A woodpecker on one of the trees taps out its story.
Each tree, too, has its own story, its own family, its own tribe. And even though we do not know if they give their lives willingly, we could not live or breathe without them. We fell them for their timber, for fuel for our fireplaces, and to grace our homes during the Christmas season. We thin them to allow other nearby trees to mature and to help prevent insect infestation. In the small mountain community where I live, hundreds of
Douglas fir and Ponderosa pines are being selectively felled for fire mitigation. We are using the straightest of the “poles” to build a new barn for our community herd of horses, a bittersweet project because the trees must die.
But by this time next year, the barn will be built and the horses will be able to seek shelter on the leeward side, protected from the wind and rain and snow. I walk the dirt road where the cutting is taking place and touch the stumps that remain, inhaling the turpentine scene of pine and gather small armfuls of green branches to take home. I am glad we are not using pre-fab metal for the barn. Last weekend, John and I hiked the forest in search of a homegrown Christmas tree, one that we could take home and decorate. We found a crowded cluster of saplings, each struggling for their own meager bit of sunshine. We selected three which, when held together, formed a scrawny tree at which even Charlie Brown would have laughed.
Standing next to the stand of saplings, surrounded by a family of older trees with crowns that swayed 75’ above us, we said a few prayerful words of gratitude, then headed home. We used duct tape to bind the three small trunks together to form one trunk, and hoisted a few drooping branches off the rug with strands of sewing thread. The delicate branches couldn’t support anything but the lightest of ornaments. We wound three strands of lights and ribbon garland among the branches to fill in the bare spots. The angel perched on the top was too heavy so we suspended her from the ceiling with more thread.
The effort was comical. But in the end, we were charmed by the three small saplings and what they represented— the simple strength of a three-legged stool, the thematic unity of a trilogy, the belief in the strength of a common purpose, even the spiritual message of the trinity. And equally profound—the importance of honoring the essence inside each and every living thing. I wish you a simple season, full of simple pleasures and simple blessings. But most of all, I wish for you the chance to walk in the woods with a loved one, to stand beneath a blue sky surrounded by a family of trees and listen to the tapping of woodpecker or the song of the chickadee, to touch the bough of an evergreen and rekindle your faith in the innate goodness of the world.
Links of Interest
*Lines of poetry excerpted from "How Is It That The Snow" by Robert Haight, Column 193 of Ted Kooser's American Life in Poetry. Read entire poem. NPR’s Morning Edition: Environmentalists encourage people to cut down holiday trees instead of buying artificial ones. Why live trees are better than plastic one. Listen to the story. Do you know what sex your pinecones are? Yep, gender is everything. This is a fun article on how to tell male from female pinecones, and on harvesting pine seeds for planting. Check it out.
Causes Page Lambert Supports
Children and Nature Network
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Center for Whole Communities
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