Tidings of Great Joy

Christmas illustration

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is Monday, so it must be my weekly newspaper column–hope you enjoy:

        “The Christmas tree?  All Christmas trees are perfect.” –  Charles N. Barnar

My Christmas spirit is intact. My Christmas tree is up and I wonder now what took me so long. If I remembered more clearly each year how much I love having the tree up, I would probably put it up in mid-October. I am thinking it is a good thing my memory is so poor on this particular point—even I would get tired of having a tree up for two and a half months.

          Everyone has a different tradition when it comes to putting up their tree. Those who go the traditional “real” tree route have no choice but to put their tree up a little later as a tree bare of its needles is none too festive on Christmas Day—and that is what happens if you put them up too early. I have not had a real tree for years but I do remember the daily watering and finding needles hidden in the carpet in July—neither of which adds to the charm of a real tree for me. But the smell, the smell is wonderful—which is why I have a wreath of real spruce branches on my door—I can go and stiff it at my leisure, and enjoy it as John Geddes describes the scent beautifully in A Familiar Rain: “freshly cut Christmas trees smelling of stars and snow and pine resin – inhale deeply and fill your soul….”

          I consider the tree I put up a “real” tree in the sense that it carries the weight of Christmases past, the joy of Christmas present, and the probability that it will still be around for Christmas future. It is not one of those more expensive ready-lit trees; it is old, the branches are a bit unwieldy, and though sparse I have the tree in a corner and have trained the branches to curve to the front, so it looks much fuller than it really is.

          The tree is always dressed to the hilt—decorations drip from every branch and at the top is a little wooden plaque that I attach to a gold wicker star that declares: “Memories are made every Christmas.” Below it is a beautiful oval ceramic decoration given to me by my sister that purveys the sentiments of the season: “Behold I bring you tidings of great joy.”

          I understand that Christmas does not bring everyone joy. I am fortunate in that even though I have lost dear ones at Christmas, known of people who have had to deal with great tragedies during this festive season,  and had to deal with troubles of my own—the season brings a respite of sorts for me. I know it does not serve everyone this way—as I said, I am fortunate. (Living in temporary denial helps a lot—somehow I have the capacity to put reality on the back burner for a while.)

         

christmas tree with honest to goodness real ca...

christmas tree with honest to goodness real candles (Photo credit: ambienttraffic)

I remember reading books about Christmases past, in the days when the Christmas tree was not put up until Christmas Eve, and the crowning glory came when the lights were turned on (or lit during more historical and need I say it, dangerous times) for the first time. I love that tradition but not enough to relive it myself.  Amidst the daily grind, I enjoy being able to feast my eyes on something that takes me out of the moment and into a pleasant reverie.

          Last night I sat in the living room with all the lights out except for those on the tree—and the word magical sprang to mind. Transforming what is essentially a Charlie Brown Christmas tree into a thing of beauty is truly mystical. And that is highly representative of the season—it is mystical in the way it transforms even Scrooge attitudes into Tiny Tim’s way of thinking.

          Christmas does not solve all our problems but the season and its meaning, whether spiritual or secular (or both) gives us something to hang on to. There are those who believe that the “reason for the season” is not given enough air time; but I think that the feelings derived from Christmas do not have to be limited.

          There seems to be a controversy over whether one should say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”. I am not entering the fray—I will stick with Merry Christmas but happily respond to Happy Holidays. At this time of year we should practice tolerance and not get in a snit—stick to your guns and expect others to respect your viewpoint. Problem solved.

          I leave you now humming “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire”, dispersed with a little “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas” while listening for some “sleigh bells in the snow.”

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My Safe Harbour

Trees

Trees (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

MY TREE

No longer in the backyard of my childhood home

My tree lives on only in my memory.

In yesteryear

I would climb into my tree everyday

and sit in its generous crook,

my back leaning against the rough bark of the trunk.

