Thursday, December 3, 2009

Felling the Yule Tree

AN OLD GENTLEMAN could be seen struggling to shuffle up a cold December hillside. A biting upslope breeze tossed daggers of ice through layers of clothing and nearly frozen mud caked his soft-soled shoes. His cane had a nasty dollop on the tip as well. The younger people had hiked ahead, scouting through the grove of pine and fir for the perfect holiday tree. Occasionally, they tossed a glance back, just to see that the old man was still there. However, when the quest for the tree became more intense, the little check-in glances became less frequent, and, once over a hill’s crest, became meaningless.

At length, a small but handsome tree was felled, however, upon return, the old gent was nowhere to be seen along the muddy path. Had he fallen? Did he wander off into the grove? And what about these winter temperatures?

A holiday season crisis was averted when, a hundred yards distant, back near the Christmas tree farm sales office, the old man was seen alternately warming his backside, then his front side from the glow of a crackling and fragrant bonfire of pine boughs and tree stumps. Facing away from the blaze, he peered through rheumy eyes at the glazed winter peaks some thirty miles east, marveling, perhaps, at their purity and how they reached skyward to, perhaps, touch heaven. When turned about, the dancing flames enchanted him. He laughed with children whom he didn’t know as they darted in and about, perhaps recalling campfires antics of long, long ago. He even held one child’s Styrofoam cup of hot chocolate and marshmallows as the tad frolicked.

After loading the tree into the bed of the pickup, we encouraged Father to shuffle toward the truck. This he did, glancing occasionally over his shoulder toward the snowcapped peaks and occasionally toward the near-by merriment of that winter fire. Once inside, the delight still glowed in his eyes. “I’ve been eighty-five years,” he said, “and always had a Christmas tree in the house.” He paused. “But this is the first time I ever went in the woods and actually cut one.”

Then he added: “I think I’ll remember this forever.”

© 2007
Church of the Open Road Press

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