Monday, January 07, 2008

Oh Christmas tree sawdust

I carted the Christmas tree off to the charity tree chipping event this weekend. While most folks dumped their tree and left, I waited, and watched with sadness as the firemen pushed it through the chipper. "So long you pretty little tree. Don't worry, you'll have fun, mulch."

Here in British Columbia we can cut Christmas trees on unoccupied Crown land in most Forest Districts. The only rules are, they have to be growing under power lines or within 3 metres either side of a logging road, or in designated areas set aside and rotated over the years. We head out each year to our "spot" in the Squamish Forest Distict, just off the Squamish main line logging road. I can't tell you any more than that, it's our secret! It's only an hour from Vancouver, and bonus: the Squamish Brew Pub is on the route home.

I am ambivalent about Christmas, but not the Christmas tree. I still feel childish excitement when the tree goes up, filling the house with the smell of the woods; transforming into magic as each light and bauble goes on.

One reason I still love it so much is because of a tradition I started over 20 years ago. Whenever I travel, I shop for a Christmas tree ornament that will remind me of the trip. Sometimes the find is easy, like this one from San Francisco:

And this one from Nova Scotia:

And these ones from Nepal and from Thailand. (Who knew you could find Christmas tree ornaments in Buddhist/Hindu and Buddhist/Muslim countries?)

If I can't find an actual tree ornament, I look for something I can make into one by attaching a little screw eyelet into the top for hanging. That's how I turned these souvenirs that sell in tourist shops in Mexico into treasured Christmas ornaments.

Each Christmas tree is a wonderful reminder of the places I have been in this big, amazing world. As I hang each ornament on a branch (and even when I take them down again) I get to remember gazing at Mayan ruins, a hike up a tropical mountain, or the sight of a cow with a red dot on its forehead sleeping in a busy intersection.

Here are some more of my travel memory decorations, from, in order, Tanzania, London, and Singapore.

My favourite Christmas tree ornament of all is a reminder of a different journey. A long one. The most rewarding, difficult, important, and exciting journey I will ever take. The ornament is home made, and very precious.


Ian Lidster said...

Love your ornaments, and especially the little cablecar. We do the same thing when we travel, and they make great mementoes we can revisit each year.
So nice to see you, as always, lovely, smart and witty lady (what a combo) and I hope your season went as well as it could have.
Frankly (and not cynically) I am always glad when it's over and life returns to some semblance of normality. At least as normal as it can be for a guy who tries to write for a living.
Blessings to you and yours for 2008.

Ian Lidster said...

Back at you. You noted on my blog that you had sent an email, but I did not get it. If you wish to try again

Jazz said...

What a lovely post.

I tend to pick up stuff when I travel too.

The tree is still up at the cottage, it'll be coming down this week or next...

Alda said...

Great tradition. And beautiful ornaments, especially the last one. I'm guessing the journey was ... motherhood?

We took down our tree this afternoon and bid it a very sad farewell. It was possibly the most beautiful tree we've had and still so vibrantly alive. I suspect because we gave it such extra special watering and care.

Diana said...

I adore ornaments and trees. I've noticed that, while back in the Pacific Northwest, the tree would fill the house with scent, the trees out here in the Northern Midwest don't smell unless you literally put your nose on a branch.

Pity that.

Rozanne said...

Lovely ornaments! And what a wonderful tradition. I'm partial to the articulated kitty!

Voyager said...

Ian, I have to admit I am glad it's all over too. Christmas is just too "in your face" for too long.

Jazz, Since your tree is still up, why not take some photos of your travel ornaments and post them, I'd love to see some.

Alda, Motherhood indeed.The never-ending journey.

Diana, We could market evergreen scent in a can to spray the tree. Good for artificial trees too!

Rozanne, I've had a real cat in the tree once. They do not make good ornaments!


jmb said...

Voyager these are wonderful and how brilliant of you to collect all these memories. Why have I never thought of that? Even Ian has!
I hope you are doing well. I've been thinking of you and your Dad. Tough times for everyone.

I assume you were talking about the rolling code in the box. It it our BP blogroll but you must be able to do it for any blogroll on I'll look at the code and see what I can figure out. I can send it to you and maybe you can substitute your own.

Rhea said...

Lucky for you having a whole forest to choose from. I love Canada.

Carver said...

I love your Christmas tree story and how your ornaments hold so many memories. I'm similar although I've stopped having a big tree. The funny thing though is although I didn't have a big tree this year, I hung some of my favorite ornaments, which didn't fit on the little tree, on my living room curtain rod. I like the way you watch the tree being turned into chips for mulch. I actually love the way old life nurtures new life once it's composted. There is something beautiful about that cycle to me.

Big Brother said...

What a nice way to keep your memories alive. We don't collect Christmas tree ornaments since we don't have a Christmas tree but Mrs. BB and I do collect bits and pieces for the village from wherever we go. We have an Royal Mail mailbox from Edinburgh and telephone box from London, a Guinness delivery truck from Ireland and many other little things that are easy to carry and stuff in our baggage. :o)

CS said...

I have a little trolley car from SF, too, and a painted wooden fish from Mexico turned into an ornament! I love ornaments that remind me of good things in my life. Our tree became firewood (the branches scattered in the wooded bit behind our house).

riseoutofme said...

Lovely collection of ornaments! especially the last one ...

You make me want to go to Canada .... tomorrow ...

Echomouse said...

I also love all the original ornaments. You have some really unique ones :)

I'm one of the bad people who hauls her tree out to my curb. When I was in an apartment, I used to drive it to the recycle spot. But now, I'm too ill. I'm lucky that I can still manage a tree. So even though I'm not helping, I hope there are exceptions for us sick people :(
(this is one of the things I hate about being ill too...I'm hurting the planet! wah!!!!)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I do the same thing, collect mementos that can become ornaments. And you're so right about the last one! Lovely photos, all.

Watching your Christmas tree go through the chipper sounds a bit like holding a sick old pet while it is being put down humanely.

Dumdad said...

There's an award awaiting you at my blog.

Jocelyn said...

Oh, you break me open with how lovely you are--especially that last ornament!

I'm not big on trees or ornaments, but you may convert me!

Ruth L.~ said...

Late to the post, but I love it. I love the idea of you watching the trees "chipation." And the ornaments are beautiful. I wish I'd started something like that. I have ornaments from my students, and of course the ones my kids made.

Voyager said...

jmb, I'll check it out on, thanks.

Rhea, Well, not the whole forest to choose from. Mostly only under power lines or next to logging roads. The trees under power lines or near logging roads have to be cleared every 10 or 15 years anyway, so I never feel bad taking one for christmas.

Carver, I so agree with you about the cycle of growing plants, using them, and then composting or mulching. I love it.

Big Brother, Your village is amazing, and what a great idea to collect bits for it from your travels.

CS, I am delighted that we have some travel ornaments in common. And that someone else thinks there is nothing strange about having a fish in a Christmas tree!

Riseoutofme, There will never be an ornament as special as one made out of a photo of my baby (now 21). Well, maybe a photo ornament of a grandchild would come close. In due course.

Echomouse, Maybe when your tree is picked up from the curb it gets taken for chipping. Many communities do that. In any case, we do what we can, and I'm sure you do lots for the environment since you obviously care so much.

Heartinsanfrancisco, I would love to see your Christmas tree full of momentos and hear the stories behind them. I know they would be riveting.

Dumdad, Thank you, I am happy to know you consider me someone who can make your day.

Jocelyn, You are so sweet! The tree makes Christmas for me.

Ruth, The ornaments your kids make are the most pecious of all.

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