The decision has been made. This is our last Christmas in Heath. Of course, life being what it is, nothing is certain, but we are looking for a house in Greenfield where we will celebrate Christmas 2015.
Decisions like this are not lightly made, but for the past couple of years we have been thinking the time has come to be 45 minutes closer to our children, and where we will not have to hop in the car for every little errand. Henry and I met in Greenfield in 1971 when the children and I lived on Grinnell Street; a romantic aura still clings to the town for me.
It is the nature of days to change. Every year, season and day is different. Weathermen keep records of change and try to predict the next change, but change is the constant. Holding the thought and hope that we will be in a new nest by next Christmas, every moment now here in Heath in the Last. This is the last December 21 in Heath. This is the last view through the window where we look out over our garden and landscape. On December 22 the view will have changed. The light will have shifted, the snow will be melting. It will be different.
There is nothing like knowledge of imminent change to make one pay attention to the moment. Quotidian pleasures like the morning cup of coffee by the woodstove with my book for an hour are more intensely felt because their duration is now limited. Every day errands, to the transfer station, the library or down to Avery’s Store take me over and down the hills, through beautiful snowy woods, and past tumbling streams. I have watched the trees grow, and watched them bend and break in storms. With every change I have come to appreciate and love this landscape more and more every year.
Though I love my domestic landscape, and the landscape of Heath I look forward to the move to Greenfield with happy anticipation. I have lived long enough and in enough different places to know that each holds its pleasures, as well as its particular drawbacks. I was born and lived in New York City for part of my childhood, but part of my childhood was spent on a dairy farm on the shores of Lake Champlain. I have lived in other small towns, and in busy suburbs. With Henry I lived in Maine, then in his ancestral apartment in Manhattan. Together we found our dream home in Heath, but left for brief adventures in Beijing. I have been happy (most of the time) in every one of those apartments and houses. I have been transplanted before.
I see change not only as inevitable, but as a good thing, especially when we are choosing this change and not waiting for circumstances to force change upon us.
One Christmas tradition we established here in Heath is cutting our Christmas tree from our own land. The wild choices were not always beautiful so when we planted our snowbreak we also planted a number of balsams. Over time we refreshed this planting with more balsams, but even these have all been harvested. This Christmas we thought we might have to buy a Christmas tree, but we could not break tradition. If this was our very last Christmas at the End of the Road we needed to find own tree.
So we booted up, gathered the loppers and saw and set out across the field. My husband was quite sure he had seen a suitable tree at the edge of the western woodland.
I doubted his memory. I thought there are only pines in that woodland, not suitable Christmas trees. I kept my thoughts to myself as we tramped across the frozen snow and we did find the tree Henry remembered. It would have been suitable, but it was broken and bowed down by the recent snow and ice storm.
What to do? Then I looked into a nearby pine thicket and thought I saw a balsam. Henry quickly affirmed that it was a balsam, perfectly suitable. In fact, it is one of the best trees we have ever harvested for our Christmas. Some were small, one was very prickery, one had branches only on one side, and some seemed to limp with a bend in the trunk. This tree is perfect for our last Heathan Christmas.
Family traditions are important, but when circumstances change a tradition might have to shift a little bit. Will we decide to visit a tree farm next year and chop down a tree there? Or will we go to the open air market and choose one of those trees? Either way, the tree will be set up where we can admire it every evening, colored lights will be strung and ornaments recounting the history of our years together will be hung.
We put down roots when we moved to Heath in 1979. Our life grew rich and we enjoyed the fruits of many friendships, which will continue. Our life here has reached maturity and we can feel the winds of change blowing seeds of that maturity down to Greenfield, to a new, smaller garden to take root where we can flourish again.
In the meantime, we will virtually join you and the celebration around your Christmas tree, tall or small, and wish you every holiday joy. Merry Christmas.
Between the Rows December 20, 2014