One of the greatest pleasures of the season for us is bringing some of the outdoors into our home. The girls and I took a last ramble before the snow flew, and we brought in red berries and armloads of greenery.
We've been making wreaths for friends (and the chickens' coop, oh yes!).
We've dressed the mantel with a garland of hemlock and balsam and pine and also a teapot brimming with berries.
We have some treasures that we keep from year to year...like these rocks that Grandpa Hickory found on a hike to the waterfall. Do you see what he saw in them?
(They say HO.)
Of all the things we welcome inside for the holidays, the grandest is the tree. What reverence we feel to cook and play and make gifts in the company of something of such beauty and grace and importance. We do suffer qualms about how it has been sacrificed for our pleasure, but we do our utmost to return it to its earthly purpose. After Christmas, we use its branches to shelter the more tender plants in the garden, and in the spring, we mulch it.
The profound presence of the tree vibrates all the more when it comes with a reminder of its place in nature. Often, we find birds' nests in the branches, and one year, we found two. We keep the nests in our ornament boxes with special glass treasures nestled in them through the year.
Of all the gifts we've found in the branches of the tree, none has meant so much as the one we found two years ago. Do you see it?
There. A monarch butterfly chrysalis.
The summer before had been a summer of bountiful monarchs in our meadow. We had watched their metamorphosis in the wildness of our monarch stands and in jars we kept stocked with milkweed. One caterpillar even crawled out of a jar and made its chrysalis on the underside of a shelf. (We waited anxiously for him to burst forth, so we could offer him a twig "taxi" and a ride to the great outdoors.)
chrysalis on milkweed in our meadow
chrysalis in a jar that same summer
The abandoned chrysalis glowed with the lights of our Christmas tree and also with our memories of butterflies and summer days. Years later, it's still one of our favorite gifts from nature.
a monarch dries its wings on our porch