Notes From Swan's Nest


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The Christmas Tree Surprise

The Christmas rush is over and my family and I have settled down to enjoying a post-Christmas glow.  It's a gloriously clear, cold mountain morning -- a day filled with infinite possiblilities.  Randy and our older son, Timothy are planning a cross country ski excursion, while I run a few errands and enjoy some quiet "home time" near our tall, fragrant Christmas tree.

It's a funny tree.  It's been such a busy year with the launch of our Thanksgiving television special, Randy announced a couple of weeks before Christmas that he thought a smaller tree would be a good idea this year -- 7 or 8 feet tall instead of last year's 13-foot tree.  That was fine with me, as I pictured in my mind the "perfect" seven foot Christmas tree, decorated with lights and glistening ornaments.  The afternoon we hiked into Swan's Nest's forest, we got a later start than we had intended, and the sun was already dropping near the mountain peaks.  It was cold and there was a fresh layer of fluffy snow on the trees, and as Randy and I started up the hill, I was mindful that we needed to find a tree without wasting too much time, cut it down, and head back to the warmth of the house before darkness fell.

We went from tree to tree, taking note of a few, rejecting others, but always wondering what was a few feet higher up the mountain.  At last, we found it -- a tree with a straight trunk and full branches, perched on a fairly steep slope.  It looked to be about 8 feet tall, which was close enough to our targeted height.  A few photos later, I knelt in the snow with Randy's tree saw and set to work.  Before long, the tree was cut and we were headed back down the hill toward home.  It wasn't until we reached the front porch that we realized this tree was a bit longer than it looked on the side of the hill.  In fact, once we inserted the trunk into the tree stand, we realized it was actually about 12 feet tall.  Oops!  So much for good intentions.  And what was with the lower half of the tree that looked so full against our boots?  With the hillside's sharp angle, Randy and I had been level with the tree's top five feet, which was indeed very full, but the lower half could only be described as sparse.  We couldn't help but laugh at the "Charlie Brown" tree before us -- tall, straight, thick at the top, sparse at the bottom -- and whatever happened to the branches in the back?  Okay, so it isn't a tree  that will ever grace the cover of a magazine, but hey.....laughter during the Christmas season is a good thing.  Some lights and ornaments, and it will be beautiful.

I never did find all the ornaments this year.  I remember packing them carefully, wrapping each fragile glass swan in tissue paper before placing them in the boxes.  Countless trips to the upstairs storage room and up to the barn proved futile.  No doubt, I'll discover the box of swan ornaments months from now when searching for something else.  Somehow, their temporary loss seems appropriate for our surprise of a tree this year.  With fewer ornaments, its quirks remain easily visible, but the best part of this year's tree has been the joy we've found while gathering around it.  Our time together as a family has been rich and full, like the top five feet of our tree.  We'll laugh about this tree for years to come, but the sweet memories will last a lifetime.