Sunday, January 8, 2012

Jeffrey Dahmer of the Woods

I certainly very much enjoyed my first cut Christmas tree, but the going in is better than the going out. While I am pretty sure I will have one again next year, I nevertheless wonder if the whole thing makes more sense when one lives in a rural setting, or if urban or suburban, then at least living in a house with a yard. Somehow having a cut Christmas tree, especially with the disposing-of-it-after-Christmas issue, in an urban apartment may seem as peculiar as having a pet tiger…something that more reasonably belongs in and can be better taken care of in a different and more appropriate environment.

First, getting the tree home…certainly not every urban dweller has a truck, or, if they do, it is more of an affectation rather than something they ordinarily will get much use out of. I guess maybe one could stuff a Christmas tree into the back of an SUV (most of which never haul anything except children), but the whole Christmas tree thing seems to fit more of an image of tromping out into the snowy woods, cutting one from your farm’s tree lot, and then dragging it home. None of that in the big city. As for me, I had mine delivered, and was thankful for the service.

The place where I bought the tree advertised a disposal service at the end of the holiday, but when I asked about it, they said that it wasn’t them, but a separate service that they would be happy to refer their customers to…all arrangements would made with that particular company. Somehow this extra step was enough for me “think about it later”, which I also did when I saw that the place was selling “Christmas tree disposal bags”, at a price I don’t remember, but somehow it seemed that the disposal service and the bag, together, were going to cost more than the whole tree did to buy in the first place, and that is not even counting the cost of the delivery (and tip), so I balked. So, I just took one step at a time.

But soon enough (actually, surprisingly quickly), it was time to deal with that issue. Despite having a full bowl of water to sip on, the tree was noticeably drying up, even before Christmas. This did not destroy its appearance, but instead, as the thick, rich, full foliage “shrank”, it revealed the lights more (which I had buried into the branches), which was quite pretty, and still did show green, although a paler green than it had shown originally. So I was happy to keep it going a while longer, keeping an eye toward New Years day.

But, alas, the calendar turned and New Years came and went and winter break was over and I was back at work. For sure the time was now to undecorate the house and figure out how to get rid of the tree, which I thought of kind of like a pet that needed to put down.

I was curious about “curb-side” pick-up, but, looking on-line, found nothing conclusive. It seems that in my area, trees can be “dropped off” at several county parks and fire stations, but only on Sunday, January 8, between certain hours. No mention of any kind of curb pick-up, and indeed, last week along my commuting route, I saw only one tree outside on the curb and there it stayed all week.

I did find an advertisement for what I bet is the same pick-up disposal service that the place where I bought my tree mentioned, but it just seemed to cost too much, so I was reluctant to simply use them. I figured the best bet would be for me take advantage of one of the drop-offs, but for that, to be able to put the tree into my car, I felt I needed to put the tree in a disposal bag. However, now it seems that where I bought my tree (where I saw the bags for sale) is closed for an indefinite time. This isn’t because they are only a Christmas tree lot, because they are not. They are a vegetable and fruit farm, selling produce all year-round, or so I thought. Anyway, they aren’t open NOW, so no Christmas tree disposal bag.

I decided the best thing for me to do would be to cut up my own tree. Using a hand saw, I cut off the top two feet. This revealed a forest of branches underneath, so I began to eviscerate the tree, one branch at a time, sawing, sawing, sawing, and stuffing the branches into regular kitchen garbage bags (which were too thin, but serviceable). I figured this would be good enough for stuffing pieces of the tree into my car’s trunk, which otherwise wouldn’t have carried the tree whole.

I admit that I felt like Jeffrey Dahmer, doing this, except that instead of my apartment now flowing in blood and internal organs, the tree version is needles…so many needles…a virtual unstaunchable torrent of needles.

I’ll tell you this, if you love the scent of an evergreen tree, having had the tree, itself, over the Christmas holiday gives you only the hint of evergreen, but cutting one up from limb to limb, you’d think I spilled a whole bottle of Pine Sol. Also, there is quite a lot of tree sap generated, which required me to stop and wash the tar off my hands as I progressed.

It was at the time of cutting off these branches and attempting to stuff them into kitchen garbage bags that I came up with my “you ought to be rural for this” thesis. How badly I simply wanted to burn the whole thing, a nice wintry bonfire in the evening would be perfect, or, failing that, I could be warm and toasty crackling these branches in a wood-burning stove. But, an urban apartment…please.

The most laborious aspect of it all was the shifting Sahara of pine needles all over the place. I had read on-line that one needs to sweep up all the pine needles, NOT vacuum them, as apparently they can gum up your vacuum cleaner’s works (must be that tar, again). Taking them at their word, I actually did sweep up those needles, and added them to my kitchen garbage bags (picking up handfuls of them). Of course there was still some dusty duff that I couldn’t manage to pick up off the living room carpet, so that portion (not too much), I did vacuum. I discovered that when I did some more vacuuming today, that my vacuum cleaner (at least with this bag still in it) is now a powerful pine scent atomizer.

