Our Christmas tree: musings on mortality

by Erlene Woollard

One might well wonder why I would bother taking such a photograph during this pandemic when our craving for beauty and positive distraction is so great. However, as I walked towards our still beautiful live Christmas tree waiting in our back alley to be picked up and sent off to its next life stage, I pondered its many gifts along its lifespan.

As a living tree nurtured on a Canadian tree farm, this intensely enjoyed tree has provided a lot of positives. From a seedling it provided employment and income while doing its job to help clean the planet. Once it was cut and sent to the tree lot of a local charity it helped, with a host of companion trees, to build community via loyal volunteers who came together with their many stories to support the worthy charity while helping excited and hopeful buyers find the perfect tree.

Then into our home it came to be adorned with only handmade decorations (except for the lights) made by friends and artisans over the years providing heartfelt memories of many friendships and travels. Our family loved its calm dignity, beauty and scent

Now it is waiting to be sent on to make chips to use as mulch for beautiful city gardens. Also, the carbon pulled from the air during its lifespan will enter the soil for the next generation of plants. As if that is not enough, it provides the background for much thought and debate about whether or not it is environmentally friendly to cut and bring in a living tree instead of a potted one, an artificial one—or none at all.

When looking at this photo, I start to muse over the standing evergreen tree in the background that has been allowed to survive urban saws when so many others were not. What is its story? This question fascinates me as I admire and ponder it.

Another musing re-emerges as I observe the severe ugliness of the alley itself. I have lately dreamed of bringing our neighbours together to turn this eyesore into a thing of beauty with rain gardens and edible food plants draping over the “crying to be repaired” fences—an idea that “the city” is not opposed to but now has many other priorities during this virus time.

In my mind our planet would be much healthier if every living thing and its death was respected, used, loved and appreciated so intensely as our oblivious celebrated tree. I am reminded of the foundation of indigenous wisdom and tradition that illuminates paths forward by honouring and respecting each phase of all life—a metaphor to be explored??

And I open the gate after these moments of reflections –of seeing beauty and potential opportunity in a dirty alley and an abandoned tree—and I am thankful for the gift of time and the ability to reflect, learn and share something which at first glance seemed so stark and forgotten.


  1. This is one of the nicest, most reflective, and most uplifting things I have read this holiday season. Thank you, Erlene!

  2. Thank you Erlene! Your offering is a blessing – beautiful, thoughtful and inspiring. I may just go for a farmed tree sold for charity next year. Meanwhile, my indoor fig tree is mature enough to hold a few small lights and ornaments this year. Ahh, the beauty of the Earth, wherever we find it!

  3. I love your idea of rejuvenating your alley into a place of a living vibrant community. What a unique idea!
    May 2021 lead you to new life-giving opportunities!

  4. Lovely evocative piece, thank you!
    Brings to mind the novel “Overstory” which I appreciated so much this year as well as my appreciation of so many friends and big and small ways to find joy and connection.

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