Gathering Greens


Entering another year-end holiday season with this intention: Keep It Simple, and Take the Pressure Off. There is creativity, family time, connection with friends, favorite traditions. And it’s possible to get entirely too busy. When that happens, I spend too much, don’t enjoy myself and just want the whole thing to be over. Bah, Humbug! So I’m sticking with my intention. It keeps me mindful of what I choose to do.

One thing I really like to do is bring evergreens into the house. I’ll have a small tree, but not for awhile yet. It’s a pagan tradition, and also a personal one. Being inside after spending so much of my year in the woods leaves me longing for trees. So to bring a bit of the forest to my house in town helps me remember that spring follows winter. And that the earth’s axis will shift in fifteen days. Besides, evergreens are beautiful and smell good.

Yesterday I ventured out to a place I know where several kinds of conifers grow. My favorites are true firs and I clipped small boughs of grand fir and subalpine fir. But mountain hemlock is also attractive, and white pine is different from all of them. I even snipped some kinnikinnick. Last week I collected some cedar boughs from the coast. I tied the bundles with blackberry vines and carried them out.

It feels like I’ve been away for some time, and I suppose that’s true. I was curious to see where the snow was. Large areas under the trees are bare. The day time temperature was above freezing, so the crusty deposits of snow were melting. Higher up the slopes, snow blankets the ground in a continuous thin layer. My ears caught the sound of a great horned owl hooting over toward the Waptus River. In the daylight? It was insistent, certainly not talking to me, but one of its own kind.

Walking felt good, so I left my bundles in the truck and continued exploring familiar ground. Tree trunks are dark with moisture and water dripping off thousands of slim fir and pine needles fills the air with soft pattering. Colors are subdued; a limited palette can be soothing. Vine maple branches are bare, and it’s possible to peer into a deep thicket that’s impenetrable in summer. I glanced at all the aluminum cans in the brush and thought about coming back in spring to pick them up. Also thought about becoming a Leave No Trace educator. Maybe it wouldn’t help, but it seems like people can be taught to care where they put their garbage. A crusader lurks within my heart.

On my way back to the truck I stopped to examine twigs. The vine maples are reddish, with buds opposite each other. Huckleberry buds alternate on greenish twigs. The buds are there, next spring and summer’s growth lying in wait. For some reason, that knowledge brings a smile to my face.

Now my hands smell of pitch as I bring branches into the house into the house to admire. Chunky rain falls outside the window, and not too far from here it’s more snow than rain…time to get cozy.

5 thoughts on “Gathering Greens

  1. Every year we get a sub-alpine fir–such a beautiful shape. Jim goes wandering everyday with the dog and many times finds place in the woods where people dump lots of household good probably from deceased relatives. Always amazes me that they don’t bring them to the thrift store. Today he came home with some nice mixing bowls and enamel ware! He once found a piano–all broken up but got some of the ebony keys for some project or another. Lots of Leave No Trace education is needed here!

    1. JoAnn, last year I had a subalpine. I agree about the shape. Not sure what I will find this year, but I have my heart set on a true fir. Can’t believe what people dump in the woods, and that we still live in such a throwaway society. There are lots of options for re-using stuff or passing it along. I’m fairly serious about becoming a LNT educator, and am pursuing it through my job. Are you in NE Washington? Carry on!

      1. I live about 8 miles outside of Colville and our cabin is by the chain of lakes east of Colville. Our cabin borders the Colville National Forestand the Lake Leo ski trail. It’s only about 3400 feet but has a variety of different trees. Finally the got it decorated I think it’s the best one we gotten so far–perfect shape. Now on to the cookie baking!

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