Flawed logic

Because the girls are grown and fledged, the way in which we celebrate Christmas has changed. That being said, we do have a tree in the living room, a cut tree that I found while driving through Nippenose Valley. Having a harvested tree in the house is one of the ways we have found to reduce some of the stress and work of the holiday. When Celia was five she observed that harvesting a tree, for the sole purpose of bringing it into the house and admiring it for a short while, seemed nonsensical. Although I will not claim to remember the exact way in which expressed her youthful logic, I can tell you that it was sound for it is true that plants are most beautiful when their roots are spread through the soil of their natural environment, when they are healthy, and most especially, when they are alive. What a wasteful thing it is, she observed, to cut down a thing of beauty. It was when she expressed these ideas that we began a family tradition of purchasing a live tree with which to celebrate the holiday. For nearly 25 years we would find a live, wrapped, tree, haul it into the house, adorn it with our collection of holiday regalia, admire it for the duration, haul it outside and heal it in until spring at which time we would then plant the tree as part of our farm landscape. It was a tradition that we practiced for all of those years … and for all the right reasons. I am feeling just a bit guilty as I write because it was I who convinced Joanna that we should forgo the tradition this year and could do with a U-Cut from down the road. I argued that live trees are expensive (perhaps four or five times the price of a cut tree), very tough to haul around (especially if the root ball is wet a live tree may weigh nearly 300 pounds), and it is always difficult for the tree to make the transition from cold-to-warm-to-cold and then survive the long wait until spring. Yesterday, our observation of the holiday included a walk along Pine Creek, at Waterville. We kept to the trail on the outbound leg and Joanna suggested that we follow an old post road on the return. The scenery on the inbound leg was beautiful. It had good topography and the ground was a mosaic of rocks, fungi, liverworts, mosses, ferns, and trees. About half way back Joanna pointed to a number of pine seedlings which had established themselves as part of a large, discontinuous, carpet of moss which clung, brightly and with a profusion of color, to the forest floor. The area in which we were hiking forms the southern-most reaches of the Pine Creek Gorge. Although heavily wooded along its length, the steep slopes which form the walls of this beautiful valley have thin soils, and plants well adapted to such conditions may be found in abundance. I was glad to see such a large number of evergreen seedlings in obvious good health. I was glad to know that the likelihood they would thrive and grow to replace their elder brethren all around was high. I was glad because the roots of these little plants were spreading through the soil of their natural environment, they were healthy, and most especially, they were alive. Perhaps I will rethink the logic of our holiday tree, next year.


23 thoughts on “Flawed logic

  1. People often look down on those who have a cut tree for their celebrations, but here on the Gulf coast, the usefulness of Christmas trees doesn’t end once the ornaments come off.

    They’re collected in great numbers, and used for everything from dune stabilization at the beaches to fish habitat in the lakes. Collection points are established, and companies who do hauling volunteer equipment and time. It’s a bit of an irony that, in the end, cutting a living tree may do more good for the environment than using a Chinese-produced artificial tree that’s awash in polyvinyl chloride and lead.

    The photo’s pure delight. Baby plants are as cool as baby animals, and these are especially appealing.

    • Yes, many municipalities across the country have thankfully undertaken programs to recycle Christmas Trees. Also, I like your final comment about baby plants. I had never thought about it, but upon reflection must agree with you. D

  2. Beautiful image! I wish I could recognize the seedlings, but I don’t so I ask the expert: Which sort of pine is this? As I understood the term ‘pine’ in English is used for a class of trees (Latin: Pinus) whereas in German ‘Pinie’ rather refers to the varieties found in the mediterranean region (and not in Austria), the ones with the tasty seeds, like Pinus pinea. I have found the forests on the Canary Islands impressive, consisting solely of Pinus canariensis.

    The traditional Austrian Christmas tree is fir or spruce. We have none – we just kept the remainders of last year’s small floral arrangement of allegedly Christmas-y stuff … which is still alive although only attached to a sponge, perhaps this was not intended by the creator.

