By Janelle Eklund
It was mid-day and the snow lay deep on the ground and thick on the trees. Snowshoes strapped on, I headed for the entrance to the packed trail near the woodshed. Head down, I noticed large dog like tracks. No dogs had been around and these were pretty large tracks, indicating wolf. I followed the story of its journey. It used my tracks as solid surface for travel. Across the field and through the woods to the next field.
Some smaller trees, burdened with the last couple inches of snow, gave homage to the weight and gracefully arced over the trail. The thick layer of snow outlining the branches of spruce trees hid their dark forms. In their dark recesses I could imagine chickadees and spruce grouse hunkered down in its protective cape. Being Christmas bird count day, of course they sent the word out - I'm sure the night before. Therefore nary a bird was to be seen. Looking up, straining to see some sort of avian movement in the trees, my neck started to tighten. Remember balance class, look up with your eyes, not your head. That works pretty good except when you are right close to very tall trees. Then you have to cheat a little.
Through the woods the wolf track encountered hare tracks, both tracks mingling in a scurf. No other evidence of blood or fur in this story. Who knows the demise of the hare - carried away intact for a special treat later - or escapement. The wolf tracks diverted off the trail and crossed the deep snow in the next field. Its journey continues in my imagination.
As I meandered along the packed trail through another part of the forest I marveled at the beauty of the trees; the strength to hold the weight of heavy snow; the naked branches where ribbons of snow clung and drooped, creating fairy snow swings throughout the forest.
Many different kinds of trees are used as Christmas trees and spruce is one of the favorite. In interior Alaska finding a good spruce that's just the right size and diameter is a journey in itself. Most spruce like the company of each other and grow close together. You find what you think is a very 'full' limbed tree, and just the right size. But once you take it away from its fellow trees you find it’s a one sided branched tree. It didn't need any branches on one side because it had the protection of its relatives surrounding it. And Christmas size spruce in this part of Alaska have branches that are a bit far and few between. But, in a good sense, they are a typical 'Charlie Brown' tree. Their beauty is in the mind’s eye. A sort of wabi-sabi. (wabi-sabi is a Japanese term for finding beauty in something that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete).
Many years ago we had a small LONE spruce tree outside our living room window. It was the perfect Christmas tree. It had room to grow many branches all around. But it was too perfect to cut. So we decorated it with real clip on Christmas Tree candles and enjoyed it from the warmth of the living room. The tree has now way outgrown its small Christmas size.
Now, for an indoor tree, each Christmas I christen our ficus tree to be a Christmas tree for a few weeks. This tree is also getting very big. It loves its home at the end of the kitchen counter and is encroaching closer to the dining room table. We brush it every time we walk by and I think it likes to be touched. It's very healthy. It only gets water once a week, sometimes plain and sometimes egg shell soaked. It gets moved by the front door at Christmas to be decorated. I also think it enjoys the decorations. And I enjoy decorating it with ornaments that bring back lots of memories - ones my mom made, some my sisters made, some I made years ago, and other special ones given by friends and family. That is what makes Christmas special - being with family and/or friends, sharing love, friendship, and the light, hope and joy of a Christmas tree.
From my light to yours-
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.