taking down the tree

Yesterday, we took down our Christmas tree.

It’s a necessary task, but always a bit sad.

It’s also very nostalgic. This time, I was struck by these ornaments in particular.

These ornaments double as candy cane holders, so that they look like hobby horses when they hang on the tree. The red one was made over fifty years ago by my spouse B when he was in elementary school. The white one was made about thirty years ago by B’s mom, when she was teaching in elementary school and would lead her students in creating a holiday gift for their parents. She would always make extras to give to family members. I’m sure hers were prettier than her students, although all are equally treasured.

These and all the other ornaments are safely stowed now, waiting for next Christmas – or maybe the one after that, if we decide to spend the holidays in London this year.

Fortunately, the memories are easily accessible at any time.
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here: https://lindaghill.com/2023/01/16/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-16th-2023/

baby ash

I wrote in January about having to take down the ash tree in our backyard because it had been infested with emerald ash borer.

This week, we noticed something growing near the stump.

It’s a new ash tree!

It’s growing very quickly. It certainly has a very large root structure, given that it is growing directly from where the bark meets the wood of the stump. Given its position, we aren’t sure it will survive long-term, but it is nice to see nature trying to come back from a plague.

A little hope is a good thing to have right now.

Ash down

In November, I posted about the ash tree in our backyard being massively damaged by emerald ash borers, with an assist from woodpeckers.

This week, with the ground frozen and the tree service available, it was cut down. The last time we had a tree removed from the backyard, the tree service parked a truck with a boom in our driveway and worked over the garage roof. They have gotten some new, more flexible equipment since then. Our favorite was this platform vehicle.
remote control platform vehicle
It operated by remote control! Biggest remote control vehicle I’d ever seen…

When it was in the backyard and in use, it looked like this:
tree platform in the backyard

The first thing that happened was trimming of some encroaching limbs from two nearby maple trees. Next, the branches of the ash were sawed off and lowered to the ground to be picked up and fed into a chipper that was parked along the street. Then, the upper parts of the trunk were cut until what was left could be brought down without hitting the house.

They used a chainsaw to cut a huge wedge near the base of the trunk.
a big chip!

And, finally, this:

Because other trees are so close, they didn’t try to grind down the stump for fear of damaging the roots of the maples and oak. I wonder how long it will be to adjust to the new look of the backyard?
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/23/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-23rd-2020/


Lent in my church

Many Catholic churches use bare branches instead of flowers during Lent. In recent years, my church has used small trees instead of branches. This Lent, the church environment committee went one step further.

It’s the first time I can recall seeing the corpus removed from the cross.

I find it very striking. It reminds me of some of the Lenten hymns that speak of Jesus being hung on or nailed to “a tree.”

Some people may find this too unusual a presentation.

Feel free to share your comments below.

Christmas tree takedown

Over the weekend, B and T undecorated the Christmas tree. We usually do this on Epiphany, but that was when L was flying out to return to London, so it got pushed back this year. Because B and E had cut the tree down themselves in mid-December, it was still in good shape so the extra week in the house didn’t matter.

I admit that I continued my largely hands-off policy with the tree. I didn’t really even look at it that much, other than when I would bring ABC close to it because she enjoyed the lights and grabbing at a few strategically placed safe ornaments. I especially liked that she played with – and could chew on – a red plastic-canvas-and-yarn ornament that was part of a set I had made before ABC’s mom E was born. E and T both played with those ornaments when they were young and I appreciated seeing our first grandbaby doing the same.

The other thing that was comforting about the tree this year was the scent. Even though I didn’t much care to look at the tree and often sat with my back to it, I loved the scent of our Canaan fir. I miss it now that it is gone.

This morning, a truck from the town came by and collected the tree from the curb. It and the other Christmas trees will become mulch for use in the town parks. Having served its purpose at our home, I’m glad that it has been returned to the natural world.
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2018/01/15/jusjojan-daily-prompt-january-15th-2018/



We are a few days into the season of Lent, traditionally a time of increased prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for Christians. I like to also do some additional spiritual reading and I am loving the reflections on stories about women in the Bible that my friend Rev. Pat Raube is sharing this year through her blog, A Swimmer in the Fount.

I admit that I am feeling discouraged this year, though. Trying to live a life of charity and advocating for social justice has become even more difficult here in the United States, with many threats to human dignity and to our environment. No matter how hard I try, I can’t protect people from difficulties or make things better for them.

