Next stop…Christmas!

Well, we polished off Thanksgiving just in time for Christmas. Nonstop, aren’t they? The holidays…

The tree arrived from New Jersey making the trip up the 24 floors (I stand corrected, I thought it was 21) on Kellen’s back, to their penthouse apartment. We had spent several days prior determining which tiny space would be the best for a potentially tall but hopefully skinny, tree. Kellen ceremoniously secured it in it’s stand…PERFECTION!

The scent of evergreen permeated the air. Joy lit candles and turned on Christmas music. Let the festivities begin! Then she hauled out boxes, upon boxes, and more boxes of ornaments, each one lovingly wrapped in newspaper. As she disrobed them each had a story. Joy is the historian, the keeper of old photos and family relics, the sentimental promoter of tradition. She’s also the undisputed boss.

“Do you like to do lights, mom?” Joy asked in a voice that translated, “Your job is lights!” I don’t think I’ve ever NOT done the lights. It’s an art that I don’t entrust to anyone else. They have to be done right. And this year they have to be perfect because if they aren’t, Kellen will disassemble them and make them so! I know this about him! He is more OC, AR. and BS than I am! (No, I won’t decipher the acronyms!) And make no mistake, I love that about him!

So I did the lights and Kellen approved. Whew! Then, because he has height going for him and the right tools for the job, he was assigned the task of affixing the tree topper. He nailed it. Good job Kellen!

About this time empty boxes, scraps of newsprint, unused strands of lights, and miscellaneous snowmen and Santas were strewn haphazardly about. Joy brought out the wine. She has an instinct for these things. Her timing is impeccable!

It was a muscat, sweet and fruity, just like the company! Kellen tried to achieve the same beautiful reflection through his Miller-champagne-of-bottle-beers but the results were not photo worthy. About that time we were singing along with Mariah Carey’s Christmas album, attempting to stretch our alto voices to the impossible registers of coloratura soprano with only moderate success. Then, at some point, the elves arrived to spit-polish and clean up.

Joy loves her beautiful tree…

and I love my sweet middle child…

The holidays: we love them, we hate them, we eat and drink and make too much merry, but I wouldn’t trade this time in New York for anything. Merry Christmas!

Tadpoles, Caterpillars, and a Naked Tree

There is a lesson here. I’m sure of it. The Tree, rounded and lush, was home to a pair of cooing doves. Many times daily they sought cover in  her protective branches and rustled around copiously completely hidden from prying eyes. Mine.

The Tree

That morning I spied a ladder propped against the trunk. Look closely…it’s there. Being unfamiliar with the species of Tree or the possible nature of her fruit, my first guess assumed harvest. The Tree had produced something delectable that Ketut would gather. I parked myself on the balcony in a position affording the most advantageous view and waited. My patience was rewarded. Ketut climbed the ladder with a wicked-looking curved knife in hand. On his way up he chopped at a few stray branches and sent them crashing through the vegetation below. Next thing I knew, the ladder was below him. He was scaling the trunk and hoisting himself into the thick crown of leaves above him.

Ketut in The Tree

In the next instant he was hacking off branches at an alarming rate. Well, I mused, maybe this is a pruning rather than a harvest. What if the doves have a nest in there? What if he upsets it and they can’t go home? Anxiety was setting in. At the onset I had feigned nonchalance, observing but trying not to be obvious about it. Now I was fully engaged, horrified, not wanting to believe my eyes. Hack, hack, hack. More and more branches crashed through the palms and frangipani below. I had to bite my tongue to keep from shouting Stop! Please stop! Ketut, after all, is the gardener and the garden, after all, is not mine. With each loud whack of the knife and each crashing fall of a branch my heart sank a little deeper into grief. I turned away and busied myself with distractions not wanting to see what I feared.

Later, after all had been silent in the garden for some time, curiosity compelled me. I had to look. Mon Dieu! Butchered! Denuded! The Tree stood naked and grotesque against the sky. This was abominable! I needed an explanation. My thoughts were stormy…Where is he? Where is that Ketut…that butcher! He’d better have a good story because I an not happy.

Naked Tree

I found him, of course. Summoning as much composure as possible I inquired, politely, about the tree. It was for safety, he said. Too much wind, tree fall on house. What about the birds? I needed to know. Was there a nest? Many nest, Ketut smiled, but no egg. He further explained that he was not finished. The whole top of the tree would be cut off but his knife had broken. The whole top of the tree. Then what? I asked. He smiled that angelic smile…Then, one month maybe, new tree!

I’m sensing a theme here…first the frog, now the tree. Death and rebirth. Transformation. For my last visit to Bali I lived at the edge of a rice paddy. I arrived when the new shoots were tender green rows against the muddy earth. I left just before harvest. The paddy was a golden field, ripe, mature, and I had grown as well. This time I live at eye-level with the treetops. My neighbors are the birds. I am in mid-heaven, halfway between the sacred and the mundane. And I know why I’m here. Yes, to rewrite the manuscript…yes, to hold a workshop…but the greater purpose, wrapped all around in this beautiful cocoon of my home, is to liquefy. I’ve already felt the beginning of it. I could be terrified, or I could yield into acceptance. What choice does the caterpillar have? What choice do I?

A lone dove sits on a naked branch of The Tree. One month, little friend, I tell her, one month.

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