.  They help us to catch, if only briefly, that needed sense of hope and understandable eternity.

-Hal Borland

 

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December Moon

December Moon

The full moon of December is no summer serenader’s moon, no sentimental moon of silvery softness to match
the rhyming of the ballad singer.It is a winter’s moon with more than fourteen hours of darkness to rule in cold splendor.

It is not a silvery moon at all. This is a moon of ice, cold and distant. But it shimmers the hills where there is a frosting of snow, and it makes the frozen valleys gleam. It dances on the dark surface of an up-country pond.
It weaves fantastic patterns on the snow in the woodland. It is the sharp edge of the night wind, the silent feather of the great horned owl’s wing, the death-scream of unwary rabbit when the red fox has made its pounce.

This winter’ moon is a silent companion for the nightwalker, a deceptive light that challenges the eye. It dims the huddled hemlocks on the hillside and it sharpens the hilltop horizon. It wreathes the walker’s head in the shimmer of his own breath, and it seems to whistle in his footsteps. It makes wreaths of chimney smoke and sweetens the smell of the hearth fire.

It is the long winter night in cold splendor, night wrapped in frost, spangled and sequined and remote as Arcturus.

~Hal Borland (1900-1978), Twelve Moons of The Year, 1979