I am not a fan of Halloween or horror, fear or fright. I like well-lit rooms, laughter, and sunlight. Creepy just isn’t for me.
If there’s snow falling on this WordPress blog, it must mean that it’s December — and since I’m in south Florida at the moment, I have a feeling these digital dots may be the closest I come to the white stuff this holiday season.
Take, for example, my recent trip to purchase a Christmas tree.
In recent weeks, large tents have popped up all over. It’s as if lots and lots of circuses have come to town. But under these big tops — necessary to protect the fresh trees from the heat of the sun — freshly bundled Christmas trees are lined up like soldiers, the smell of pine is everywhere, and Christmas carols play from the speakers.
It’s also 75 degrees — and I’m wearing shorts and sandals, which are a far cry from my typical bundled-up Christmas tree shopping gear, although I did add a sweatshirt to at least create the illusion that it’s chilly.
There are some words and phrases in the English language that completely baffle me. You might even say they are my phonetic foibles.
Awry is one of those words. When my eyes come across it in a sentence, my mind immediately wants to pronounce it as aw-ree. When I do, it’s followed by a momentary beat and I say to myself, “Oh, it’s uh-rye again.”
That’s fine if I’m reading quietly, but not if the word should make an appearance mid-paragraph if I were reading aloud. In that situation, I don’t think there’s such a thing as even a little-bit pregnant pause.
A new word joined the list just a few years ago. Quinoa. Sorry doesn’t seem to be the hardest word, Elton. Quinoa is. If I see it on a menu or in the grocery store, my first impulse is to say, kwin-o-uh — like it’s a summer camp on the shores of a Catskill lake. It never ever occurred to me to pronounce it as keen-wah.
Nana’s tree, a blue spruce, was brought down this past weekend after a life that was long and well-lived, a life that provided shade and shelter to family and countless birds and squirrels.
These were the words that started to come to mind as I watched the men of the cutting crew strategize how to remove something in less than an hour, something that took Nature nearly 50 years to grow, something that was selected by Joe’s grandmother when his family first moved to Long Island and which remained after Joe and I purchased the house. I was reminded of my mother’s annual Thanksgiving comment: “It takes so long to prepare everything, but it’s over so quickly.”
Yesterday, I was humming Christmas carols. Today, my lyrics sound more like this:
“There’s got to be a morning after, if we can hold on through the night
We have a chance to find the sunshine; let’s keep on looking for the light.
Oh, can’t you see the morning after? It’s waiting right outside the storm.
Why don’t we cross the bridge together and find a place that’s safe and warm?”
We can learn a lot from trees. I first realized this after visiting the Survivor Tree at Ground Zero — and now, in the wake of Sandy, trees continue to teach me.
Take a look at this one. It’s a Bradford Pear — or, rather, what’s left of a Bradford Pear.
It was planted years ago, along with two others, by a local business interested in prettying up a very busy street corner. I remember when they were all planted. I was thrilled — at last, a business was taking an interest in beautifying the community.
Besides, at the time, the Bradford Pear was the tree of the moment, planted by towns and homeowners because of its flowering beauty, graceful shape, and instant shade ability. Their abundance in the landscape — both public and private — turned spring into a flowering tree extravaganza.
The trees planted by this business did what they were expected to do — especially on hot summer days when residents huddled under their cool shade while waiting for the public bus.
But one by one, the trees have disappeared. One was badly damaged after being hit by a car. A second came down in a storm. Now, this is the sole survivor, and I know the story of each of its missing limbs — as if I am telling the tales of the scars on my own body.