Monday, November 29, 2010

A Lesson in Simplicity... from a Tree

This weekend was a milestone in my 30 years of Christmas tree experiences. For the first time, our tree was not cut down from a tree farm, where trees are groomed, given ample sunlight, and noble firs (my tree of choice) abound.
This year we thoroughly debated what to do about our tree. (I'm embarrassed to admit how much thought went into this seemingly unimportant decision - but that's how I am with Christmas) We didn't feel right spending $50 on a tree that we would only experience for little over a month. We debated investing in a fake tree, but felt like we wanted to encourage in our children a love of nature, and bringing the natural world into our home. And because we get the tree up by Thanksgiving weekend & keep it up until Ephiphany in January, a pre-cut tree was out of the question because it just wouldn't last without dropping needles everywhere. So, we decided to try venturing out in nature, armed with our $10 forest service road pass and cut down a tree a'natural.

Given the early snow levels this year on Snoqualmie Pass, we decided just to go as far as we could and be flexible. We soon discovered, however, that once you get going up forest service roads, there's no turning around. So higher and higher we climbed, all the while getting into deep stuff that we knew our all-wheel drive could have difficulty with. When we finally got to a "Y" in the road to turn around, we got stuck in a snowdrift and had to have help being pushed out. Then, on the way down, we moved over to the side of the 1-lane road (with a cliff on one side & a ditch on the other) and our tires were forced by the snow drift into the ditch. Needless to say, we were "those people"- requiring the help of 3 guys over 30 minutes and finally some tow straps to get back on the road.

By this time, (although Leta was so patient for our almost hour combined time stuck in the snow) all we cared about was getting us off this mountain road. My quest for the perfect tree seemed suddenly petty compared to my desire to avoid getting stranded in the woods or worse-(ok, my mind always jumps to the worst possibility when faced with snowy roads flanked by a cliff with no guardrail).

So, having safely arrived back to the bottom of the hill, we let Leta finally get out and play in the snow. And we searched among sparse, sagging cedars for anything "Christmas-tree-like." We chose 1 of the 2 fir-type trees and cut it down, soon realizing that the base was close to 10 feet wide and there seemed to be a total of about 6 branches on it. But, we were alive and headed home with a tree!
And although this tree is not nearly as perfectly shaped as we usually get, I love it! For the first time in 6 years of marriage, I let Matt help me with the lights and let our 3 year old help with the ornaments. And for the first time, the ornaments do not all match- I let Leta put on whatever ornaments she wanted to. It was a family effort- just as it always should have been.

So, each time I look at this tree, it stands as a reminder to loosen up, to slow down, to remember priorities and not strive for perfection. If we can't fit in every social event or Christmas tradition this year- that's ok. If I can't bake everything I usually do at Christmastime- that's ok. If gifts are less than perfect and the to-do list just doesn't get done- that's ok. What matters is slowing down to enjoy the anticipation of advent - that magical spirit of waiting & excitement that we experienced as children, when we could hardly sleep on the nights leading up to Christmas day. That's how I want to experience the advent season - excitedly awaiting the day when we celebrate the source of love, generosity, & peace stepping into our world.
...And all I have to do is look at our sparse, mis-matched tree with weak drooping branches to be reminded of my priorities and ditch the perfectionism this season.

1 comment:

Kristen said...

i love this, mandy! beautiful...your heart, your tree, your hopes for this season. thank you for sharing!