Sunday, December 12, 2010

Even Christmas trees are trendy

It's been a few years since I went hunting for a live Christmas tree. My sweetheart has an enormous, very nice fake tree that he'd used for years and it's offered itself each year for the past five. But last year, when it shed more needles than a real tree would, its time was declared over.

This year we are getting a live tree.

"It's got to be Scotch Pine," I was informed.

"That's okay - I agree."

But I told him there would be a hitch - Scotch Pines are out of fashion. Everyone wants Douglas or Frasier firs. We might find some old fashioned Balsams. But I suspected there would be no Scotch Pines. He scoffed.

He's not scoffing now. We stopped at any number of places, small tree farms hidden miles into territory we'd never explored and big box home stores and things in between - no Scotch Pines.

"They don't hold their needles," we were told. "Last time we stocked 'em, some people tried to bring 'em back. So we decided not to sell them anymore."

That's quite a mental image - a family ripping the decorations off their tree, tying it to the roof of the car and carrying it back to the seller, demanding a refund as the poor tree's needles dropped.

My dad had visions of being a Christmas tree farmer. When I was about ten we planted three hundred Scotch pine seedlings in the back field at the rural property we had in Central NY. Years later, my then-husband and I went back with our baby boy (now 23) and cut down one of the massive trees they'd become - we took the top home and it was a wonderful Christmas tree. It seemed right that one of those trees became a Christmas tree - and the rest became an incredible pine forest full of unruly, unshaped and gorgeous tall trees.

I like the idea of a live tree this year, but have no place to plant it that seems to work.

I'd decorate the cedar tree outside my window. The cedar's a lovely thing. I'd fall off the roof.

My heart goes out to the Charlie Brown trees - the lonely little trees that don't get chosen by anyone else. I suspect that if we can't find a Scotch Pine, that will be what we choose.

But isn't it strange that things simply disappear as tastes change? No more Scotch Pines - and no one said a word. They just stopped being sold.

What else has simply faded away?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

So What Scares You?

First, credit where credit is due. Illustration from The Arabian Nights by Boris Zvorykin.

Now - quick - don't think about it. Just say it. What's the answer to that question? What scares you?

Okay, you've scratched the surface. Spiders? Dark closets? Zombies? Failure?

Ah - failure. You're heading for the motherlode.

Here's what I think: fear is what holds us back from just about everything. Fear, which serves a useful purpose as it makes us think long and hard before risky behavior, can also stop us dead in our tracks. And I believe our real, root fear is always a lot deeper than we think.

Trace whatever you're afraid of and it is probably about survival. At least I've found that to be true for me.

So we play it safe, tread the clearly marked paths to make sure we survive.

But I think it's those overgrown sideroads where there's real living to be done. It won't always be happy/carefree/joyous - but it will sometimes. And I think it is always interesting.

I like interesting. If you subscribe to the common belief, we've only got one life. And don't forget the 11th commandment: Thou shalt not bore God. I think it's equally bad to bore yourself.

If I were that princess, I think I'd hop on that dragon's back and see what happens.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Does it have to be this complicated?

DISCLAIMER: This is a rant brought on by my extensive exposure to technology this weekend. There's no Buddhist calm here whatsoever.

I am on the verge of Luddism. I am sick of technology, sick of convenience, sick of things that make my life "easier". They deliver - but at a price.

1. Let us begin with the cell phone. It's a terrific thing - particularly if you're lost in a scary place or your pre-teen daughter wants to roam the mall with her buddies without you. That, for me, is where it ends.
It has become an appendage, it makes us accessible no matter where we are - and people expect us to answer, damn it.
It's transformed many jobs into 24/7 nightmares because we're always hooked in, always accessible. Time off has become something that means "I'm not at my desk, but you can reach me."
Kids now text rather than talk. They prefer it. Explain to me what the world will become now. Tell me how it's a good thing.

2. Television. It's held sway over us for two generations, maybe three now? It's slowly dying thanks to the computer (that's next) but it's still screaming at us. It began with variety shows, comedy, song and silly sit coms, many of which were live. It is now bloated with not only canned, mindless games shows and sit coms with laugh tracks that make my ears bleed, but reality shows that make me want to find a mountaintop cave where I can move in and pull a stone across the entrance. It is content made to fill the space between the ads.
And the ads! They're loud, they're long and they sell to a society that I cannot believe is really ours, though it must be. I was sick yesterday and sat on the couch for several hours flipping through Saturday morning television. That used to belong to the kids when I was young. Yesterday I found two cartoons - the rest were either selling something or trying to make me enough of a voyeur to sit still until the next ad: perky people encouraged me to exercise with them, perky people tried to sell me hair product, a girdle for my entire body, serious actors tried to solve a bloody crime, naked people speaking Spanish were arguing in bed - when I flipped back there was a woman in a sexy waitress costume and a strange midget man dressed in a clown suit. There were Christians pitching Christ, business experts pitching investment, political experts pitching policy. Then there were the ads: drugs to improve my sex life, drugs to make me lose weight, drugs to handle the diabetes caused by eating too much, fast food at a bargain price, drugs for the cardiac disease caused by fast stomach, already iffy, heaved.

3. Computers. They've revolutionized our world. We can see all over the world, learn anything we want, even share what we know. We can email anyone who has an email address. We have Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, Tumblr, blogs (like this one), MySpace and I don't know what else...there are a gazillion ways to communicate our no doubt very important and serious thoughts (like these) to the world. We LOVE to communicate. Particularly if the only feedback is "like" or a short comment. We can find people, stalk people, block people - and never leave our chairs. We're switching books to computers, music to computers, our entertainment to computers. We now are supposed to exercise with computers - hey, video games are good for you - the whole family can watch a screen and exercise together!

Automated Teller Machines (did you remember that's what ATM stands for?) replace dealing with people, problem solving, getting necessary things done within business hours. 24/7 banking. 24/7 gasoline. 24/7 customer service. 24/7 restaurant food. The world is so freaking convenient that no one ever has any time off.

It is ten of nine on a Sunday morning. I am taking time off. I am turning off my computer and going for a walk. It is cold. It is sunny. Wherever you are, you should try it.