For the Children

“What you make from a tree should be just as miraculous as what you cut down”. – Richard Powers

November is the month of endings and beginnings – I am keenly aware of all trees as they prepare for winter sleep, and this is the season during which I begin to celebrate evergreens. Most deciduous trees are a tangle of sleepy gray branches, but the conifers are still breathing life. Herein lies the Deep Forest Green Religion of Hope. Many trees, both thin-barked deciduous trees and conifers, are still photosynthesizing. I love gazing into the woods beyond my brook lush with balsam, fir, and hemlock knowing that the animals and birds that are left will soon be nestled in thick undercover finding nourishment and protection from winter winds and snow. In Indigenous traditions throughout the world when the Winter Dances begin the evergreen bough is central to Ceremony… I follow this tradition by tipping boughs for a wreath that will cleanse the air in my house even as it scents the room with sweet fir and balsam.

Beginning each November, I not only honor every evergreen left on this planet, but I mourn the senseless slaughter of so many trees for anthropogenic consumption. Buy and decorate the tree and then throw it out the back door a week later – a recent barbaric ‘tradition’ if there ever was one. Why is it that we have to murder a tree to celebrate the season of ‘love’? Why not err on the side of life?

We could have our children plant a tree for Christmas – light and decorate the boughs, and celebrate the wonder of what a tree can do – eat light, create breathable air, – purify the waters, I could on here – a living tree is a miracle – it’s worth repeating: Why not celebrate Life – not Death with your children?

Recently, I posted this quote and query on Facebook. I am not much of a fan of social media, but I do participate with photographs when I feel the need to share natural beauty, when I need to challenge perspectives, or in this case to highlight destructive traditions that harm our trees. Forests are fundamental to the health of the Earth.


I wonder how many people realize that this recent European tradition (1600s) along with the invention of ‘Santa Claws’ has its origins in the ancient Indigenous past when evergreens were seen as holy beings central to Winter Ceremonies?

Indigenous peoples throughout the world still honor the evergreen – a symbol of the Tree of Life – by asking permission from the trees and then gathering boughs for the dances that go on all winter.

When living in New Mexico, I was privileged to attend many Pueblo ceremonies that allowed me to celebrate the life of trees in a way that was so familiar and meaningful to me…

Here at home, each November I ask permission, gather boughs, then create my wreaths to celebrate the season with a thankful heart. One that is predicated on living trees…

I can’t fathom how we strayed from a practice of gathering tree boughs to celebrate ‘everlasting life’ to one in which we kill trees, drag them in our houses for a week or so, and then throw them in the garbage. Perhaps we have not realized that destructive traditions can be broken. Maybe we can’t fathom that a tree is a living being? Or perhaps we just don’t care.

Traditions are created by humans and are not cast in stone. Why not return to the Original Story of celebrating life with living trees at Christmastide/Winter Solstice or any of the other seasonal celebrations?


I live in a log house, so I am always aware that trees continue to create a shelter for me, my animals, my bird, and my plants. I have wooden shades and sit on beautiful wooden furniture that once belonged to my grandmother, listening to an exquisitely crafted wooden grandmother’s clock that chimes every 15 minutes. I cut my vegetables on a wooden cutting board, and use paper towels, toilet paper, newspapers, and logs to light my fires… I could go on and on here. I am never out of touch with the gifts that trees have given me, trees who ask for nothing in return except my gratitude.

I have also spent the best part of 40 years planting both conifers and deciduous trees on this patch of land that I call home. I have felt the deep satisfaction of watching fruit trees produce berries and other fruits by the hundreds if not thousands, peered at the oak that produced acorns for the first time this year, and marveled at the many young oaks the jays and squirrels have planted. I watch recently planted young cedars, once decimated by the deer, thrive under winter caps made of chicken wire. Just two years ago I planted two balsam seedlings to provide better winter cover for my winter birds near the house.

I am getting old now and will not live long enough to see many of these new seedlings grow into adulthood, but I continue to plant more trees just the same, knowing that I am participating in the Great Round of Life. And this is all that matters. Someday my ashes will find home under a forested tree next to flowing waters.

In my mind, I imagine children gathering with their parents to prepare the earth to receive evergreen trees during this month. Then in December, I watch the children decorate and festoon these Living Beings with Light. Loving parents and grandparents use this opportunity to teach the children about the complex lives of trees and their critical roles in our lives while modeling the importance of cultivating gratitude for their existence. Isn’t this a scenario worth pondering?


From an economic perspective, it is just as practical to sell living trees as those that will soon end up dead.

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