Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Christmas Tree Story for Tu B’Shevat

In celebration of this month's Winter Solstice and tomorrow's Full Moon, and in honor of Tu B’Shevat (the New Year for Trees) and the 43rd issue of The Festival of the Trees, I’d like to share this year’s Christmas tree from my home.

Many of you know that most years I like to plant a tree for the winter solstice. This year I cut a small Western White Pine tree (Pinus monticola) to bring inside for our holiday festivities. Our White pine Christmas tree comes with a little story:

This little pine probably sprouted about 12-15 years ago. It was just one among a sea of tiny Western hemlock, Douglas fir, Red alder, Black cottonwood, and assorted wild willow trees. I estimate 12-15 years, because that’s about the time that the land would have been cleared on this property before the house was put in.

The particular spot where our White pine grew happened to be situated right above the septic system and drainage field. Consequently, we have carefully removed hundreds of saplings over the years, usually when they were barely knee-high. We relocated as many trees as possible, but unfortunately some have been sacrificed for the health of our home’s septic system. (As a side note, I’m having great fun learning about Humanure! It WILL be done, oh yes.)

So how did this one White pine remain? I can’t say that I’m entirely sure, but I do know this: around here, the forest knows how to hide things. One day you’re holding your favorite pair of rose-colored sunglasses, they slide carelessly off your nose as you bend down to inspect a lichen, and zzzhoooop! they're gone.

It’s because of the forest’s ability to hide things that I’ll presume this particular White pine chose to remain unnoticed until this year in its full five-meter-high glory. We realized it had grown too big to safely dig around the roots for removal (without potentially damaging a pipe). We decided to honor the tree in the best way the winter would allow.

I used my little bow saw to cut down our tree, and we set it in the front room where it now looks out on the cold ground where it once grew. I’ve never had a White pine for a Christmas tree, but I tell you it’s beautiful – the long needles give it great character, and the big gaps between branches make it easy to see all the ornaments. This tree even came pre-adorned with two great pine cones at the top. The star at the top was made from a shiny paper gift bag given to me by my sister many years ago. Her birthday is tomorrow – HAPPY BIRTHDAY SIS!

Join me in ringing in the New Year as we raise a toast to all the trees we love! I encourage you to celebrate the New Year with the planting of a new tree. Make a wish, set a goal, crack a joke, say a prayer, or do a silly little dance… then put a tree in the earth, and nurture accordingly.

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