Every Xmas tree lot looks the same. Most of the trees are around 6 ft. They all are triangular shaped and green. The prices are different depending upon certain looks and models of trees. I think the noble fir is the most expensive although you can’t see this difference unless you poke around for the price tag nestled in the branches. It is surprising then, once you enter the lot that suddenly actually choosing one becomes rather difficult. It is almost as if once you start looking at all these similar forms that their differences magnify. The closer you look, the more differences you are able to see. And they suddenly seem important. The fact that the branches are not quite even, that there is a slight leaning to the left or that the top of the tree ends in an unsatisfactorily way, really matters. I am not sure what the top is supposed to look like but I know if I stare long enough and imagine that star sitting upon it, that the tippy top should feel like a finale, a nice pointy even endpoint that somehow helps makes us feel complete, more buoyant and even festive.
I seriously scrutinize these trees, as do my daughters who always accompany me on this day of choosing. It actually is pretty hard to decide. I try to apply my most discerning visual aesthetics to this decision.
It is only this time of year when I scrutinize trees. All the rest of the time I am fine with pretty much any tree I come across. I run and hike by thousands growing beside trails all year long.
I think it has to do with the artificial organizing of trees that occurs en mass in the tree lot. If I imagine a painting that has lots of vastly different sizes and kinds of trees all over it – (more like a real forest), then I can see that the smaller subtleties, like even branch disbursement or patchy leaf coverage, wouldn’t even come up. The tiny details matter less in comparison to such big differences that occur naturally in the forest or in this case the painting. So if suddenly you paint all the trees uniform then oddly you get pickier. Yes the differences are subtler and it might take more sensibilities to see them but they are there nonetheless.
The decision to buy a particular Xmas tree only becomes more difficult the closer and longer you look. Like trying to finish a painting, the decisions towards the end become more refined and often are harder to see. You never are quite sure your done, but you hope so. Once you leave the lot, thankfully the tree always seems just about right – although more often than not once you get home it almost always leans to the left. It briefly shares your warm house, sprinkled with twinkling lights and ornaments.
The perfectly imperfect Xmas tree reminds me that even though the winter days are dark, they are filled with much to be thankful for, happiness and light.
Happy Holidays, Nicholas Wilton