The branches formed a canopy

shadowing the sun

A breeze would rustle the leaves ~

and I would settle in with a book

or just observe the world

whiling away an endless summer afternoon.

I was sad to see one day

when I went to visit the place where my beloved tree once reigned

that it was gone.

But,

the vivid memories remain

of sunlit days sitting in my tree

safe and apart, yet one with the realm ~

English: Venerable tree, Breamore Down This be...

Venerable tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I ruled the world from its safe harbour.

 

Remembered bliss–is there anything better? Do you have a childhood memory of bliss that stands out?

Published in: on April 18, 2013 at 9:49 am  Comments (53)  
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The Christmas Walnut

"Old Fashioned Christmas Tree"

“Old Fashioned Christmas Tree” (Photo credit: CARDS 4 NID Catherine.Clarke)

I remember it like it was yesterday. Every year at Christmas, from the time I was about nine years old, I dove into the depths of the carefully wrapped Christmas decorations to find the fragile walnut that said Christmas to me. Proudly, I would hang it on the tree near the top, front and centre.

Miniscule, the brass coloured shell holds great tradition. It was on every one of my childhood Christmas trees; it was on all the Christmas trees my mother put up when I left home; and today it is on my Christmas tree. It is the one thing I made sure I got from all of my parents’ Christmas treasures.

I was surprised and relieved when I found that none of my siblings had imbued this tiny prize that I so coveted with the same sentiments I had.

I wish that I could remember where the gilded walnut came from, but I like to think that before I made it on the scene, it was one of the first decorations my parents put on their first tree when they were married in 1944. Their first Christmas tree was cut down by my Grandpa Geauvreau specifically for my eighteen year old mom, who was pregnant with my oldest brother. My parents lived with my father’s parents when they were first married, and Grandpa made sure my mom had a Christmas tree.  Strangely it was not a tradition my grandparents followed—but grandpa knew it was important to his son’s barely out of childhood wife. My mother told the story fondly many, many times and it is a part of our family lore.

English: Walnuts

English: Walnuts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was crushed when a couple of years ago my beautiful but delicate walnut hit the floor. It broke, but luckily not into tiny pieces, and most of it is still intact. Now when I hang it front and centre near the top of the tree, I position it so the undamaged side faces out. The tradition has not been broken, just adjusted a little—something all traditions have to endure.

~Christmas Coup~

CD cover

CD cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scrooge and the Grinch are mounting a coup to capture my Christmas spirit. I am about to set the tree up and decorate the house, but disturbingly I keep thinking: “What you get out you will have to put away.” Never before has this has been something I have considered prior to decorating every little nook and cranny in my house. Am I suddenly becoming an adherent of “less is more”?

I love the Christmas season and all that it entails. I love over-the-top decorations, the bright and sparkly, the excessively rich food, the holly jolly guy, and human size crèches. Greenery? I can’t get enough of it. Pine cones dipped in glue then sparkles? Bring them on. Piles of presents—I am not one to let commercialism get in the way of my consumerism. But, that little voice in the background is plaguing me as it whispers: “What you get out you will have to put away.”

Has anyone else had this thought? I have a lot of tiny decorations that just may stay packed this year. Their larger counterparts will be brought out instead, with a nod to the fact that they will be easier to dust. Am I getting lazier? I don’t think so—let’s call it wiser. They say that “hindsight is 20/20”—I am thinking that a little foresight might make hindsight a little easier to take.

For instance, the book, “Old Fashioned Christmas Favourites” written by my old friends Vickie and JoAnn, suggests that, “A Christmas tree without popcorn and cranberry strings just isn’t a Christmas tree.” Maybe—but then they go on to say that, “For a very special effect, throw popcorn on your Christmas tree. This gives the look of freshly fallen snow.” Really? Throw popcorn on my tree? I think not. I can just imagine having to clean it up every time Kitty Bob, our stupid lovely cat climbs up the inner branches of the tree. When he does that I am stressed out (to the max).  Adding insult to injury would be having to constantly pick up stray pieces of popcorn.

