Old trees, new ornaments

discarded Christmas treesFestival of the Trees #31, the New Year’s 2009 edition, is worth an extended visit at Rock Paper Lizard. As Hugh says, ’tis the season to take down the Christmas tree — something we just got around to doing this morning up at my parents’ house. Dad kindly undecorated the tree, leaving me with the simpler task of carrying it outside.

If you feed wild birds, discarded Christmas trees make very useful shelters from hawks and inclement weather. I nestled this year’s tree among the skeletons of previous Christmases, four of them, in varying stages of decomposition. Even without the needles, thin, tangled coats of weeds and grasses still offer some protection. The Christmas tree is truly a gift that goes on giving. When I came back with my camera to snap the above picture less than five minutes later, a half-dozen white-throated sparrows flew out. No sooner had it been stripped of the usual myriad of fake bird ornaments than the real thing moved in.

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I’ve just been reading about TreeYoga. I got all excited at first, but it turned out that this was really boring old PeopleYoga — the trees are merely used for a form of non-lethal hanging.

As in the yoga posture (asana) of the Tree Pose (Vrksasana), TreeYoga beckons us to reflect upon a core principle of yoga — balance. Like trees, yogis can now root themselves into the earth and extend gloriously up to the sky. There is great beauty and playfulness in the flowering shapes of yogis sprouting from trees.

If the accompanying photos are any indication, the dangling yogis do indeed resemble some kind of strange fruit. The official TreeYoga website refers to trees as “yoga partners,” which strikes me as presumptuous in the same way I find tree-hugging presumptuous: how do we know the trees really want to be hugged or enlisted as partners?

Still, people have been meditating in or under trees for a very long time, and as I’ve written here in the past, many Central Pennsylvanians practice an annual tree-based meditative activity that probably resembles quite closely the paleolithic, ancestral form of meditation. And because they spend such long hours up there, staying as still as they can, they’re rewarded with all sorts of great wildlife sightings. One of the hunters on our property saw a bobcat from her tree stand this year; another saw a fisher. There were several red fox sightings, which surprised us a little because we haven’t seen any in two or three years, and had assumed they’d all been killed or driven off by the coyotes. And quite regularly of course the hunters draw the attention of small flocks of winter birds. I can only imagine a chickadee’s reaction if it saw a human hanging upside-down, chickadee-fashion, with the help of a TreeYoga swing.

7 Comments


  1. Well, I have a similar swing I use in my house for inversions, and it would work off tree limbs, of course, too … but when I practice yoga, I tend to try to go for the tree-likeness in the pose and not use the tree as a literal limb for getting there!

    The only things I have been hanging off the trees in the yard lately is suet for the birds and watched with amazement as small birds (definitely not humming birds) tried their best impersonations (yoga poses?) to hover like humming birds to get to the dwindling suet inside the metal cage.

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  2. I always dragged my tree out into the woods after Christmas when I lived in a more rural town. Here, there’s nowhere to put it but out on the snowbank to be carted away by the municipal trash collectors. I have no idea where they take it. I can only take the memories of Christmas and compost those as best I can. Home for the nesting bats in my own belfry, I guess.

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  3. What is a fisher? apart from a person with a rod intent on piscatorial activity?

    The children have undressed our tree… they wanted a day with it in all its green needled glory. It will be placed in the organic recycling bin tomorrow.

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  4. Thanks for the comments, y’all. Very useful to hear from an accomplished yoga practioner, and as for the Odin/shaman connection, that did occur to me, but I didn’t really know enough about it to work it in.

    Lady P – A fisher is a kind of large weasel, recently re-introduced after more than a century of absencew from Pennsylvania. See here.

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  5. Wow! thanks for that. Fascinating. I had no idea weasel-type-creatures could grow so big. When I was a child a weasel used to traverse our boundary fence every now and then. We called it the dancing cigar.

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