two trunks, brown needles & purpose

The Friday after Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year.


It’s always cold. It’s usually raining. There is the average amount of whining and complaining. But we brave it every year, and we always come home with a tree.

A beautiful tree.

But not this year.

This year’s tree is lopsided. It has a rather large hole on one side, and branches that point at awkward angles. It has two trunks. Two trunks.

WTH? I can hear you thinking. Can’t these people see? Yes, yes we can. It wasn’t that we set out to buy an altruistic tree. But we had to crane our necks way up and squint and guess and try to imagine what a very tall tree would look like once it was brought to the ground and trimmed to size.

Because the trees at our local farm have contracted a fungus. One that turns the needles the color of rust. Oh, did I forget that part? Yes, while the outer edges of the tree are freshly green, the inner needles look like they belong to a tree left up until June. Of 2017.

The Tree Guy advised us to pick a very tall tree, and they would happily only charge us for the part we needed. A grand plan. Because the trees down low? Rusty needles. Everywhere. “It could be the nail in the coffin. I’m not sure we’ll be open next year. I’m not even sure we’ll be open next weekend.”

It will be great! We told the kids. With a little bit of love and lots of twinkle lights, this tree will be transformed. It will be majestic. It will be…

Homely. Eleanor added that word to her vocabulary.

We brought home the Tree With Great Potential. We wrestled it into the stand (two trunks, remember?). We twisted it this way and that—and then a bit more. The tree fell over. On Cole. Undaunted, although slightly bruised, we tried again. Could we hide the gap? Minimize the shape? Tuck the brownest needles in the back?

No. Not even a little.

The ornaments may be up, and the lights may be on, but no amount of strategically placed fanciness is going to hide the true nature of this tree.

She is no beauty.

When you look at her, instead of an oooooh, or aahhhhh, this tree elicits more of giggle. An uncontrolled laugh. You can easily imagine she is the cousin to Charlie Brown’s tree.

All weekend long I walked around the tree. Tried to see past the brown needles. Tried not to see straight through the gaping hole. Tried to embrace her inner beauty.

Last night I realized I was looking for the wrong things.

The tree’s purpose isn’t to be perfectly beautiful.

It’s there to stand. Tall and silent. To extends its awkwardly angled branches to pull us in and slow us down. To remind us of our day together in the crisp air and quiet forest. To invite us to close our eyes and breathe. Because, it turns out, rust-colored needles still smell pine-green.

It does all those things.


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