The companion question to the statement “What you get out you will have to put away” is “do I really want to do that?” The answers with regard to throwing popcorn on my tree are a resounding “no”, “not ever”, “what, are you crazy?” While the act of actually throwing popcorn onto my tree does appeal to me, I am using my newly found foresight to predict that it will just cause more work in the long run.

Here is a list of some other things I will not be doing this year:

1. Hot gluing gumdrops all over the surface of a wreath shaped Styrofoam form that I have wrapped in fabric—nope you will not find me doing this.

2. Fashioning paper serving cones to serve sweet and salty nuts, which I have just finished making in my kitchen.

3. Making felt stemware coasters for my wine glasses to protect my table. That is what the tablecloth is for.

4. Shredding carrots and putting them on my front lawn for Rudolph and his reindeer friends. (I cannot say for certain though that I would not have done this fifteen years ago when the boys were little—but at 21 and 26 I doubt they will be thrilled by this little activity.)

5. Tie a Christmas bandana around my stupid wonderful cat’s neck. Somebody bought the cat a sweater one year and he looked askance at us when we tried to put it on him, as if to say “Can’t you see I have a fur coat?” (Okay, I read that one somewhere, but I thought it was funny). I will, however, endeavour to get a festive red collar with a bell, so I can hear him when he climbs the Christmas tree.

Oh, well, the heck with foresight. I will probably decorate the house to the nines and worry about taking all the stuff down in mid-January. That is six weeks away—who plans that far ahead? Just for the record, I always plan to take the decorations down the day after New Year’s, but it always stretches out to mid-January. Then when I finally have my stuff put away, I look with a critical eye at all those who have not taken theirs down yet. Hypocritical? Yes. But satisfying.

So, will you practice foresight or hindsight this Christmas?

Christmas Wreath

~ A Celebration of Sorts ~

English: Tree, Upper Farringdon This oak tree ...

English: Tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This morning at 10 a.m. I went to the town park to plant a tree with some good friends. The tree was chosen for the way its leaves turn a vibrant red in the fall to match the vibrancy of the  friend that we were planting it for.

We lost our friend last spring. “We” is my Writers’ Group (we obviously put our creativity into our work and not our name). Our friend was a member of our group and she was bipolar. She did not hide it; in fact she almost celebrated it–not in a “party hardy” fashion but as an advocate for those who suffered this puzzling disease with her. She fought it with everything she had, and her family and friends helped her with the fight.

When she was taking the right “cocktail” of drugs, she was balanced, nay normal. Normal—what a word, but I mean normal in that she could handle everyday life. She could get up and function, and most importantly be creative and make other people happy. And she revelled in making other people happy. That is what made her happy.

She called us dudes and dudettes. She told us when we read something at Writers’ Group not to apologize for what we were about to read aloud in the group, and if we did apologize (as writers are wont to do), she commanded us

English: an exercise of chest

push-ups (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

to get down and do push-ups for not minding her wise advice.

The tree was planted on a slope of land at the park, facing the lake. It was carefully chosen to be protected and out of harm’s way.  Professional landscapers did the actual planting, and a friend who works at the park brought over the first pails of water to nourish it.

We planted a tree today in honour of our friend, and this is the poem I wrote for her:

You Are In Our Hearts

We planted a tree today:

In honour of, or in memory of,

Or more appropriately

In celebration of a friend.

Our friend was vibrant

When she was not sad

She was jubilant

Except when she wasn’t.

She lived life to its fullest

When she could

She was braver than brave

Except when she was scared.

We planted a tree today:

In celebration of a life

Lived fully, abundantly, and effusively

Except when she couldn’t.

Goodbye friend

But, it is not farewell

You really do live in our hearts

And speak to our creative souls.

Her accidental death was a shock to our small town. She seemed to have a million friends. I am lucky to have been counted among them. We love you Colene.

Published in: on October 23, 2012 at 8:51 pm  Comments (58)  
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