The Christmas trees have arrived at our local grocery store. They’re standing six deep in the parking lot, perfuming the air with their delicious fragrance.
And Christmas tree lots have sprung up in other, nearby communities.
Whenever I smell fresh-cut Christmas trees, I feel like a kid again, remembering the fun our family had decorating the tree every year.
When I was a toddler, mom and dad got table trees, no taller than I was. They sat on a little card table in the corner of the room. The tiny, magical lights filling their branches fascinated me.
Once the three of us kids were in school, our parents bought taller trees that helped fill up the living room with their generous limbs.
I remember stringing popcorn and stringing cranberries to decorate the tree…and hanging ornaments and silvery ice sickles from the long, bushy needles, filling the tree with color and beauty.
When my brother was in kindergarten, he made a paper angel for the top of the tree. Drew a cute little crooked mouth face on the angel, painted on a blue gown and sprinkled his hand made artwork with glitter.
Every year after that, his angel adorned the Christmas treetop.
In more recent years, Sweetheart Al and I have bought tall, elegant trees. Usually Douglas Firs. We buy them from the local 4-H lot, or the Boy Scout lot, trying to support the neighborhood kids and their projects.
And we spend most of one day trimming and decorating our find. We have so many ornaments that we can’t always find room for them all on the tree. It doesn’t really matter; the tree always looks and smells great.
But early this month, Sweetheart and I saw the largest Christmas tree we’ve ever seen. It was a 110-foot giant Sierra white fir and it is destined to be erected in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., as the nation’s Christmas tree.
The Capitol Christmas Tree program chooses an evergreen from a different National Forest every year, and this year the tree came from the Stanislaus National Forest – our local national forest.
We saw the majestic tree lying on a very long flatbed truck with a bladder attached to its base to keep it watered during its long cross-country trip. The tree and its truck were at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora, just about 45 minutes south of our house. There were hundreds of people, as well as a few TV-news crews, admiring the tree and celebrating the fact that a tree from "our" forest was going to be the 2011 Capitol Christmas Tree.
While there was lots of merriment, I’m sure there were also some mixed feelings over such a majestic tree being harvested as a Christmas Tree. Nonetheless, it was a marvelous site.
Earlier that morning, just about sunup, a tribal elder from the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians had blessed the giant Sierra white fir. After it was cut, it was lifted by crane onto the truck bed.
By the time we arrived at the fairgrounds, the sun was setting (so the photo I have posted here is not the best, but, hopefully, you can get a good idea of the size of this tree).
From here, this grand tree made a 20-day, cross country tour stopping in big cities, small towns and at military bases so that Americans from all walks of life could view it on its way to D.C. I imagine that tree perfumed all the states from here to Washington D.C. with a foresty fragrance filled with history and wilderness.
It was scheduled to travel through Sacramento, Modesto, Merced, Fresno, Kingsburg, Santa Clarita and Los Angeles, California.
Then across Arizona and through Gallup and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Through Amarillo, Texas, Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri, through Santa Claus, Indiana and Cherokee, North Carolina.
Last Thursday (Nov. 24) it was scheduled to be in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Friday it was scheduled to be in Newport News, Virginia.
Saturday it was scheduled to be in Dumfries, Virginia.
Sunday, it was in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
And, according to the schedule I saw, it should have arrived in Washington D.C. yesterday.
The official U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony will take place at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6. That’s when seven-year-old Johnny Crawford of Sonora, California will throw the switch to turn on the 10,000 LED lights that illuminate the tree.
I’m certain the Christmas tree will be glorious, all lit up in front of the Capitol Building.
But this fir carries a lot more than just glitter, and I hope when people see it that their imaginations might catch a glimpse of the deep and wild forest from which it was taken.
The forest where tree decorations are actually alive – birds (or birds nests filled with young), where mountain storms rage with gales of snow, leaving real ice sickles hanging from evergreen branches, where summer wildfires savage the understory. Where bears scratch their backs against the rough old tree trunks, and squirrels scamper up and down carrying their morning snacks.
This Christmas Tree has known it all through its long life. And to top it all off, the tree just made a cross-country trip strapped to a truck bed.
So here’s to Christmas trees – from little table trees to this giant from the Stanislaus National Forest. They bless us with holiday beauty. And a lot more.
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