At church this morning, I was looking toward the altar when something caught my eye. Instead of decorating with fresh flowers and plants, during Lent many churches feature bare branches, and our church has two fairly large trees on either side of the altar. I noticed that, high in the tree on the right side, the tip of a branch had broken and was hanging down, held by some bark or wood fibers.

I feel like that bit of broken branch, hanging down, bare, and useless. Still, it is in a place where it is protected from wind, so it won’t be disconnected entirely from the tree. Maybe enough connection remains that, when the sap rises, there can be some healing or some new growth from the brokenness.

Today, though, it does not feel that way.


Visiting chapel and Beth’s tree

Mary, Tricia, and I with Beth's tree next to Helen Hills Hills Chapel, Smith College
Mary, Tricia, and I with Beth’s tree next to Helen Hills Hills Chapel, Smith College

After the Alice Parker concert at Sage Hall, Mary, Tricia and I proceeded up the hill near Paradise Pond to Helen Hills Hills Chapel.

Our first priority was to visit the winter-flowering cherry tree planted beside the chapel that is dedicated to the memory of Beth McBeath, another class of ’82 Glee Club member, who died as the result of an airplane fire during October break of our senior year.  Her funeral was held at the chapel and Glee Club sang Bach’s setting of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” through our tears during the service.  Later, I attended the planting of the memorial tree, although the tree in the photo is not the original tree but a replacement for the one we planted that day, a weeping cherry that was unrecoverably damaged in an ice storm years later.

Beth was a light-filled, infectiously joyous person. She served the Ecumenical Christian Church (ECC) at Smith as a deacon and liturgist.  She participated in the Smith choral program in all her years there, serving as an officer as well as lending her alto voice to our choirs.  In the best tradition of the liberal arts, she studied with both breadth and depth, including taking a course in the art department on bookmaking.  She was always friendly and interested in other people.  Like me, as we entered our senior year, she was engaged to be married.

Her loss, along with another classmate who died from lung cancer later in our senior year, taught us not to take time for granted.  Her memorial tree is something that I try to visit every time I get back to campus. I make donations to the Smith Fund in her memory, which puts me in touch with her mom, who still survives.  Mary sent the photo, which we took with her phone, to Beth’s mom.  I hope it made her smile.

After visiting the tree, we went into the chapel.  None of us had seen it since the pews were removed, although we had seen a photo in the Smith Alumnae Quarterly.  Despite that, it still was a bit of a shock to walk through the front doors of the chapel, which was modeled after a traditional New England Congregational style church, and not see the rows of white-painted wooden pews with the red center aisle carpet down which I had walked as a June bride a few weeks after our commencement.  Instead, there were heavy, boxy wooden chairs, arranged in circles over a wood floor.  Given that there are no longer regular worship services in the chapel, a fact that still makes me sad, I do understand the impetus to remove the pews to make the space more versatile for concerts and other events, but I wish that the wood floor had been a traditional New England hardwood and the chairs had been more elegant and in keeping the architecture.

Still it was better than the last time I had visited chapel in May 2012, when I wrote this poem that touches on both the chapel and Beth’s tree. chapel at reunion  (Sorry for the pdf embedding, but I didn’t have time to fiddle with the editing settings to get the indents and spacing to work correctly.)

After walking through the main body of the chapel, we went upstairs to the gallery and visited the organ, which was a memorial gift in honor of Helen Hills Hills’ husband James. I spent so many hours on that bench, practicing, having lessons, accompanying for Choir Alpha, playing for Mass, prepping for my junior recital with Mary and Natalie, preparing for and playing preludes or postludes for ECC services, and additional hours standing beside the bench turning pages for other organists.  It’s moments like this when it feels odd that I haven’t played for years…

We also walked to the basement where the offices are. Almost every room has a different occupant or purpose than when we were there.  I thought about the series of Marc Chagall prints that used to hang in the hallway.  I think the art museum took custody of them so that they are in a better protected environment, but it used to be so cool to have original artworks in an everyday space. The Bodman Lounge is still there, with shelves of spiritual and religious books and couches and comfy chairs.  Mary had given me a bridal shower there and it was the room in which I dressed for my wedding.

I felt reluctant to leave. Even with all the changes, the richness of the memories will always draw me back.

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