A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Trees Just Want to Be Free

This is my fifth Christmas at the Emory House. I moved in on December 22, 2003. Things were pretty disorganized at first, obviously, and there was no time to do much decorating. Cordelia came over with a little plant from the grocery store, a gardenia decorated with tiny colored balls. At least we could say we had a tree.

2004 was the year of Tent City. I had befriended Bob Chamberlain, a.k.a. John Horne, one of the residents. Bob was a registered nurse with plenty of work, but no transportation. I gave him many rides, more meals, and even more cups of tea, and he did many favors for me in return. One of them was to buy me a magnificent tree, which scraped the ten-foot ceiling of my parlor. We had to go to a certain special nursery near his old house in Longmeadow, where he had always shopped for Christmas trees. I was ecstatic.

In 2005, I went back to the same nursery to get another one of those fantastic trees, but the place was closed up for the winter, with a sign that read, "No Trees This Year." I tried Bluebird Acres in East Longmeadow, where I used go when I lived in Wilbraham. It was out of business. I tried the center of Wilbraham, where the Lions Club had its annual Christmas tree sale. The stakes and ropes and a few leftover branches were there, but no more trees. The same with the lot on Page Boulevard I had passed several times earlier in the month. I ended up at Rocky's Hardware, buying a dry and scraggly eight-footer for $25. One decorated, it looked great, however.

In 2006, I again waited till the last minute. I drove Trusty the Toyota in the direction of Wilbraham, picking up my cousin Geri on the way. We stopped by Walmart first on another errand, and what did we see but a sign that read, "All Trees--$0.00." Walmart was closing up their garden shop and throwing out all the greenery. Everything was free. I dragged the tallest tree, a ten-footer, to my car and strapped it to the roof. Then we stuffed the trunk and back seat with as many swags, wreaths, and lengths of roping as we could fit.

Things weren't looking too promising in the tree department this year. I was feeling broke, as usual, and had heard that prices were going up because of increased trucking costs. Fewer people are buying live trees, so there are fewer places selling them. Living downtown as I do and rarely driving anywhere, I wasn't familiar with any sale locations at all, let alone the best ones. Plus I had just totaled poor Trusty. Riding aimlessly all over town in the snow in my convertible didn't really appeal.

Walking the dog last week with my friend Brian, I spotted a Christmas tree next to a dumpster. It was half covered in snow.

"You're not thinking of taking that tree, are you?" he asked, knowing my frugal bent. "It's not even a whole tree--it's only a sawed-off bottom."

I wasn't sure about that. But I wasn't in the mood to deal with wrestling it home, so the matter was moot. Yesterday, however, when the weather was starting to look iffy and I still had no tree, my mood was different. There was the tree still--only now it was IN the dumpster. On the plus side, the dumpster was otherwise empty and the tree looked clean. And it was a whole tree. It looked to be about seven feet tall.

As I walked the dog home, I made up my mind. The tree was only about a thousand feet from my house. Time was getting short. A lonely, friendless tree and a broke, treeless woman: a match made in heaven.

I dragged the tree home. Ali gave it a fresh cut. Amir placed it in the stand. I decorated it. And it looks pretty good, imho. I wonder what next year will bring?

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