The Real Christmas Tree
It came across as a bit arrogant, and defintely smug. Discussing my family’s holiday plans with an acquaintance, he made it known in no uncertain terms what he thought of our annual outing to cut a fresh Christmas tree from the Custer National Forest near my home. “I leave nature alone,” he sniffed disdainfully. “We have an artificial tree.”
An artificial tree? For Christmas? It seems as intelligent as all those weird artificial animals cast of plastic and concrete that reside in the yards of persons for whom the sight of a painted pink flamingo flush from a PVC mold or a motionless (but easy to photograph) cement deer incite feelings of well-being.
But perhaps I can excuse my friend. He’s from Minnesota. Minneapolis to be exact. City-dwellers often impose well-meaning, but meaningless standards on the larger, rural world. Of the 2,456,796,112 evergreen saplings in the Custer National Forest, I doubt the few hundred Douglas and sub-alpine firs, Engelmann spruce and lodgepole pines cut by folks who ante up five American dollars for a tree permit are noticed by nature‘s Ma. Lord knows the Forest Service can use the money. Congress doesn’t seem to help the agency too much.
I suppose I should fret about the carbon footprint and expense of burning two gallons of unleaded to transport an adult and three kids to the forest as well. But we do minimize our impact by severing a fir sapling from its three-inch trunk with a hatchet instead of a chainsaw and quite frankly, I worry more about the arteries in the legs of my teenage son who does the hacking than greenhouse gases.
Perhaps our tree cutting ravages the woodlands, but we try to do it intelligently. We get plenty of exercise searching for an evergreen hung with beautiful boughs, inhabiting a sylvan grove where the trunks are too many for the space. We proffer the tree for recycling after the holidays. The litany of environmental disasters one can contemplate at Christmas is endless. Cutting a “real” tree isn’t even on the list.