Friday, December 27, 2013

The Story of a Christmas Tree

One of the holiday traditions that I've carried throughout my life is the tradition of the tree. Yes, I know that its origins are pagan, and adaptations to the celebration of Jesus' birth have weathered many controversies. Regardless, for me, it is a tradition that brings family together to share memories of joyful times spent celebrating the birth of my Savior. In my opinion, enough said.

In years past, our family has been through many different tree phases ... the artificial tree of my childhood, finally replaced with real green in my teen years. Cut trees purchased from a lot, from Home Depot, from the Boy Scouts, or the local nursery. We even had one year where we used a live potted tree ... a story of mishap and magic that ends with, the last time I saw it, a 30 foot monstrosity in some unfortunate someone's back yard in Colorado. I guess the Colorado Blue Spruce isn't so named without reason. They grow very well in their native state.

The last few years, we have ventured as a family to the mountains of Colorado to help the Forest Service thin out their evergreen tree population. For a mere $10, you can go into the National Forest (designated areas only), and cut down the tree of your choice, within some size limitations. We've enjoyed each unique "Charlie Brown" tree as the years have passed.

This year, we found ourselves in Canada, and as with everything, tried to figure out how things work here, and what opportunities were available.

That is the background of the tree for our family.

Now, you need a little different background to make the picture complete.

A few months ago, on our little secluded piece of Canada, a big change began. Our home sits on a hill that overlooks acre upon acre of forest, with a beautiful view of the mountains to the north and east. As the hill slopes downward, three pastures provide the perfect grazing for two horses our landlady keeps on the property. Below the pastures, trees. Honestly, it is a little piece of paradise right here in British Columbia.

The five acres below our pastures are the crux of the story. The owner sold that forested property late last summer, and development began. The new owners are planning to live in an opulent home right on the other side of the pasture, and NOT in the woods. So the trees came down. For three months, about 10 hours a day, we listened to and watched tree after tree uprooted and placed into gigantic burn piles. One beautiful tree after another toppled, and our forest began to disappear. Unknown to us, there are houses on the other side, and now that part of the valley is wide open, our paradise a little less so. Slowly, our hearts broke as we watched the beauty of God's creation replaced by the results of man's desire to conquer it. Now don't get me wrong, I live in a house where there were once trees. I understand the process and the need for it, but it doesn't make watching it happen any easier. We miss our forest.

The New View

And back to the Christmas tree.

What to do? We couldn't fathom destroying another tree just to bring it inside to hold ornaments, especially after watching so many trees uprooted all fall. But it was Christmas! Time for a tree. What to do?

We had a few choices. There didn't seem to be a National Forest nearby that would allow us to cut a Christmas tree as a service to the forest. So our choices were limited. A potted tree, which we discovered was quite a pricey venture in Canada. An artificial tree, which seems to go against every minimalist bent in me. Or no tree. NO TREE!? What? But that matters. It is important. It is special. It is tradition. Only a little time passed before we conclude that a Christmas tree would not be a part of our Christmas this year. And my heart cried.

Then I had an idea. What if we took two cut down logs from the property below us (from the burn piles), and formed them into a cross. We could hang our ornaments from it, and it could take the place of our tree. We talked about the symbolism of having ornaments hanging on the cross. How those treasures represented the things that were precious in our lives, and how they all have value based on our reliance on the One who hung on the cross to save us. It was good symbolism. The sadness lifted.

As we contemplated, David came up with a brilliant idea. What if we BUILT a tree?! How? Well, go gleaning on the property below, from the burn piles, and get a trunk and branches. Add evergreen stems, a few screws, and voila! A tree!

So Sunday afternoon, we tromped down the hill (okay, we actually rode in the truck so we wouldn't have to carry branches back UP the hill), and gathered everything we needed. 

David, King of the Burn Pile

Scouting for More Branches

The Trunk!

Cedar Limbs

Riding in the Back of the Truck!

Back at the house, David began the process of assembling a tree, with his best helpers holding and fetching. Slowly, a tree emerged from the broken branches.

Let the Building Begin

Screws and a Careful Layering System for Stability

Evergreen Boughs for Beauty

Fir and Cedar ... Our Tree is a Hybrid!

One Sided, too (Takes up Less Space)

But a Little Front Heavy, so Anchored at the Back

And it is BEAUTIFUL!

Our Hand-Made Tree

Merry Christmas!

Here's to holiday tradition, family, and the inventiveness that allows us to treasure life's pleasures by enjoying, not destroying, the beauty of this world.

Merry Christmas (if a day or two late)!

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