It was our first time to get a Christmas tree alone, as a couple, without one or both of the kids. The kids, after all, aren’t kids anymore. As we started out, parking the truck at the side of the road, venturing out into the deep snow of the Arapaho Forest, it seemed easier; only two opinions would be voiced as we looked for our perfect/imperfect tree.
Bob wasn’t satisfied to stay in the territory close to the road. He wanted to cross over the deep meadow to the other side, maybe a quarter of a mile from the truck. Evidently the trees always look better to him when a trek is involved. So he waded ahead through the snow, up past his knees. I said I would wait to see if it would be worth my effort.
I stood and in a short time he called to me, saying he might have found something. But I couldn’t see him across the expanse of snow. All I could see in the distance was trees, all of them much too grand for our living room. But then he would call to me again, and I knew that he was a man on a mission. He would find our tree, and I would brave my way across the snowfield to help him carry it back to the truck.
So I stood still, in the snow and waited. And waited. The wind blew gentle flakes over me. It was like dust gathering on my jacket. Minutes began to feel like a long time. I occasionally heard a snowmobile. A jet flew high overhead and shook the ground. But I waited. My black boots firmly planted in the snow. There was really no place to go and no need to go.
Then I thought about how alone I was. And how alone he was in the pine forest just across the way. The solitary wait seemed too long. I rather ridiculously thought of mountain lions. Though there was beauty in the stillness of the gray day, I felt too alone, a little vulnerable. I called to him, “Bob.” No answer. “Bob.” All was quiet, all was calm. Except I started to wonder where he was, if something had happened to him.
“Bob!” And this time I was yelling so loudly my throat scratched with just a note of panic. This time he answered, “I’m over here. I think I found a tree.”
In those minutes of waiting perfectly still in the knee-deep snow, I thought of what it would be to be alone, without him. What if he were gone, if something had taken him. As irrational as it seemed, and so unlikely, at that moment it felt like a possible truth.
He called for me to come look at the tree. I waded up to my thighs in snow before I saw him among a gathering of pines, and then found an easier sled trail that curved over to the little clearing where he came into sight. I trudged through more deep powder. He called to me, wondering aloud if the tree he had chosen would be okay, and even before I saw it I knew that it would. We would take this one no matter how much of a Charlie Brown tree it happened to be.
When I got to his spot, I said, “Yes, it’s fine.” He quickly cut it and we each took an end. We stopped occasionally to catch our breaths, not easy walking in deep snow with a nine-foot tree. Mission accomplished, we got to the road, placed it at the side and retrieved the truck. The tree fit into the bed perfectly.
As we drove away from the forest, just a mile from where we had found our tree, there was a herd of elk grazing at the side of the road. I took a few pictures from my window. All was back to normal in my world, but for a few moments I had experienced aloneness. Peace. Quiet. But utter aloneness. I was glad to leave it behind.
Now I’m ready for Christmas, enough of Advent, enough waiting. Our tree will soon have its lights and ornaments. Ready for Christmas.