It is that time of year to go into the forest to get a Christmas tree.
When I look up from my computer and out of the window right now, the sun is shining and all is covered in a thick layer of snow.
It's a Christmas forest out there!
I often wish I could bring a tree like that inside, not only its needles and their fragrance, but snow and all.
Or, covered in hoar frost and decorated with sparkling diamonds.
I wonder if it is more environmentally friendly to have a fake tree that can be used every year, over and over.
I admit I will take the fullest, bushiest tree out there, like hunting for trophy.
I know a friend—bless her heart—who just takes the little scrawny tree.
Maybe I should do that this year, because in the Yukon a young small spruce or pine is most often scrawny.
My friend's tree always looks beautiful in the house. She knows how to make it shine, using small lights and delicate decorations.
I have celebrated Christmas in the Yukon for 21 years now. We used to go tree-hunting as a family, sometimes bringing a friend along. These last years, however, with Alexander grown up, it is often just me.
A story comes to mind. It must have been a November with little snow and I was out with my bicycle on the trails. When I was quite far out, I came upon the perfect tree.
I always carried a small survival pack, so I got out my little saw, cut the tree and tied it to my bike.
Mountain biking with a Christmas tree is quite a skill. My only explanation is that one of our family's mottos in life is, "Mission impossible – let's do it".
We would often choose a site to cut our tree early in the year, preferably a different site every year.
One year, we had a certain swamp in mind.
In the summer trees in a swamp look green and healthy, but in winter, after you shake off the snow, they suddenly look brownish.
Oh well, we thought, we are here now, all three of us, with two skidoos and we did find what seemed like a nice one.
Now, my husband likes to drive the skidoo quite erratically, for the fun of it, to give me some jolts as I ride in the skimmer behind it.
So there I was with the tree in the skimmer, as comfortable as one possibly can be. Until, close to home, Don made this move and the tree and I went flying. But the driver was oblivious to the fact he had lost his load, and Alexander and the Bravo were far ahead.
As it turned out, I landed right beside a tree. I stood mine up beside the one that was still rooted firmly in the forest, and couldn't help noticing that I liked the new one much better.
I'm ashamed to admit that I cut down two Christmas trees that year. By the time my boys noticed me missing and came back, I had different tree. They never noticed, and I didn't tell them until the lights were on it.
On our own property I have sometimes taken taller trees and used the tops.
Last year we had a Christmas tree full of spruce cones. (Remember all those spruce cones in the trees?) Who needed decorations?
This year the search was on by November 26. My husband promised that when I found one he would come and cut it for me. I didn't have a plan this year. I guess without Alexander at home, that discussion hadn't taken place.
I wandered along the bottom of a side hill, an old-growth area where the poplars are big and where a few spruce have taken hold, growing much more slowly.
The weather was beautiful, but I didn't feel so good. I ached for a loved one, I was under-dressed, the batteries in my camera were dead again, and I didn't know where I had put the new ones.
I could see the world was incredibly gorgeous—the snow was sparkling, the sky was deep blue in the north. When I looked into the sun, I could see crystal in the air.
The trees were still covered in a thick layer of snow. The mountains in the south were hazy, the swirls of mist in front of their stark, white silhouettes set in light blue.
But I couldn't feel it. Do you ever experience that?
In this old growth forest there were a few spruces over 40 feet tall, but the little ones were invariably skinny.
I pressed on, trying to stay half warm. As I went uphill, it looked more promising. I decided to also check out behind the hill at the creek. But here the trees were too dense.
Undecided, I returned home. The first thing I did was to search for those confounded batteries and found them!
Warmed up by hot chocolate, with the setting sun gliding along the mountainside into a valley, it clicked: I wasn't helping anyone by feeling miserable.
My husband found me a better hat, I dressed warmer and felt much better. I went back to the hillside where I had spotted the best trees. And yes, there was a beauty!
I took pictures and shook off the snow, to see how she would actually look in the house.
If we don't spot a better one by some chance, Don will come and help me cut this one down in a few days.
What tree will you get this year?
Does anyone ever get an oddly-shaped tree? I would like that, but I think I would never have the heart to cut down an anomaly of nature.
Close by here there is such mystery tree: a tall, tall spruce standing out above the rest. On top, there is a perfect globe like a witch's broom, but it is alive. And it is home to squirrels, who peek their heads out on occasion.
Lucky squirrels. They live in Christmas spirit all year round!
Jozien Keijzer is a visual artist, writer and outdoor adventurer who lives in the Mendenhall Subdivision.
Jozien Keijzer is a visual artist, write and avid hiker who lives in the Mendenhall Subdivision.