From Giants & Pilgrims artist Tim Coons:
Every year about this time I question why exactly we get a live tree. The picture above says it all. This is a pine needle I found in our bathroom… upstairs. How in the world did this tiny piece of our Christmas migrate up the stairs and into our restroom?
Much of having a real tree over the holidays is hard work. It takes a trip out into the cold to purchase the tree, you have to water it (it still dries up), you have to clean it up with remnants of its branches being found throughout the year (and years to come), you can’t just throw it away, and it costs more money every season.
I truly don’t judge my friends when they’ve got a fake tree in their living room. I think it can be quite wise.
So why do Betony and I do this to ourselves every year? I’ve been thinking about this over the last couple weeks while we’ve been in full clean up mode and I think I have an answer.
We do it because, every once in a while, we need something real.
It sounds strange, but I think it makes since. Surrounded by so much plastic, so much comfort, and so much insolation from everything… I, personally, need something real and alive and very messy. It helps me feel alive and connected to the world around me.
Getting a tree every year means tramping through the cold and snow with my kids. It’s uncomfortable but invigorating, like most adventures. Then I bring this sticky, live thing into our home and it’s smell is wondrous and speaks everything holy of the season to me. In the work of the constant watering I’m reminded of the great and terrifying responsibility I have in raising children, being married, owning a home.
I think this is why people run 100 mile races or head to the mountains,
have a natural child birth, laugh at plastic surgery,
tear up the carpet for hardwood floors,
work a fulfilling job rather than a lucrative one.
It’s why people demonize fast food or raise chickens.
It comes with this need to do things the hard way as long as it means doing things that make us feel more alive with every range of emotion there is, good and bad.
Like I said, this isn’t about judging people on whether they have a fake tree or a live one. This is about recognizing those places where we sense the disconnect; where we’re tired of the medicine that numbs it all, because we just long to feel something… joy and pain and warts and all.
I’m blessed I’ve married my wife, Betony. She’s constantly pushing me into this place. I’m much more easily prone for comfort and ease, for sure. Then she challenges me to do these real things, these adventures. And it’s like I’m waking up. A lot of the writing on our album Almanac No. 1 has this theme running through it. It’s been a constant exploration since becoming a family.
So, where do we long to experience more “real” this year? Because here’s the truth- it will be a “real” pain.
The Christmas tree can be a metaphor in that way. It will be messy and take more energy than the easy way and it will take upkeep and you’ll wonder why you went this route and people will question you on why you’re doing it the hard way.
But in the end…
in the end you’ll experience something real. And in all that fullness you’ll realize it was all worth it.
Let me say that again.
You’ll realize it was all worth it.