The Little Christmas Tree in the Forest
It snowed Dec. 15. It was a good snow, laying down about eight inches on the ridge and meadow way up above our house. The snow continued into the next day, but was diminishing, so Josie, my Yellow Lab, and I headed up the trail. I had my gaiters and hiking boots on, plus the usual layers of outer protective clothing. Josie had on her usual yellow coat, which she grows at night and deposits during the day on furniture, the floors, and anyone who is wearing dark clothing.
As we headed up the old trail one last cloud came in and really let loose with a flurry of white flakes. It was kind of fun. Just Josie and me in a snow storm. We reached the meadow and headed up the last ridge, which from the summit, allows looking both east and west into two separate valleys, one in which we live, and other which is an isolated meadow where a large herd of elk winter.
We were all alone in our own snow storm. No one else had been up there. Even the tracks from the wildlife were obliterated by the falling snow. It was a great feeling. The long climb up had produced that exhilarating feeling that comes with having caught your second wind. We were just trudg’in and climb’in.
Suddenly we came upon a set of tracks produced by another human being. What a disappointment! Someone else was in our forest today!
I looked carefully and discovered the person had gone ahead of us, but had also returned. So at least we wouldn’t have to encounter someone else in our private snow storm.
Josie and I continued following the set of tracks. Slowly I became aware of a curious pattern. Every once in awhile they seemed to stop, approach a small tree, circle it, and then continue up the ridge. It seemed as though the person was looking for something.
After a time Josie and I came upon an area under small juniper tree (sometimes called cedars) where all the snow was matted down. At first I thought some elk or deer had bedded down there. As I looked closer it appeared more like the person whose tracks we were following had lay down and rolled in the snow. As I stood there looking at the matted snow and trying to figure out what may have happened, something a little above my head caught my attention.
I looked up. Hanging from the branches of this little juniper were ornaments! Someone had decorated the tree. Words can not describe my amazement.
The ornaments were unlike any I have ever seen. They were pieces of colored broken glass in irregular geometric shapes. Each was about four to six inches long and shaped in irregular triangles and polygons. And each was wound with a gold colored wire, and looked like it had been entrapped in irregular fishnet. The wire circled the pieces of glass and terminated at the top which was then wound around the tree branches. Each ornament was a different color. There were blues, oranges, reds, yellows, greens, etc.
I just stood back and marveled at the whole scene. When I looked at the tree and its ornaments I could see why the person selected that particular little juniper over all the others which had been circled and evaluated. Everything was perfect.
Josie and I stayed for a while just looking and enjoying the pure magic of this little Christmas tree so far out in the forest. The person who decorated this tree so simply and beautifully certainly did it as a gift to all the forest animals…and Josie..who is a friend of the little lady who we occasionally meet on our walks in the forest.
And so I hope as you read this story, you to will feel some of the Christmas magic Josie and I felt when we happened on the little Christmas tree in the forest.
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From June through September, John Etchart spends most of the day driving a tractor through hayfields below the mountains near Meeker in northwestern Colorado.