Wild Maine Christmas trees have uneven branches, irregular shapes, bare spots, gaps, and are not dense and lush. They are simply trees cut from the woods, where they grew and adapted to what was happening around them.
We are large in number who love these true and honest trees. Some call them Charlie Brown’s, but they are not sad or lacking. They have a story and an individuality no groomed, trimmed, shaved and tortured tree has to share.
This year we went to a friend’s gravel pit to cut our tree. It was the weekend after Thanksgiving; the ground was deep with snow and the air brisk. Mrs. Peel, my old Descente one-piece snowsuit, came out from her summer seclusion. One look at my husband on crutches and we grabbed the saw and climbed over a powdery snow bank to hunt down our tree.
It was a successful hunt. I have specific requirements for my tree. I want a balsam for the scent. It should be about eight feet tall, so there is room for the angel to sit on top without feeling like the ceiling is pressing on her. It cannot be so dense we can’t see the trunk, which is really never a problem for wild trees, and the branches can shoot out in whatever direction weather and neighboring trees dictate. The crazier and more erratic the better.
I quickly found a fir, a bit isolated from other trees, looking alone and like it wanted to come home with us and be our tree. I brought out the new little handsaw which was supposed to be a Christmas present for me, but which my husband liked so much he decided to keep.
The saw was pretty slick, and I brought the tree down in just a few minutes. I had shaken most of the snow from the boughs, but each slide of the saw brought a few puffs of sparkling crystals to tap my face with refreshing coolness. Dragging it back to the car with fluffy snow kicking up around my knees is just one more of the things I love about getting our own tree.
My husband used to be the one to get his mother’s tree. Each year she asked for something just a “dite” fuller. I never saw those early trees, but suspect I would have loved them. Jane did not. She did have a sense of humor, though. One year, when she thought the tree particularly lacking, she took nippers, cut off most of it’s branches, and then stood proudly in front of her house holding the tree. She had a friend take a photo. We still have a copy of the picture Jane shared with her friends of the tree her son brought her for Christmas.
I have been delighted to see so many friends sharing their long-limbed wild trees this year. We are all lucky to have access to land that is open to cutting. A number of years ago a sophisticated, urban New Yorker visited and saw my tree. She had never seen anything but the carefully groomed trees sold in the city. She loved it. For a few years after that I contemplated hauling a truck full of trees to Boston or New York, with photos of how they look dressed, and signs proclaiming “Wild, free-range, organic Maine Christmas trees.” I think it has potential, but I know I’ll never do it.
Usually I pick trees, get vetoed, and we keep on driving for one fuller, bigger, wider, somethinger. This year, Mrs. Peel and I took charge. Our tree is wilder than ever, and our tree is wonderful.
Looking for a place to cut your own wild tree? Try Maine Mountain Man (565-2915) and Grants Farm (207-565-2791) in Franklin, and next year Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust, greatpondtrust.org, where they offer hot chocolate and bonfires.