The Tree of Life Keeps Giving

It might be my imagination, but this year I sense a spirit of caring that prevails across the country. Times are tough and people are out of work. I hear that a lot. It is what makes those who are working care for those who aren’t working. People not only care, they are giving from their hearts. I see Giving Trees at church, and at the Township Hall. I see people stuffing dollar bills into canisters at check out counters, I see people standing in front of super-markets with collection cans. Most are collecting for food. There are coat collection drives, toys for tots, and the list grows as the need increases. We are a giving nation, and conditions warrant taking care of those who are suffering, and I see people giving from their hearts.

Yes, Uncle does help, but only by placing a mortgage on the kids they help. Imagine if you were giving a gift to someone, but you made them sign a paper to pay it back with interest?  Uncle takes a big cut to keep high paid government workers voting his way.

Couldn’t we do better by ourselves?  Couldn’t private organizations do a better, more efficient job of taking care of those in need than Uncle? Yes we can, and we do.

Life Evolves With the Tree

Life moves ahead and the Tree of Life does too. It is not a static entity. My Tree of Life grew each year, and is still growing this year. The adornments that hung from her branches evolved yearly. At  first it was just birds, like the Navaho rug design. Then it moved to the bird house ornaments made by the grand elves. The next year, the bird houses had birds perched at the openings.

The original tree was green, but the ornamental birds didn’t show off very well. The green tree morphed and became white. The original multi-colored lights morphed into clear. This year, a few red bulbs are mixed in to make it pop more. The first flowers were simple red poinsettia placed randomly around her boughs. They looked so good they migrated to become the tree topper. The next year the poinsettia changed to pink with red roses mixed between.  The bouquet at the top became a focus, and soon there were lilies, baby’s breath, roses, poinsettia, carnations, iris, and even hydrangea.

Christmas is not Christmas without poinsettia. Every year growers introduce new colors and invent new ways to add sparkle and pizzaz to the flower. The bracts are sprinkled with glitter, dyed, and painted to make them unique and  colorful. Every year, I see a new artificial poinsettia that out does the last year’s prize. Usually, I buy a bunch of a new one that catches my eye and add it to the Tree. This year however, Grandma Peggy found something which is outstanding. They are boughs of  a simple leafy plant that resembles schefflera covered in red glitter.

One year a friend visited China, and brought me some Panda book marks. Each Panda is made of colored  paper that is hand cut and glued to a flat piece of bamboo.The Panda is a life form and has found a home place on the Tree. The same happened with butterflies. We found them while touring shops in Saugatuck, Michigan

The Tree of Life moves forward with new additions and some deletions every year making it a unique representation of our own lives.

My tree took a seven-year nap, and has now come back to remind me that life goes on even if circumstances change drastically.

The Tree of Life Extends to Heaven

In my last two posts about the Tree of Life, I expressed feelings of  depression. Grief is a funny thing. You think you are over it, but it revisits at strange times. It has been seven years since I last assembled the Tree of Life, and I thought I was ready to move forward with it. Life moves on, and so must I. That is the rationale I used for breaking out the components to begin anew. It is time, and I am actually having fun recalling the “good times” that surrounded the Tree.

My new insight on the Tree is that “Life” extends into the afterlife of heaven. As I march forward on earth, Busia Barb moves forward in eternity. She lives within our hearts and visits during those moments when we bring the Tree to life again.

Another ornament produced in the Ornament Factory is called  God’s Eyes (Ojo de Dios). It is a Mexican Indian craft that my daughter brought into our lives from her Spanish studies. To make one, just wrap yarn around a cross of two popsicle sticks. It sounds simple, until you try teaching a four year old to do it.

Grand Elf Ornament Factory

Every year for many years Grumpa Joe, and Busia Barb conducted an ornament making day with the grand-elves. Most of the big work was done by the big elf himself, but the ornamentation and coloring was finished by the grand-elves. The workshop was stocked with fast drying water based paints, brushes, Elmer’s glue , and glitter of many colors. There were enough raw forms to allow each grand-elf to make a dozen ornaments. The caveat was that each grand-elf had to leave one ornament for the grandparents.

When the elves completed the ornaments, the workshop glistened in many colors. There was glitter everywhere. The grand-elves glittered too. Many of them got glitter in the hair and shined for weeks after. The tradition lasted for six years, and finally ended in 2003 when Busia Barb left us for heaven.

One year, I set them up with thread spools and toothpicks. Those were tough materials to handle, and the ornaments turned out looking pretty sad. In most of the  years, the forms were pre-cut shapes from thin plywood. I cheated one year, and bought forms from Michael’s. Another time, the elves used dowel rods and yarn to make Ojo de Dios or Eye of God. That year, the elves had help from a visiting cousin elf who turned out to be a fabulous teacher with the patience of a saint. Elf Ana became my favorite great-niece.

Not all the families could make it every year, but usually, two out of three joined in the fun. The  more there were the more we glistened. The factory work  lasted an hour. The whistle blew and it was time to break for a treat of pizza,  milk and cookies.

My Tree of Life features many of the ornaments produced by the grand-elves in the ornament factory in Frankfort, Illinois. I stare at the example below and remember those times with joy. I am glad I have those happy memories to offset the  sadness that overwhelms me at Christmas.

Tree Topper

My tree of life turned out better this year than it ever was in the past. It’s been seven years since it adorned our home, and it took several years to build the ornaments, collect the birds,  butterflies, and flowers. I even found some stuff that I bought eight years ago, but never used before.. The tree is new too. I used a green tree once, and decided that the flowers and birds need a bright background to shown them off. Otherwise, they blend into the background like they do in nature. I chose white.

The first Navaho rug that caught my eye was in Sedona, Arizona. It was a five by seven Tree of Life pattern with a fifteen thousand dollar price tag. Looking back on it, that was a very good price. Much smaller rugs of that pattern go for the same price today. That is hindsight and Monday morning quarter backing. I couldn’t afford it then, and I still can’t afford it now. The alternative was to make my own.  Frankly, I like  mine better. I can change its appearance every year, yet hold the same theme and philosophical concept.

Barbara and I loved this design, and worked together to assemble the various components. We shopped everywhere we went. Often bringing home a new bird from vacation trips. The tree has great sentimental value, but unleashes melancholy from deep within that requires conversations with God to brighten up the darkness of my grief.