Part of the blogging experience is visiting other blogs – for advice, for ideas, and in the case of this post, for inspiration. I recently visited Visionary Gleam, where Jim Lewis posted “O Tanenbox, O Tanenbox,” a humorous and poignant look at his family’s Christmas tree tradition and the story of the ornaments.
I am a bit of a Scrooge when it comes to this most wonderful time of year, a fact that seems to worsen as I age. Jim’s well-written post, however, has left me thinking. A lot.
No matter how cynical I have become, the Christmas tree has always remained my favorite part of the holiday. Now, as I drive around town and peek into the windows of my neighbors and see their decorated trees, I wonder about their stories – and I reflect on the ghosts of my own Christmas trees past – long past and recent past.
There’s a handwritten sentence in the baby book my mother started for me when I was first born. There, in her cursive writing, is a brief sentence about the moment when the love affair began: “2 1/2 years old . Really knows what it’s all about . . . He says the tree has meatballs and a star.”
It’s 8:00 am, and I have swept the walk to my door for the buh-zillionth time, thanks to the squirrels who are ransacking my oak tree for acorns.
They’re also not the neatest nor efficient of eaters. As I sweep, I notice there’s a lot of waste. Mixed in with shards of shells are whole acorns — perfect for tucking away into the nether regions of your cheeks. So I wonder, just what are the squirrels getting so squirrely about?
First, there is the coming winter. There is a belief that you can predict what sort of winter you will have by observing the nuttiness of the squirrel population. It’s as if they are our very own Farmers’ Almanac. If that’s the case, then we are in for an Arctic blast of snow, ice, and below-freezing temperatures — and judging by the acorn debris that is littering my walkway, we may never thaw out. Either that, or my yard will be buried
24 hours later: Not so much.
in an avalanche of acorn shells — Long Island’s very own Pompeii.
Second, I’m concerned about the frenzy. This particular squirrel colony is in hyperactive mode, running and racing up and down trunks, onto branches, nibbling here, nibbling there. The squirrels are not just eating acorns; they are stockpiling them like a cult of the-world-is-ending believers. If they are like this now, what will they be like in December 2012, the notorious date when the Aztecs predicted the world would really end. There may not be enough nuts to satisfy their craving.
Third, and I am completely serious here, I think the squirrels have declared war on us. This nut stuff is just the opening volley. At this time of year, I cannot even stand and have a conversation with my neighbor on the walkway. If I do, I will be
pelted by not only debris, but whole acorns, as well. In fact, I think they are intentionally hurling these whole acorns at me.
You think I’m kidding. Just listen to the sound of a whole acorn falling from the tree and hitting the roof of your car parked on the driveway. It’s like the acorn shot heard ’round the world — and I find it difficult to believe that the velocity is the result of gravity alone. There has to be some squirrel strength behind that acorn. Perhaps the squirrel soldiers have fashioned a sling shot in the upper branches of the tree. Then, “Ready. Aim. Fire.” And each time they hit me or the car, I swear I can hear them giggling.
What to do with my furry frenemies? Trap them and release them to another location? Nah. That only encourages replacements to take up their positions. Cut down the oak tree? Absolutely not. I
Come on, Squirrels. How about a day off?
love the tree more than I dislike the squirrels. For, now I will have to be contented with a broom and a hard hat — and if the neighbors think I’m the nut case . . . Well, we’ll just see who’ll be laughing when the squirrels chase us up into the trees.
In the meantime, a friend found an abandoned baby squirrel and is now rehabilitating it. In addition to sweeping the walkway, I offered to gather acorns to feed this foster squirrel. I must be nuts.
Around the corner from my house, a tree fell during Hurricane Irene, blocking the entire roadway. By fortune, the tree did not land on a car or a house or power lines. Had the wind shifted, had the break happened a little bit lower on the trunk, who knows what damage that tree could have caused.
Still, there is something sad about the loss of a tree. As I looked at the site, I was taken by not only the enormity of the tree, but also by its age. They say that by examining the rings of a tree, you can see the tree’s life, when it was a wet year or a dry year. But the rings certainly can’t tell you what that tree came to mean to so many people; rings cannot tell you what any tree means to any person.
Staring at the tree, I thought about the trees in my own life. There was the fir tree in the backyard, under which I would play with Matchbox cars and Tonka trucks, building roads so that a large root became an overpass. There was the maple tree in the front yard, which would ignite with fiery leaves each autumn. We would then rake the leaves into a huge pile and run and jump into the pile, or even have a leaf war with friends across the street. My friend Thomas had a tree that was perfect for climbing, giving young minds a wh0le new view of life in suburbia. My friend Bobby had a tree house, a simple platform high off the ground, a refuge from summer play and heat.