Archive for December, 2011

…how lethal are thy branches.

Oh, I had written such a wonderful tale about the first ever Aluminum Christmas Tree, but, alas, I lost the entire story with a single stroke of the incorrect key.  I will end my Christmas storytelling for this year and save the Aluminum Christmas Tree tale for another time.    So, Merry Christmas to all…and to all, a good night!


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I was recently chatting with a friend about Christmas trees and was taken by surprise when she admitted that her favorite  tree from her youth was a silver tinsel tree with a color wheel.  As soon as I heard the words silver tinsel tree line up one after the other my hands went numb, my right eye began twitching, vertigo set in, the black and white spiral wheel spinning round and round, and then the flashback to my own youth. But before the flashback, let’s take a sharp left turn to a time before “The Tree” arrived.

You’ve seen those movies where the entire family bundles up in their winter coats and go in search of the perfect tree.  That wasn’t my family.  My mother picked out the tree, set it up, and that was that.   Little girl me vowed when I had my own family, we would be a Norman Rockwell, It’s A Wonderful Life family.  My husband and I, along with our perfect children, would put on our winter coats, pile into the family station wagon and head to the snowy mountains to enjoy our hot cider and sandwiches (cut on the diagonal) and then we would comb the forest to find the most gorgeous Christmas tree to take home.

My dream came true in 1979.  Kind of…sort of…you’ll see.

It was the second Christmas of my favorite of all my children.  It was a cold, bright, sunny day when we headed up to the mountains of  Northern California in our Volkswagen bus to a Christmas tree farm where, as a family unit, we would decide on the perfect tree to take home.  Bill and I were singing every Christmas carol we knew, and Nate was riding along in his car seat, bundled up in his plaid flannel shirt, Osh Kosh B’Gosh overalls and toddler down vest, his “B” by his side .    The sun was shining when we arrived at the Christmas tree farm, dogs were yipping and chasing gleeful children around; the smell of hot apple cider tickled our noses, and Christmas carols filled the brilliant blue sky.  A happy-go-lucky sort of fellow greeted us with a holiday smile and handed us a saw.  “Go on out there and pick your tree, cut it down, and bring it back.  I’ll help you put it in your bus.”   I had finally landed in my very own Norman Rockwell painting.

So off we went – Nate riding on Bill’s shoulders, and me with a saw in my hand, and a song in my heart.   There were so many trees to choose from and so many folks vying for them that we decided to walk on a little farther, away from the crowd.  We finally came to a lovely patch of woods where a small house looked out over the forest.  I commented on how difficult it must be to watch the trees grow year after year only to see them cut down.   A lovely silver tip tree caught our eye, but on closer look had a bald spot on one side, and was democratically voted down.   And then it appeared before us – the all time, hands down, most beautiful tree of them all.   Perfectly spaced limbs, not a bald spot to be found, needles fresh and firm.  We didn’t even need to vote.  Bill immediately set to work sawing on the trunk while I took pictures so that we could look back on this most wondrous day forever and ever.   I even took pictures of Nate sitting on the left behind stump, saw in his chubby hand, the winter sunlight streaming down on him.  Truly an angelic lumberjack toddler portrait.

Once we actually sized up the tree now that it was lying on its side, it turned out to be so much bigger than it looked standing in a forest of other trees.  Here’s an important fact that I will share with you:  Before cutting down a tree in the woods,  consider the size of your living room, height of your ceiling and, more importantly, the width of your entry door.  I’m not placing any blame here, but Bill was the math teacher.  I’m just sayin’.

When the tree was far too large and heavy for us to drag down the hillside to the happy-go-lucky fellow, we had to seek out his help.  Mr. happy-go-lucky blanched when he saw the tree – perhaps, I thought at the time, we had chosen the very tree he had in mind for his own holiday.  But when, in a horrified voice, he asked, “Where did you get that tree?” I felt Norman Rockwell duck behind the guy carving the Thanksgiving turkey.   “Over there.”   “Over there” it seems was still the backyard of that small house overlooking the forest.  Oops! doesn’t quite cover an accident like this one – cutting down a tree on private property.  We were ushered down the road as far away from the rightful owners faster than a Kardashian files for a divorce.  (That’s my sole attempt at contemporary humor.)

