The annual Christmas tree hunt happened yesterday. It’s really quite a recent tradition for us, but as with all the best ones, it feels like the only way it’s ever been.
I packed up a thermos of tea and a couple of snacks and Dean rustled up a saw from the shed. When we stopped to pick up the $5 permit at the ranger station, there was no charge because some kind stranger had pre-paid for an extra. We were delighted enough by the gesture that we bought one for the next family to arrive.
Permit in hand, we set out into the network of forest service roads. Perhaps 5 minutes later, Dean started pointing out potential candidates and I started immediately disqualifying them. Not for their size or shape or variety, but because it would ruin the joy of the hunt to consider so few. So we drove a minimum acceptable distance, found a bit of space to pull off the road, and scrambled up a slope. Scrambled not in the light and sure-footed scamper sense, but in the way that involves clinging to saplings for leverage while guessing whether that dusting of snow is sitting on solid ground or a fern-covered hole.
It was the kind of cold clear day that is scarce here, and it felt good to bundle up against it and breathe in the winter air. Dean continued to nominate tree candidates and I expertly pointed out their disqualifying flaws, until I was absolutely done with hiking on that slope and Dean was wondering if we were searching for a unicorn. And magically, our tree appeared – a perfectly homely tree that looks perfectly at home in our living room.
Later, there were familiar carols played while we unpacked the box of decorations and re-told each other the stories behind our favorite childhood ornaments or those picked up in our travels and we appreciated the recent additions. It feels very rich to me right now, the whole collage of old and new, past and present, our traditions, our celebrations, our physical memories, all inextricably part of this moment.
We finished the evening with another of my favorite (and not very old) holiday traditions, watching Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas special. And so, despite a few more days of work this week, it feels very much like the holidays are officially here.