The Last Christmas in Heath?


Last Christmas in Heath
Last Christmas in Heath?

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

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Lisa at Greenbow

    You have an exciting 2015 to look forward to. I am happy for you. Now you can as you say savor the last times in your present home. Wishing you well…

  2. rkh2

    Things are constantly changing and we adapt to them. I certainly will miss your “View from the bedroom window” It has been a pleasure seeing how change takes place during the year in Heath and has been a way for me to better picture the different seasons without being there. I have many childhood memories of when my grand parents the Peters were around and lived in Heath. After being away for almost 50 years, I was blessed to visit the area twice now in the past two years and many memories were restored.I will be looking forward to your writings in your new home and just want to express my sincere thanks for all the different stories you have posted about Heath. My roots are from Greenfield where I was born and I grew up as a child in the Charlemont, Heath, Colrain and Shelburne Falls area before my family moved out west to CA. After living in the west for some 30 years, I relocated to TN where I have been living for the past 24 years. Like I said, things change and we adapt to them. Memories are forever. Keep up posting your stories.

  3. thesalemgarden

    wow, what exciting news! Change is hard and fun at the same time. It will be fun to see where you land and how you develop your new space but I must admit that I do feel a bit attached to your current garden. I”m glad you found the perfect tree to celebrate with this year. That will be a good memory to take with you to Greenfield.

  4. Kylee Baumle

    What a beautiful attitude, Pat, and an equally beautiful post expressing it. We too, know our days in our home are numbered, although there should be many more years here (good health permitting). It’s difficult to leave a home that’s filled with so many memories, but those you take with you, no matter where you go. My best wishes as you make this transition. It’s exciting!

  5. Flaneur

    End o’ the Road Farm may be the name of the place, but mercifully it doesn’t begin to describe what the future holds for you. I hope many of the traditions we fiends and readers have come to associate with the current house are continued in Greenfield, and surely new traditions will be born as well. A new garden! A new garden design! New plants and materials! New weeds (same old weeds?)! A whole new… season! May your garden continue to flourish.

  6. Wendy Roberts

    Oh wow. Life does move us forward. Your grace in contemplating a move from Heath is stunning. Though I’m sure you’ll have your less graceful moments, may you find a lovely spot to land in Greenfield. How well I remember your warmth and welcome to the Grinnell Street house! You and Henry will continue to bring your own magic with you wherever you go.

  7. Laura

    I always think change is so hard. Moving is hard too even if it’s for the best. Wish I weren’t so sentimental! Liked the pictures of the tree being carried.

  8. Pat

    Lisa – I do savor every day – and every drive through the woodlands every time I run a Heath errand.
    rkh2 – You know what it is like to move and find good things wherever you are. We are just moving ‘down the road.’ Heath is not totally lost to us.
    salem gardener – I hope I can rein myself in when I get to our new space and take some time to THINK about what I’m doing.
    Kylee – Fortunately we are both in good health, but I am older than you!
    Flaneur – You always see the whole picture – new and old weeds I am sure.
    Wendy – Because of the proposed move I have been thinking about other moves, and that move to grinnell street was one of the best moves I ever made. I think of the world that opened to me in that house which has only gotten larger. I have to confess I just bought a CD of Carole King’s Tapestry – on every radio station in 1971 and often played in that house.
    Laura – Just remember we are only moving down the road. We are not losing the most important thing – friends. And we’ll get a few new ones, too.

  9. Pam/Digging

    Enjoy your last “lasts” in your current home, Pat. I hope you get to smell the roses one more summer before you move. I look forward to seeing the new garden you create at your new home-to-be!

  10. Nan

    I was so very surprised to read this. And I felt sad, but your way of looking at it is wonderful. You have the best attitude. I’ll be interested in all your news from your new home. I have missed visiting. It has been such a full year for me that I haven’t been able to visit blogs, but am hoping I can do so more often this year.

  11. sandy thomas

    Pat and Henry, I have so enjoyed your Heath gardens through your wonderful column. As you head down the hill and back to Greenfield, know that we are among the many who welcome you back! Having just moved ourselves (across the street from Crescent to Orchard), I am also looking forward to what awaits us in spring and digging deep into new soil. Hope your transition goes smoothly! Sandy and Russ Thomas

  12. Pat

    Sandy – I am looking forward to being closer to a different set of friends – while keeping all the old friends, of course.

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