Trimming the Tree. . . and Our Book Collection

Last year, after a rodent family bunked up inside the Christmas tree storage bin, our tree rained turds when I opened up the branches. The artificial tree, at nearly 25 years old, had lived a good life, even though the stand had been broken for years and we had to stabilize the tree using a trash can full of rocks.

We had thought we’d be living in the cabin this Christmas, so we didn’t worry about catching any post-Christmas sales on trees. A strand of solar powered lights sounded like a fun and surprisingly affordable way to “spruce” up a thorny Bradford pear in the absence of a good old fir tree.

But as we are still in our old, drafty, much-loved house, and since we needed to purge some books, we decided on a book tree. I didn’t construct it alone–a good friend with experience and a knack for balancing books is why it’s still standing on our unlevel floor.
It was harder but more fun than anticipated, and other than the nice leather-bound books and the Jane Austen tree topper, it’s made up of books we are getting rid of. Some of the books are duplicates, some we had read but did not intend to again, and others are only a library or a click away should we regret our parting. It’s only about 300 or so of the roughly 1800, but it was a serious start.
Last year I culled our Christmas decor, and this year less is more. We kicked off our holiday movie list with Charlie Brown, a reminder that it’s not outward appearances or commercialism that make meaning. We felt it was a fitting first movie for our little Ariel.

The tiny cabin’s long and winding road

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Chuck’s arm is healing slowly but surely. He is still not allowed to lift anything, and his 24/7 brace prevents him from extending his arm more than 110 degrees. Four times a day is a physical therapy routine including ten minutes each of heat, massage, stretching, and ice. The physical therapist says everything looks the way it should, and we hope to get a good report from the surgeon next week.

Despite Chuck having only one usable arm, we planned a cabin work day with a friend who has construction experience. Our goal: to finish hanging the doors and install the great window.

But a few days before our ambitious plan, we received some bad news: my mother-in-law’s scan showed that the cancer had progressed to the extent that nothing more could be done. In truth, we had been suspecting the worst based on how she’d been feeling. More than ever, the cabin felt like it could wait.

As painful as it was, we did as she said and took down the family Bible with the funeral plans she had written out years ago.

Let me just say that Dianna Bane is the kindest person I’ve ever known. When someone has a baby and Dianna calls to share the good news, she doesn’t say, “He was born.” She says, “He’s here!” She celebrates the presence of a new life, which is the way she meets everyone—acknowledging their humanity and their integrity, speaking to the person’s best self.

She’s generous, steadfast, and abundantly loving. She brings joy to a room. She is a peacemaker. Especially lately, she’s been long-suffering and patient.

And so we were all quick to answer her one request: to gather both sides of the family and have Christmas early. From the newest addition to the family born September 9th—Gus Bane Parsley—to her great-nephew Robbie Dixon briefly home on military leave, her family will gather tomorrow for a Christmas with autumn leaves still hanging on.