Gone were the yipping dogs chasing gleeful children, gone was the sweet smell of hot apple cider, the cider turning into a sour brew; gone was the song in my heart; gone was that lousy Norman Rockwell, who years later I would be told “painted lies.”   Stripped of our saw and our dignity, we hurried down the road with the tree, which was so large it wouldn’t fit into our Volkswagen bus, and had to be tied to the top, and even then a good three to four feet hung over the back-end.  After  a whopping $50 changed hands, along with the promise we’d never return, we headed down the mountain road to the long drive home.  During the time it took to get home, I fumed about “how things can never be easy…just want to cut down our own tree…how hard is that…?  I’ll admit there was a moment when I almost gave in to the reasoning behind my mother’s Christmas tree shopping.

Fortunately, by the time we got home I had calmed down… somewhat.  I knew I would feel better once we got the tree inside and together decorated it with lights and ornaments.  Just one little problem (see important fact above).  Before we could even get the tree into the house we had to cut off almost four feet.  Once inside the tree was so large and cumbersome we had to tether it with wires to the walls.   So wide at the base, we had to inch our way around the tree and squeeze through the door to the bedroom.    But after a few days, and more than a few hot buttered rums while retelling the story of our disastrous trip to the Christmas tree farm, and the ensuing laughter it garnered, I learned to laugh, too.

We kept our promise to the happy-go-lucky fellow and never returned to the mountains to cut down a tree, but we did keep up the family tradition of picking out the perfect tree together.   And though Bill, Nate and I spend our Christmases far apart from each other, I can still see my chubby toddler in his lumberjack outfit, the sun shining down on him; I can still see Bill’s pride as he felled that tree, and my heart fills with a glad memory.  Maybe Norman Rockwell didn’t paint lies after all.  In fact, I know he didn’t.  I have the pictures to prove it.

Oh, dear, I can see that sharp left turn I took led me down a long road.   Next time I’ll tell you about “The Tree.”

Note:  No trees were harmed for this post.

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“YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!”  Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men.   

“NO,  YOU’RE OUT OF ORDER!” screamed Al Pacino in And Just For All.

I do my very best to keep you up to date on the happenings here in my little hamlet, and I’ll admit I’ve been deficient of late  in doing just that, but I think my latest news will make up for it.   Terms like “media circus,” “detours into town,” “delays,” were thrown around as a warning of what was to come, but Coupeville wasn’t ready for what was to follow.  I knew my journalistic duty to you had to be met so I grabbed my camera and notepad, weathered the grey sky and drizzle, and headed down to the court house to bring you the hottest news happening here in Coupeville.    A “media circus” of five, count ’em – five – news trucks (three shown here)

were juggling for a front row seat to catch a glimpse of Colton Harris-Moore, internationally known as the Barefoot Bandit (he would leave drawings of bare feet at the scene of his crimes with the  farewell note “C’ya”), as he made his way through the “crowd”  of onlookers (by my count – maybe 25), and appeared in Island County Superior Court before Judge Vickie Churchill.

Colton Harris-Moore, 20, was expected to plead guilty to dozens of felony charges stemming from a crime spree that took him – in stolen boats, cars and planes – all the way to the Bahamas.  The Barefoot Bandit’s daring run from the law earned him international notoriety, not to mention a movie deal to help repay his victims, after he flew a stolen plane (no, he wasn’t a pilot) from Indiana to the Bahamas in July 2010, crash-landed it near a mangrove swamp and was arrested by Bahamian authorities in a hail of bullets.  Oh, sure, the Bahamas get all the excitement, here in Coupeville they were offering box lunches.  I’m okay with that.

No cameras were allowed in the courtroom so I’m doing my best to try to convey to you the tense atmosphere the only way I can:

Let this be a lesson:  Crime doesn’t pay.  And those art schools advertised in matchbooks aren’t the best.

P.S.  I didn’t get to stay for the ruling…rumor had it that DZ was bringing peanut butter samples down to coffee.  Hey, it’s all about priorities, people!

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From this

to this

I had this soup for breakfast before heading out on the property.   Happy to say it kept the chill away for the better part of the morning.  Thank you Rosehip Farm, Willowood Farm and Prairie Farm for growing the finest local produce on the island.

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If you’ve been reading along since Christmastime last year, you’ll recognize the sign to your left as the mother of all signs that the Christmas season has arrived .  If you haven’t been riding with me on this journey until now, and that makes me wonder: where have you been? I encourage you to check out the December Archives from 2010 to bring yourself up to date.   Yes, I’ll wait.

