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Friday, December 23, 2011

I Looked on Beauty Bare*

I walked into our shop this morning, and discovered that, during the night, the dainty little fir tree that we stuck in an antique urn a week ago had dropped most of its needles. Then, as I reached behind it to turn on the lights in the shop, I bumped it and it lost the few needles that were left. Some people would take one a look at the tree's bare branches and haul it straight out to the trash. In fact, I know they would, because my father did exactly that one year when I was a kid.
I remember my little brother sobbing disconsolately as Dad stripped the ornaments & lights off the naked branches, and I wonder about the long-term effect of such early trauma on impressionable young minds. I say that because my brother still sometimes refers to The Year Dad Wrecked the Tree. He doesn't remember that a half an hour later we all got into our pink-&-copper Rambler wagon and went down to the Piggly Wiggly parking lot to get another tree. Of course, by that time--it was only a few days before Christmas--all the decent trees were gone, this being back in the olden days before relentless tree-manicuring began producing millions of identical cone-shaped trees, when, whether for good or for evil, every tree on a lot had its own individual character. At any rate, the good trees were long gone and we ended up with a stunted specimen that wasn't even straight. Worse, it was some sort of shaggy, long-needled, pine imposter, not a proper tree like we had always had until then--you know, a fir tree, a real tree. Then again, the new tree, crooked or not, did still have its needles. What can I say? Life's full of compromises.

The first three people in the shop the shop this morning all referred to it as a Charlie Brown tree, but really, there's no comparison between our tree and Charlie Brown's. His was sad & pitiful, and ours, even sans needles, is still handsome. In fact, it may be more handsome than it was before, because the textural contrasts between the tree's rough bark & stiff twigs and the beaded garland's curves & rich color read better without all those needles cluttering up the view. But maybe that's just me.
    One of our old-school blown glass bird ornaments on a weed I dragged in from the alley. Context is everything.

After all, I'm the guy who stuck a rotten tree stump on an antique mahogany table and had the result published in a national magazine. Beauty is wherever you find it. And I happen to find it in dead branches and dead weeds and leafless trees. And a good thing I do, too, because, at the moment, that's all there is. It's the most wonderful time of the year! In fact, if I could be anywhere else at the moment, it would be right here, right now...
Central Park, "The greatest art object of Nineteenth Century America"--Central Park's Historian Sara Cedar Miller

Meanwhile, wherever you find yourself and whatever your plans, I hope your next few days are wonderful. And if you happen to be in Chicago, stop in and see us. We're at 1822 West Grand Avenue.
For the ulimate in easy-care trees,  may we suuggest a Nineteenth Century copper roof finial?

         Euclid Alone Has Looked On Beauty Bare *                                                 

Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare.
Let all who prate of Beauty hold their peace,
And lay them prone upon the earth and cease
To ponder on themselves, the while they stare
At nothing, intricately drawn nowhere
In shapes of shifting lineage; let geese
Gabble and hiss, but heroes seek release
From dusty bondage into luminous air.
O blinding hour, O holy, terrible day,
When first the shaft into his vision shone
Of light anatomized! Euclid alone
Has looked on Beauty bare. Fortunate they
Who, though once only and then but far away,
Have heard her massive sandal set on stone.

                                    Edna St Vincent Millay


  1. somehow i take on pity at such trees, perhaps their dignity is still intact, bare branches, textural bark and all.

    merry christmas bart!

  2. you've turned that bare tree into a turning head beauty! love it!:-)

  3. you darling and chatty new friend......
    thank you for the comment.
    i am lovin' your blog!!!


  4. Thanks, Debra. It was good to see you.

    And thanks for the compliment, Stacey. I thought it was pretty, too, which is the reason I took the picture. The people watching me do so, however, were of another opinion.