Cutting down trees is not my favorite thing. I like planting them a whole lot more. Even grubbing
out seedling live oaks gives me pause, sprouted from acorns planted in the most unlikely places
by hard working scrub jays. With one whack of my mattock, a tree that could outlive me tenfold,
is reduced to a withered twig.
In my life I have felled only a small number of mature trees, and those only for reasons of
safety, access, or to obtain timbers and lumber for building. This activity really doesn’t compare
to the removal of young saplings. I am a steward of some wild land where cutting trees is
serious business. I could never be a logger, because the chopping is indiscriminate,
This subject comes to mind today because the top half of a small severed tree stands in our
living room. Again. Happens every year. More a touchstone of gratitude than a tradition, we
cherish our Christmas tree, reserving a special place for it in our home and hearts. But its place
on the quiet drive winding up the lonely mountainside was nice enough, you know, where the
roots got left behind with no top to support. This permanent separation, the outcome being a
young tree’s demise, is cause for me to recall, cutting down trees is really not my favorite thing.
So we’ll consider it a discriminate “harvest.” The 13 year old incense cedar gracing our front
room had been part of a little clump of five or six, bunched so close that as a group they would
never reach maturity. Growing on the very edge of the drive, even survivors would likely be
removed for road work. In cutting one this year, I thinned the stand, allowing more room for the
others, and eventually I should remove more, selecting a single strong keeper, and wishing it
Godspeed to take its rightful place in the forest.
Since mankind’s earliest days, cedars have represented permanence and strength. They are
recognized as powerful trees of great beauty providing durable wood lasting centuries.
Our pretty one here at home has taken its rightful place in our lives and is now part of our family.
I’ll keep the water bucket full as it absorbs moisture through its clean cut, the boughs fresh,
deep green and aromatic, the tippy top barely touching our ceiling. As has been our
arrangement for 44 years, I hang the lights, Hilda the ornaments.
This year, few will see it. Covid-19 has the world in a lock down and though many lovely trees
are on display in many homes, large groups will miss the most of them. That’s OK. Let’s hope
for the best next year. For now, Hilda and I are grateful for our petite Calocedrus decurrens
hailing from our place in Cuyamaca. At the coffee table, little Charlotte arranges Nativity figures
of pewter, and wonders at the twinkling lights.
The festive decorations are symbolic; all is well with the world, Christmas is here. We celebrate
a baby born in Bethlehem, a branch from the root of Jesse, the fulfillment of a promise (in whom remains more promise), and an incense cedar from North Peak. Thank God for Christmas, and
also for our tree, a symbol of great strength, power, and hope in this joyous season.