While I’m waiting for the newbies to catch up, I’d like to take this time to talk to you about other signs I’ve noticed.  As some of you know (because you were spammed by Facebook when I had to sign up for the social network to track the notices of a writers group here on the island), I am now a member of said social networking site.  Maybe some of the FB experts can answer this question for me.  When someone sends me a message and I, in turn, visit their page, are the sponsors’ ads that run alongside the right hand side of the screen designed for me, or for the person whose page I’m visiting?  I ask this because these are the advertisement “sign” topics that appear on my screen:

Are you having trouble getting up stairs?  Have you thought about whole body donation?  Do you have pesky moles or skin tags?  Have  you heard about the leading cancer institute?  Who will take care of you in your final years?  Woman angers plastic surgeons with $5.00 anti-wrinkle cream.  Should you still be driving?  Will your long-term care coverage be enough?  Do you have unsightly varicose veins?   Are you on the road to diabetes?  And the warning of all warnings: Your body may be older than you think.   As if visiting pages where the person has more friends than the number of  people living on my island wasn’t bad enough, I get to ponder the slow, meticulous demise of my body.  Of course, these FB signs have stoked my imagination, so don’t be surprised if one day Greetings From Coupeville steers you to another blog I have in mind:  I Didn’t Know Hair Could Grow There.

Oh, the newbies are back.  So now you know how the whole Noel/Leon tradition started.  Living here in the woods, getting snail mail is a real treat.  When I recognized the handwriting on the package waiting for me on the porch, I broke into laughter.  Not only had the sign of Christmas arrived, there was an even better one inside; one that wiped all those pesky FB signs off the map.  It read:  You can’t beat a sign like that!   Thanks, Bob and Joe.

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After I picked up my Endless Summer produce from Rosehip Farm, I headed down Terry Road; the sky clear, the sun moving east at a leisurely pace, as was I.  Along the side of the road, just past the horse pasture, but before the high school, is a stand of bushes and brambles.  He must have taken flight from under the cover, his rust colored tail, patterned wings just clearing my windshield as he rose higher, but without hurry.  He had no need of hurry now.   Like the gliders that hang from their nylon parachutes and brush up against Ebey’s Bluff, so did the Little Black Bird he held tightly with his formidable claws.

An understanding buried deep inside me rose up with the Little Black Bird:  Time is precious.  We never know when the end will come.  How it will look.   I hope when the end comes, rather than a swooping Red Tail Hawk sneaking up on me, I meet the precious one above, or the old gent below. 

Now go hug someone you love.

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These days, not many folks can claim such a momentous hallmark as a 50th wedding anniversary.  If you’re striving for a long run, listen up and take a tip or two from Betty and Bob Nichols who celebrated their 50th this past weekend.  While Heidi and I were busy in the kitchen stirring Betty’s famous Rockwell Bean soup, and pouring a little more red for Jim; just a tad more white for Ginger, I gleaned a couple of tips that I’ll share with you here.

Tip #1:  Know what you want.   Betty knew what she wanted – Bob.  But first, Betty had to clear out her line up of suitors.  Miss Betty was so busy dating (I mean really busy) she said yes to Bob when he asked her out after their first dance; forgetting that she already had a date for that night!  In fact, Betty had a date every night that week.  Go, Betty!

Tip #2 (for the guys): If you want a woman to cook for you (if it’s Betty anyway) she’s going to need an electric can opener.  Bob, being eager to please (and probably a little hungry) gave Betty an electric can opener their first Christmas together.  To this day, Betty still has that can opener and uses it all the time.  (Gentlemen, in these modern times, I would suggest if you’re going to present a woman with a can opener, you avoid making it a holiday gift, and you better buy something really fabulous to go with it.)

Tip #3:  Share the world with each other, and each other with the world.

Tip #4:  Let the other choose the music.

Tip#5: Laugh and laugh some more.

And laugh they did as folks brought their favorite stories out from storage and passed them around the room where gardenias (the flower Betty carried on her wedding day) and poinsettias graced the tables, and candles flickered brighter as the sun disappeared behind the Cove.

I’m sure Betty and Bob have even more helpful tips on how to stay married for fifty years, but after three days of celebration with friends and family, I’m not going to bother the happy couple. 

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