Friday, December 24, 2010

A low-key way of getting a tree

Hard to write this piece while we're still waiting to know if Jay's seventeen-year-old son is going to pull through, and what the situation will be when Ben regains consciousness. But here goes ... cognitive dissonance ... 'tis the season.
* * *
"Did you get your tree yet?" my dad asked.
"Yeah, but I'm not telling you how. I'll send the story to you."
"You stole it," mom said.
"Hey! who ratted?"
"No one," she said. "I just figured."
* * *
Well, I don't know, was it stolen or wasn't it? Our next door neighbor said we could take any trees we wanted on his property. As in whole Douglas Fir trees sixty, seventy, eighty feet tall. In a year or more, we never got around to it. Matt complained that the trees were too wolfy to be worth the bother. Knotted and limbed all the way to the ground. Difficult, even as firewood.

Then it got to be near Christmas and we merry procrastinators still didn't have a tree. I was leaning on the goatshed door waiting for Joy to finish her food and studying the treetops in the neighbor's yard -- a yard now pretty much owned by Bank of America, foreclosure date, charmingly enough, February 14. When I saw one I thought would do nicely.

Matt also said it wasn't worth climbing a tree and cutting the top out of it because the tops of firs are rangy and you can take ten feet of a tree and only have three or four side branches. Oh, but not that tree right there. Right next to our neighbor's music studio. That tree had already lost its crown a long time ago and had a bushy, forked top.

Thus, in a moment of weakness, Matt was bullied into helping me get the tree this year. All the other years, Matt and Ronan got the tree together or Matt brought the tree home as part of some forestry job he was doing. Matt insisted on doing a proper professional job of topping the tree, despite that the thing so limby, I couldn't have fallen out of it if I tried, Matt insisted on doing a thorough job of it. He harnessed both of us up, complete with fliplines, safety ropes, prussock knots, everything but spurs. He also, gallantly, carried the saw up with him. I should have protested and brought the saw up myself, but it was just as well: there were so many tight spaces to squeeze through between all the limbs and the tree was soppy wet and slippery -- "Greasy," Matty called it -- that by the time I'd pulled my way up fifty or so feet to just below the spot I'd be sawing, I was already tired.

[Above left: at least one of us was partially dressed in seasonal attire. That would be Matt, in his seasonal oiled "tin jacket". My low-budget version of rain gear is having another set of clothes to change into when I'm done.]

Ronan was our groundman. She held the rope that she would use for lowering the topped treetop down to the ground. I put in a face cut. Matt helped with the back cut, turning one arborist's handsaw into a momentary misery whip. Then we pushed the top out of the tree and ... watched it hang up in all the branches about ten feet below.

Getting me and the Christmas tree down was more work than climbing up. My lowering rope kept binding in tight crotches and I had to swing out onto other limbs and dance around and jump up and down to get the Christmas tree to dislodge and fall to the next level of hanging up. But eventually it was on the ground.

We three happy tree poachers dragged our kill to the front deck where we trimmed it. When we got it inside and up (tied to hooks inbedded in studs in the wall to keep it from toppling over), I realized that the tree was not just a tree with two tops. It had bunches. In fact, it was a tree cup.

[Right: Tree cup. And a photo of a dog experiencing cognitive dissonance. Beta had just returned from an all night 12-mile hike with her previous person. Her she is back in her own house where she usually goes straight into the chair nearest the cookstove. But she feels guilty because she was so happy to be with Olive all night. Now she's back with both her favorite people and her best friend (Sophie, our other dog) and she doesn't know what to do with her feelings of divided loyalties. I gave her some counseling and invited her up into her favorite chair and pretty soon she was over it.]

It was such a beautiful tree cup that Ronan said she didn't want to put ornaments on it. Which is why we hung our presents as the ornaments -- our symbolic fruit would actually be harvested at Christmas, and then filled the big bowl at the tree's center with all the objects too heavy to hang.

[Here we have Ronan wearing her festive "Don't Talk to Me" shirt and looking like an elf with attitude.]

I would really like to get a picture with all seven or nine of us around the tree, but Pat is already gone visiting down south and the four teenagers in our lives are hard to track during the holidays. We've gotten the goats taken care of: they got a new pasture for the holidays. The dogs have our neighbors' too long leftover turkey to garnish their dinners. Now what can I get for the skunks under the goat shed?

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