Every Christmas season has to come to an end. Just as the bringing of the Christmas tree home signified the start of the Christmas season, taking the tree down and loading it into the truck for recycling symbolizes the end for me. Every year I take the tree to our local park for recycling. This year instead of just seeing piles of dead and dying trees, I saw a "Christmas Tree Cemetery" of Carolina and Canadian Fraser Firs that provided joy and happiness to families during the Christmas season. I couldn't miss the rare opportunity to photograph this once a year ritual.
Christmas is a joyous time of the year. One of our most important and favorite Christmas traditions is visiting our church Christmas Tree stand and searching for the very best tree on the lot. The tree we take home has to meet very specific criteria: it must be full; it must be nine to ten feet tall; it must not have any "holes"; it must be fresh with soft needles; and it must be perfectly shaped with a top suitable to hold the Angel. Since we ask the church volunteers to rip open, stand up, and bounce so many trees, we know after we head for home they talk negatively and condemn us to sit in the front row Sunday's Service. This year we once again found our perfect piece of the forest, which we loaded into the truck and took home for decorating. Our Christmas tree is the central focal point for everyone visiting our home during the four week holiday season.
Just as it is fun and exciting to bring the tree home and decorate, it's also sad and depressing when we start the process of meticulously and carefully removing every piece of tinsel and all the ornaments from dried out branches with razor sharp needles that provide my yearly acupuncture treatment. It never fails that someone in my family decided to place three or four ornaments deep into the tree which require the precision of a military extraction to get them out without serious injury. We have a tradition of hiding on the tree a "pickle" ornament and it's believed that who ever finds it at the end of Christmas will have good luck through out the upcoming year. This nonedible "pickle" is always hidden the deepest and the finder is guaranteed to be bandaged after the extraction with potential hospitalization. No surprise, I've found it the last two years. After our final ornament check with powerful flash lights and lasers looking for any unnatural reflections and glows, the tree was bagged and dragged across the living room and out the front door leaving a massive trail of fallen needles and spilled excess water from the base. This year my six year old grandson and I loaded the tree into the back of my truck for what now could be considered a Christmas Tree "Hearse" that everyone avoided trailing on the journey because the needles in the wind served as what could be best described as pygmy blowpipe projectiles bouncing off their vehicle.
As in the past when my daughter and I would drop off the tree for recycling, a new sense of sadness started to be realized as my grandson and I drove down the park dirt road. As we came over the hill, the piles of abandoned trees began to come into focus with the realization that these vibrant and living trees had provided tremendous joy over the last four weeks with bright lights and reminders of past happy times with family heirlooms hanging from their branches. Children awoke with amazement in their eyes and excitement in their voices trying to understand how all the colorful packages magically appeared under the protective canopy of the lower branches. This year the recycling site transformed into a final resting place where these majestic trees were prepared to be sent back to nature and provided further good for our environment.
After delivering the tree I returned to document my perceived cemetery. I started looking at the trees with a different frame of mind. Tree stands began to look like crosses. I observed what I refer to different states of tree rigor mortis, very brown to somewhat green. Each tree had it's own personality, which was an extension of it owner. There were tall and short trees, skinny and fat trees, white flocked trees, and even a red flocked tree. Some stacked neatly, other cast off to the side. While most of the trees were resting in their whole state, some trees were mutilated by their owners either by the removal of branches leaving just the inner truck or breaking the tree in half. There were trees laid to rest with which what its owners seemed to intentionally want to maintain the decorated beauty with shining tinsel still adorning branches. For the first time I was seeing and photographing a pile of trees from a totally different perspective.
My camera makes me look at situations in a different light enabling me to explore and document details generally overlooked in everyday life. Through my photography I am realizing a better understanding what may be considered mundane activities that are very similar to others which can be humorous, sad, and exciting with life long memories attached. The next time you drop off your Christmas Tree for recycling or leave it on the street for bulk pickup, remember the joys and say farewell with a smile.
Have you had a similar experience, I'd like to hear about it.
Enjoy and remember,
"Moments in time are lived once. Images of those moments live forever."