Every year we venture the short distance to the Jemez National Forest to choose and cut our Christmas tree. It’s an annual tradition we look forward to as soon as the calendar page reads December. There is something about snow-covered mountains, a walk through the woods, enjoying the silence and calm and beauty. And there’s just something about bringing home a real tree, one growing naturally on a mountain slope, fresh and fragrant with space between the branches, un-groomed and unadulterated. We pack a picnic lunch, pick up my sister and head for the hills.
This year we rented a four wheel drive truck. This made for easier transport of the trees (toss them in the back); and it was a very good thing we did as the forest road was very snow-packed this year and would have been impassable to us if we’d arrived in our sedan. In previous years, we would drive the car down the road without much problem, actually making better time than many of the SUV drivers who, despite having four wheel drive and road clearance, don’t seem to want to proceed very far off road, apparently afraid of getting a scratch in the paint or dirt on the tires, which makes me wonder why they bought an SUV in the first place if they’re not going to use it for the purpose for which it was intended. But that’s a rant for another day.
Once we ventured behind the one mile that these other, wimpier tree-seekers had braved to go, we found ourselves alone in the vast silence of the forest surrounded by towering pines. Beautiful. It was a typical cloudless day, with azure skies and bright sun which warmed us up so much I was sweating in my sweater. Now I understand why they are called that.
We behaved like children, trudging in knee-deep snow, throwing snowballs, running to and fro from tree to tree in search of the perfect one. All in all, it was a blast. And the tree we brought home was the best ever. It made me want to sing a rousing rendition of “O Christmas Tree”, if only I could carry a tune. We sipped spiced cider and let Harry Connick croon the Christmas carols for us.
Now, decorated, brightening up the living room, with the collection of ornaments arrayed just so, we anticipate the holiday. The ornaments are special, each one like an old friend or a childhood memory I’d faintly forgotten, when I pull them out of the box. I have collected Christmas ornaments since birth, my mother passing on the tradition from her mother. Every year we were taken to a local nursery which had a spectacular Christmas display where we could choose for ourselves a new ornament. We also received new ornaments from everyone – grandma, aunts and uncles - to add to the collection. When I got married, I had enough ornaments to cover our first small Christmas tree. It makes decorating the tree fun and bubbly as we remember who gave which ornaments, which are our current favorites, which are most precious.
Sing with me, “O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how beautiful your branches!”
copyright 2004 Valerie Schneider