Sunday, December 20, 2009

Blackberry Bog

Plans to go get ourselves a tree today were almost thwarted by the fact that my car died last night. I was 2 kilometres from home when several mishaps occur simultaneously: the "ABS" light came on, then the "Check Engine" warning (never a good sign) and "At Oil Temp" lit up, the headlights were snuffed out, the speedometer failed, the left turn indicator refused to flash and the radio/CD/iPod player became mute (the least of my worries by then). I think the car made it into my driveway through pure adrenaline at that point and I was saying a silent prayer of thanks for reaching home and not having to pull Sonshine out of his car seat and struggle to stroll him through snowy gravel to reach our rural farmhouse along a stretch of road where cars and trucks regularly go 80kms/hr.

I awake this morning saddened to think we may not have a tree up in time for the Winter Solstice tomorrow, never mind by Christmas Day on Friday when the phone rings. Brother-in-law to the rescue! My twin sister's husband, Geoff, a gem of a man, refuses to allow my son's first Yuletide and Christmas to pass without a proper tree under which to store his presents. Hooray!


Geoff arrives early afternoon with some Timmy Horton's coffee for the road and after finagling the switch of car seat from my automobile to his, we take off for Blackberry Bog. This is a Christmas Tree farm on some acreage near my home owned and operated by a jolly fellow named Stan. Basically, you wander through the woods, find your Yule or Christmas tree and cut it down yourself. The cost of purchasing the tree goes toward planting new ones for future harvesting.

When we arrive Stan is standing beside the fire that keeps him warm with a beautiful Scottish tam on his head. Last year when I went Yule tree hunting on my own, I was about 25 weeks pregnant and Stan accompanied me, cut down my tree, hauled it back to the car and stuffed it in for me. What a sweetheart! He belongs to the same local bagpipe band that my neighbour's son, Sam, plays for and they perform at the Fergus Highland Games each year. The sound of Sam practicing his pipes in the back field during the summer evenings is something I will sorely miss once I move next spring. But bagpipes, besides being melodic, carry a haunting sound so I will happily be haunted by them once I leave here.

Sonshine isn't sure what to make of a trek through the woods on a snowy afternoon, especially with his Uncle Geoff brandishing that saw. We make our way through a good number of evergreens and spruce, but have to veer to a different spot for my favourite kind of Yule tree: a Scotch pine.

Part of the original tradition of Yule logs is that people would choose a special tree each year, cut it down, bring it into the home and decorate it. The following winter, they would then use the log of that tree (or the whole of the tree) as the first wood to burn in the hearth. It was a kind of homage to the cycle of the sun; deference to the tree itself, the Goddess and the Winter Solstice, the 'birth' of the Sun on the longest night of the year. Many Christmas traditions hail from earlier pagan traditions and the Yule log is an especially lovely one. I will miss burning the log of this pine in my current woodstove next winter, but perhaps I'll have another woodstove in my new home, whereever we end up!


Marching through the woods, we find a suitable Scotch pine. Trees are among my favourite things on the planet, so it is with great reverence that I whisper a little prayer of thanks to the tree for allowing my laddie and I to take it back home with us. Sonshine eyes Geoff as he cuts the pine down and then we head back to Stan and the car. Geoff secures the tree to the car roof while I strap a sleepy boy into the carseat.

By the time we get home, dusk is nearing. Geoff turns down the offer of hot chocolate so he can try to stay ahead of the darkness of rural roads once the sun sets. My son is fast asleep on the cushion where he lays and I gaze out the window at my car, sigh and smile.

The scent of pine needles soothes my soul. Tomorrow, the darkest day of the year, will be a little brighter now and we will have fun decorating this beautiful Scotch pine in time to celebrate the Solstice.

Thank you, Uncle Geoffy!
Thank you, God and Goddess both.
Thank you, Scotch pine for bringing beauty to my home.
And to the season.

Here's wishing you all a bright and beautiful Solstice!
Happy, happy holly days!

Music: Charlie Brown Christmas Dance, Vince Guaraldi


Brian Miller said...

this one gave me a smile...i spent many a year as a young lad walking the tree farm with my dad. so glad the little on will have a tree as well...i can see his eyes widening in astonishment...sorry abou thte car...hope its nothing serious.

love me some bagpipes as well.

the b in subtle said...

i hope the car's alright, too. cross your fingers for us. if you love bagpipes, you can see us being serenaded by sam here. so strange to look back at that video now, he was so much smaller! how he's grown. time has wings. it really does. i also took one of us treehunting today. we had a fun time! glad it brought smiles.

Cabo said...

That was a warm and inviting post and quite the joy to read. May you, yours, and the tree have a wonderful Christmas. :)

Anonymous said...

HI! my first time here! good post!

Ciara said...

What a perfect way to get your Yule Tree. Our usual little tradition was thwarted this year by a shortage of trees, so we had to make do with a roadside purchase. Not quite the same!

And you have snow! Real snow! ...sigh...