  3. I admit that in my whole life I had never heard of the idea of using a live tree. It is, though, such a wonderful idea! Here where I am from trees are something we take for granted. The whole province (with the exception of the northernmost part of Labrador) is mostly unspoilt – trees and wetlands everywhere. Consider this: NL is 3.5 times the size of PA in terms of area but has 1/25 the population! So, traditionally, wood has been a staple – we build almost everything from it, and it has been the traditional means by which people heated their homes. That part is changing, of course now that oil is king. Most of our trees are either Balsam fir or black spruce. The former has traditionally been used for Christmas trees and the latter for wood products and for pulp and paper. In the past most trees that were used for Christmas also found their way to the wood stove before all was done 🙂 These days, with most people using oil the city has engaged in a ‘recycling’ program. People drop their Christmas trees off at Bowring Park and the city staff grind them to mulch, which is used throughout the city – not a bad idea all things considered. As for the traditional trees, over the past decade many households have replaced the traditional wild balsam fir with ones commercially grown in Nova Scotia. From an aesthetic perspective those are much more handsome ones. As for the environment – I am not so sure. Yes, trees are renewable and are carbon neutral but there’s still the transportation issues. Still – it contributes to the economy and creates jobs so … heck I don’t know 🙂

  4. If you’d gone to Japan, you could’ve had a tree from a Nipponese valley rather than the Nippenose Valley. The American name makes me think of “Jack Frost nipping at your nose.” I hope yours doesn’t get too nipped as you take winter photographs.

  5. I love that photo, the moss just looks so inviting … and such a lush fresh green! The swither over a cut tree, a living tree, or a reproduction tree … its so hard, and really you can only go with your instinct and your gut 🙂

  6. Reminds me of the little tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas! A sweet image in its simplicity. After all those years of planting your holiday trees, you must have some lovely specimens on your own property!

    • One would think so … but much of our ground has turned out to be a bit too wet for both Pine and Spruce. There are a few that have survived however. Thanks for checking in.

      • Love that word swither, although I must admit I had to look it up! You are right about the difficulty of tree choice. In our case, a change in circumstance has pretty much determined the (tentative) change in tradition. It has been a bit hard for Joanna. Who knows what we will decide next year? Thanks for checking in this evening.

    • It surely is! Good for you for making the identification. Yes … images like this are difficult to put into correct perspective without something for scale. If you’re not quite sure what you’re looking at, it can indeed look like a forest in miniature! D

  7. I remember one year helping to dig the hole for one of those trees, and it that it was very cold and possibly raining at the time. I believe your “flawed logic” of this year would have made perfect sense to me then… I love the photo! Tiny trees with big hopes…

  8. I remember one year helping to dig the hole for one of those trees, and that it was very cold and possibly raining at the time. I believe your “flawed logic” of this year would have made perfect sense to me then … I love the photo! Tiny trees with big hopes …

      • You got it! I never remember to check to see if my name shows up before submitting my comment. We are actually on the airplane awaiting take off on our way back to AZ. Uncommonly good airplane reading!

  9. This is a very nice shot and even better after reading your post, D.A. As one who tries to never harm what I find in nature, I can’t help but smile at your daughter’s concern for cutting a tree just to end up tossing it aside after a short time. When Mary Beth and I married, I started attending her family’s Christmas Day celebration and they always had a gorgeous ceiling height formerly live tree wonderfully decorated. When we got our own home, the question came up what should we do. It turned out that she already had a 3 foot artificial tree that we have used almost every year since 1986. This year we had Santa in a sleigh … much shorter and a lot less work than a live tree … plus we don’t really have a spot to plant one. I like that you left everything as found. I might have been tempted to do a little “housekeeping” which might have rendered an image with a little less impact. I’ve also noticed a trend; I hope you are rewarding Joanna with a finder’s fee. 🙂

    • Thanks Steve, Joanna has already read your comment. I hope she does not take your suggestion. Each time we go for a walk I’ll say, “Let me know if you see anything nice,” and she invariably comes up with more good possibilities than I do. I can be quickly dismissive of her good suggestions … and she’s a real good sport about it though and simply allows the final editorial cuts up to me. It’s funny how individual the artistic eye is. I suppose it’s good then that photography of the sort you and I practice is pretty much an ‘individual sport.’ I cannot imagine how artistic decisions might be made by committee … you know, the sorts that are made all the time at advertising and PR firms and so on. I often think something similar about post processing. If you and I were given the same RAW file, for example, one taken by a third person … you and I would each see something different in terms of the potential of the image and ‘push/pull’ it in differing ways to realize that potential. Our final images would, I think, be very different – because of our very different artistic senses.

      • You don’t want to get me started on Advertising Firms. Especially the larger national ones.

        I enjoy the individual part of nature photography. At least the part where I go places where they ain’t. Time with a kindred spirit is fine but I don’t always enjoy answering questions while trying to make an image.

        Agreed. We each have a special way of seeing things. Both the capture and the processing are likely to be different between most of us.

  10. I like the way you bring the foreground into sharp focus, while the background is just a vague impression. This is, after all, the way life is, and you mirror it so well in your pictures. Today is fresh and crisp, while yesterday fades into memory. So often your pictures are a metaphor for this phenomenon which you capture so well … past and present. Happy holidays, and thanks for all the pretty pictures and insights.

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