Tis the season of tree guilt

By Jeff Petersen, The Observer December 19, 2011 08:02 pm

The sun baked the shade until it was a golden brown. My teenage co-workers at the Christmas tree farm had long since turned the colors of lobsters in hopes that a burn would attract the opposite sex.

Bob jumped on a stump. He began singing the song of the day, “Play That Funky Music, White Boy” by Wild Cherry.

Our reverie was broken when the farm manager, a Santa Claus lookalike, yelled from across the mountain. He was not in the holiday spirit. His voice could have shattered a canteen.

“Who broke the top out of my blue spruce?” he bellowed.

The blue spruces were the most expensive trees, and breaking the top was the worst crime a worker could commit, worse even than voting Democrat.

America has about 100,000 Christmas tree workers. If the boss’s voice was any indication, it was soon to have one fewer.

When it comes to the boss’s  naughty or nice lists, we were definitely on the naughty side.

Oregon leads the nation in lots of things: pumping our own gas, solar manufacturing, even food stamp use.

Oregon also leads the nation in Christmas tree production.

Not everyone, though, buys their tree from a lot. Many people go to the national forest searching for the perfect tree, even if perfect is the impossible dream.

If time is short, going Christmas tree shopping at a lot is an option. It’s a good way to support causes: Boy Scouts, Philly trips and more.

Having grown up on a tree farm, and having once operated my own tree lot, I have a heart for real trees.

But when it comes to Christmas trees, guilt reigns like a December deluge. Some people feel bad about cutting down a new tree each year. Some people feel bad about the pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers used.

Other people feel bad about buying an artificial tree, since they are often made with petroleum-derived plastic and 85 percent are manufactured in China.

Guilt reigns until we are knee deep in the stuff.

The only way not to feel guilty, I imagine, is decorating a jade plant.

As a newly married couple, just three months in to the adventure, Wonder and I had a big decision to make. No, I’m not talking about advanced directives or wills. I’m not talking Catholic versus Protestant or Democrat versus Republican.

I’m talking about one of the biggest decisions facing married couples: whether to get a real or an artificial Christmas tree.

The first consideration was time. Each year  she writes, designs and prints her dad’s Christmas letter, and now she also wants to design our cards. What’s more, December is her busy season for producing an Oregon calendar, and it’s also a busy season at her work and caretaking for her dad and for yours truly.

So we decided, after weighing the options, to go artificial. Each Christmas we could bring the already decorated tree in from the garage and we could both get on with our other projects.

We’d save time. We’d also save money, as long as we hung on to the artificial tree as long as we hang on to our favorite slippers.

Sure, artificial has drawbacks. And sure, for most people, getting a real blue spruce for Christmas would be a treat. For me, the blue spruce brings back memories of a Santa Claus lookalike seeing red.

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