I kept the eviscerated Christmas tree parts by my front door all weekend until this morning, Sunday morning, the day that all these places were accepting the drop-off of dead Christmas trees. Now for the task of getting the bags out to my car. However, only a third of the bags completely filled up my trunk, and left a trail of pine needles (and on the floor of my trunk), to boot. And, sitting right there next to me were four perfectly good garbage dumpsters, not anywhere near full…in fact, the furthest one was nearly empty, and I knew that the garbage collection would occur tomorrow. So, to heck with it, I simply threw the sections of tree into the dumpster. I’m not quite sure why I shouldn’t…after all, except for the garbage bags themselves, this is definitely biodegradable and may actually be good for the landfill. I am pretty sure the apartment complex’s gardeners put their prunings into the dumpster. Still, I did feel a bit “bad”, like I had put myself in league with all those people I complain about who throw their furniture away in (and mostly around) the dumpsters (which is against the lease). I wished that the management of the complex had sent notices around to all the tenants regarding the best way to dispose of their dead Christmas trees, but they ignored the issue, leaving it to the devices of the residents, which is not the best idea.

As an example of that, one person had simply dragged their finished Christmas tree out to the dumpsters and left it lying there, still nailed to its stand and water bowl, right in the exit path of the guy who parks next to me. Next time he wants to leave, he will be faced with having to do something with that old Christmas tree that is blocking his egress. It’s still unimaginable to me this low level of action (simply leaving a Christmas tree there for another tenant to deal with), but in this place, the unimaginable is becoming “normal” quite fast. Of course, whoever did that wouldn’t be expected to even have a saw to use for cutting up his tree like I did, let alone actually do the work of cutting it up, the benefit of which apparently would accrue only onto to somebody else, a stranger, no less. Which takes me back to the idea of having to being rural again, where self-reliance and, I hope, some consideration of your neighbors, might be the norm. Which makes me wonder why people like that celebrate Christmas at all. Just what does it mean to them, exactly? In their heart and soul, do they even have a place for meaning?


Anonymous said...

Hi p/b, Good to see that you had a good Xmas/New Year break. And that certainly looked like a fine festive tree in your post further down. It sounds like it's very presence improved the whole holiday itself.
I can understand the Jeffrey Dahmer effect having had to chop up my neighbour's tree last year when they just left it by the bins, having made no concerted effort to dispose of it properly. Our local Council trash removal men can be fussy when collecting abandoned trees. In fact there's still one or two still scattered around the neighbourhood.

The tree itself seems to be such a symbol of Christmas. A lot of it has to do with looking back on those childhood Christmas's, that innocent period before puberty and adulthood when everything was done for us and our own worries at the time were trivial, that is until real life kicked in after which Summer Holidays and Christmas would never be the same.


Anonymous said...

I can remember being about 8 or 9 years old when I was getting ready for school one very cold snowy morning and one of my Gaurdian Parents at the Childrens Home told me that our Christmas tree was being delivered that day. And later that day I ran home from school in the snow all excited at seeing our Christmas tree.
And there it was tucked away in the corner next to an open burning fire. It must have been a six foot Norwegian Spruce. All I could do was marvel at it with it's pretty lights as well as it's decorations and hanging chocolates. I was completely entranced and the excitement of the approaching holidays would begin.
You could say that I've tried to create that image through Bloggy Bear's Christmas picture (Time for Bloggy to put his feet up by the fire).
Oddly enough almost every gay person I know has similar nostalgic memories for Christmas and they never do things by halves when it comes to decorating their homes during the festive period.

Our two week annual Holidays to the seaside always gives me happy memories. In fact I sometimes visit that old seaside town with my partner and get lost in nostalgia, but Christmas at home gave me my happiest childhood memories.


Pitbullshark said...

Dear Dee, I waited too long and was too distracted by other activities to answer this when I should have, but let me do so now.

I think it's true what you said, that a certain power and mystery was built up during our youth. According to a wonderful book I have read that discussed Santa Claus, children are the RECEIVERS of Christmas magic, whereas adults are the GIVERS of Christmas magic, and both sides are of equal importance in the whole equation (there wouldn't be one without the other). So for those who may miss the times of having had the power of the receiving, they have, instead, the power of the giving, and there is much joy to be had in that.

Your comment reminded me of a very generous, kindhearted, and thoughtful woman I had learned about in a place where I used to live long ago, in Nevada County, California. There was a juvenile prison in the county, that I understand not only housed juvenile defenders, but also children who were being cared for by the state for various reasons (mainly, there were no parents who could care for them). This woman understood that all the children there were precious, whether they were there due to be being offenders, or otherwise, and needed to be remembered on Christmas. So she would obtain a list of the names, ages, and sex of every child who was there, and would send to each one individually, by name, their own Christmas tree, each one decorated with toys that would appeal to a person of their age and gender. She did this anonymously. I thought that was one of the best things I had ever heard of, that somebody would think to do that and then would do it every year. Apparently it meant so much to those children, and I can fully understand why.

I greatly appreciate your comment. You have generously shared something about yourself and your past that I appreciate learning about and treat it as a special gift.