Yesterday I did something I've never done before by myself. Bob would have come with me, but his new knee is not quite up to tromping through the woods in search of a Christmas tree. So, I took a saw and started off up the hill behind our cabin. The snow was just a little over the tops of my boots, but not a problem for a short jaunt. I was looking for a certain tree. Not too tall, full enough to hang our ornaments on but flatish on one side so it would fit in the corner. I told myself I wouldn't cut one at all if it wasn't just right. Not perfect, mind you, but just right.
Last summer the land up behind us was thinned, which is super important for fire control. That meant that were lots of logs lying sneakily under the snow. That made me go really slowly to avoid a fall or twisted ankle. Which was a little gift. I saw a lot of things I might have missed if I was tromping at full speed. So many little bunnies were out in the sunshine, leaving their little tracks curling everywhere. Bunnies don't go in a straight line, it seems. Tiny, tiny little new trees barely poking through the snow. Birds whose names I don't know darting from limb to limb.
There was another little gift. The wind was blowing toward me, which is the only reason I was able to come over a rise and see a herd of elk just a few yards from me. I could even hear them chewing, they were so close. They all looked at me and turned to go, jogging off over the next rise. The sun took that moment to come out from behind a cloud, and the forest scene was dazzling. The recent snow still clung to the trees, making every single one of them look like a perfect Christmas tree. The sky was so blue and the clouds so white, it was incredibly beautiful.The snow sparkled like someone had thrown diamonds everywhere. I was wishing for my camera, but determined to burn the scene into my memory.
I did find my humble little tree. And it does fit perfectly in the corner. It was growing right up next to a few others, so I felt that thinning that clump was not a bad thing to do, and I got a flat sided Christmas tree out of the effort. We brought some ornaments from home this year. This is our first Christmas in the cabin, and for someone who loves tradition and family gatherings and Silent Night in the pew with candles and hundreds of singers, this all seems strange and new. But good. I know that Christmas isn't dependent on things happening the same way every year. And the ornaments from home were perfect for this little tree.
One thing I love about our cabin is that I can look up with my head still on the pillow and see the sky. This morning before the sun came up there was a really big star right over the top of a giant snow covered fir tree. It was my Christmas star. Pointing the way. Reminding me how fortunate I am to be snug in our cabin surrounded by beauty, how lucky I am to wake up next to a man I have loved for forty years.
Christmas Eve is filled with promise. With expectation. Not the bad kind that rules with an iron fist and demands its own way. Not the selfish kind of expectation that breeds resentment. But expectation that is hope. Christmas Eve is the waiting day. The world is waiting for peace. For the end to suffering and war, poverty and illness. While we wait, there are little gifts all around us. There is the beauty of creation, the love for family and friends. Maybe they aren't such little gifts. Maybe they are all we need. On Christmas Eve or any other day.