I didn't realise until I got to church this morning that today is the first Sunday in Advent...Christmas is closer than I thought. Not in an "aieee, only twenty-five more days of shopping left!" but closer so that now I don't feel guilty for decorating the entire apartment for Christmas. I love Christmas--the whole season, the singing, the cheerfulness, making things special, the food, the reason to get out the nice clothes and make a fuss over little traditions. Since I already have all my shopping done, I get to focus on the other parts of making Christmas special. Last year I tried to decorate our apartment, but it didn't turn out well. This year though, I was inspired by the natural decorations that festoon Colonial Williamsburg and I decided to do the same thing to our apartment. So yesterday Kismet and I went for a walk in the woods to collect materials.
First we went thrifting--well, I thrifted, Kizzy napped on my cloak in the backseat--and I found a couple of red Christmas baskets, a wreath with fake cranberries on it, some cut glass candle holders and second-hand Christmas lights. Grand total: eight dollars.
There is a forest behind our house, I've mentioned it before, not exactly the forest primeval, but a mature forest full of holly trees and towering pines. Entering it, you feel like you've stepped into Narnia. I've taken Kizzy on walks there before--there is a little path that winds up and down hills, over exposed roots, through giant trees that were victims of Hurricane Isabelle--it was easier to chop away a part of the tree than drag the entire thing out of the way. There are not many young trees, but on an earlier trip I had spotted it--our Christmas tree.
I brought with me a scissors, my trusty Leatherman, the saw from my toolbox (ironically, an old Christmas present) and several reuseable grocery bags. I quickly learned that the pine boughs I was looking for were impossible to reach--the heavy lush foliage was hundreds of feet over my head. But the trees would drop branches, still laden with green needles, like little pine brooms, and I would go wading off the path after them. Ankle-deep in oak leaves (last season's decoration) I retrieved my prize. Each holly tree I passed was scanned for red: if the tree had berries I'd take a few branches, if not, I'd pass by. And I continually stopped (much to Kizzy's annoyance) to pick up pinecones.
About forty minutes into the forest the path cants up sharply, and the ground almost peeks out of the woods. Here sapling pines fight tooth and nail for sunlight. The winner gets to be another hundred-foot tall tree. The losers end up fertilizer. This was where our Christmas tree was--not one of the of spindly long needled pines, but a narrow, spiky short-needled breed which was not about to come quietly. I wished for my leather gloves. In the end, it only took about a minute to cut through the one-inch trunk, and the whole tree fit neatly into my orange Sainsbury's bag. I was carrying dozens of little pine brooms, a half a bag of cones, holly branches and now the tree. Lightweight, but awkward, Kizzy not understanding that those of us with a higher center of gravity now needed to move more slowly.
As I walked out of the forest again, taking a microscopic sampling of its beauty, I was afraid I'd get busted, but no one said anything or even noticed, for all I know. When we got back to the house, Kizzy couldn't understand why the pine cones were suddenly forbidden just for being in the house. I used twisty-ties to attach pine boughs to our porch railing, and draped holly over our mantlepiece. Christmas lights shone through them, a place of honor carefully left for Amaree's creche. The pinecones went into the baskets I had bought earlier. Then I carefully drilled through some of Amaree's "burned" gingerbread and tied it to pine with a red ribbon, attaching the whole to each of our bedroom doors. Something sweet to come home to.
The entire adventure took about three hours, and our apartment looks beautiful. The tree hasn't been decorated yet--we're threading popcorn and cranberries, and I'd rather not do that by myself--but even just propped up in the corner being green and spiky it looks beautiful. I'm so delighted to be decorating for Christmas...and I can't wait for it to get here.