How amazing that there is a culturally approved opportunity to bring a real live whole tree into my home to sit in the front window of the living room for all the passers-by to see! It’s such an odd tradition, seen with fresh eyes. Why do we do it? There’s never a holiday where we bring a boulder into our homes.
Whatever the original reason, I’m delighted we do. I love trees. They’ve grown to have a significant place in my pantheon of spiritual practice. It began on a walk I used to take regularly on a path that led beside a row of evergreen trees. They called to me to brush their branch tips with my bare fingers. In winter I’d take off a mitt to let the direct contact happen. I was surprised to notice that I felt a subtle… something. Their energy, is one way of putting it. The trees of a park a little further down the path would call me to place my palm directly on their trunks, standing quietly with the tree. This palm-to-trunk contact inexplicably produces a calming, grounded effect in me.
The weekend has arrived when we must say farewell to the tree that has shared our home for weeks. I sit in the armchair beside it, artificial lights turned off in the dim morning light, so that the tree’s own spirit can shine through. I have treated it as a presence unto itself this year – welcoming it to my home and greeting it with a “hello, tree” occasionally.
I feel somewhat at odds with the tradition, though – much as I love having the tree in my home, it is a selfish human act. Of course it is dying – has been ever since it was cut – and soon it will be a mound under the snow in the alley.
But even well after cutting, I’ve found that wood retains its spirit. Furniture, walls, stairways, or flooring of wood can have the same effect. A certain cut across the grain to produce a thick sloping table edge fits the human hand well for that buzz of palm-contact. There’s something mysteriously special about trees – when we scurrying bipeds slow our pace enough to soak up their presence.