The Gift of the Blue Spruce
The blue spruce tree entered my life as a gift. Twenty years ago, when I first bought this property, a friend brought me six tiny spruce (Picea) seedlings that she had received from the Arbor Day Foundation. This was a bit like carrying coals to Newcastle, since my property is heavily wooded. But since white pine (Pinus strobus) and hemlock (Tsuga) trees dominate the woods around my house and there are no firs (Abies) or spruces here, I was happy to dot a few spruce trees around the edge of the woods to the west of the house.
Two of these gift seedlings were blue spruces, trees that grow to be about 60’ tall. I planted one of these on the front corner of the property and one at the edge of the woods at the back of the house. Years later, when I added a deck to the back of the house, I realized that the blue spruce was too close and would be an oppressive presence looming over the deck when it matured. So, I decided to cut the blue spruce down at Christmas and bring it in for a Christmas tree.
This was the year when the tree was the right size. I shoveled a path through the 10-12 inches of snow to reach the tree and then dug away the snow around its base to make it more easily accessible. My folding bow saw made quick work of cutting the tree off at the base. I then brought the tree up onto the deck where it rested a few days before I got a chance to bring it in and set it up.
I should note that a spruce tree is a prickly house guest. I have been reminded repeatedly of the “3F” mnemonic that naturalists at Acadia National Park in Maine use to help children distinguish fir trees from spruce trees in the fir-spruce forest; fir trees, they tell them, are unlike spruce trees because the firs have flat needles, are fragrant, and are friendly – if you shake hands with a fir, it won’t hurt you. Spruce trees are very definitely not friendly to the touch, and I have worn heavy gloves to handle this one. Nevertheless, this blue spruce is the perfect Christmas tree for those who, like me, are charmed by trees that are homey, imperfect, and look like they have a history. And so, the blue spruce tree which began as a gift from a friend is now bringing the gift of Christmas joy into my home.
And Christmas will not be the end of its giving. When the holidays are over and the Christmas decorations have been taken down and packed away, the blue spruce will be hauled out to a dry streambed in the woods east of the house, where it will join the ghosts of Christmas trees past in providing the gift of habitat to birds and small animals and, as it decomposes, the gift of nutrients returned to the soil.