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The Hawk's Nest

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The Angel on Top of the Tree

    This Christmas is proving to be a little different than the last few. The changes started last spring, when Linda found a cute cabin on a small, mountain lake and decided it was about the most perfect place to live. I came with the cabin. Of course, since I had spent a few years in this place and in these woods, I also think it is the most perfect place to live—and now, to share with someone else.

    So how will Christmas be different? Well, I’m not sure yet, but I’ve seen some signs of how it may be. One is the way the house is being decorated. I always decorated by writing “Merry XMAS” in the dust on top of the stereo. Then, when I did my spring cleaning, I put away the decorations. Sometimes, of course, spring cleaning came in August, when some relative came to visit and, while looking at the stereo, mentioned that my indoor garden only had about a 20% germination this year. Now, cut boughs are being hung on the walls where things used to grow naturally.

    I haven’t cut and brought in a Christmas tree for several years. It always seemed with so many live things at various stages of dying in the house already, brining in another was a little redundant. But this year, we have a tree.

    We didn’t use the tree we had originally planned on, though. Last fall we found a perfect little tree up in the hills behind the cabin. It was in a group of other trees about the same size. Knowing that many of the trees would not survive, we planned on cutting one for Christmas.

    Last week, when we went out to get the tree, we strapped on the snowshoes and took the old, plastic Torpedo sled that looks like a big, blue plate and is used around the place to bring in wood and haul out garbage. Now, it would haul the tree.

    Being the youthful fifty-somethings that we are, when we came to a perfect sledding hill, we had to try it. In just two runs, Linda got the award for going the fastest—her hair was straight back. I got the award for going the farthest, because of extra weight that came with my diet, which has improved in the last few months. Linda also got the award for doing the most damage to a tree, which thus became the tree we weren’t planning on using.

    I made a run, and then it was Linda’s turn. She took off her snowshoes and put them under her on the sled for the walk back up the hill. When she asked how to steer, I said, “It will kind of go where you want. Just follow my trail.” She then started down the same track I had made, now packed for better sledding. A short way down the hill, she left the sloping ridge I had followed and took a short cut down the side. This course was steeper, and had a few moguls. On the first mogul, gravity lost a battle with the sled, the snowshoes and Linda. As she was flying over the terrain, I thought she might be exceeding the speed of sound. Then I noticed her shrieks were preceding her. I think, if she had closed her mouth and those big, dark brown eyes, and tucked in her hair, she might have broken the barrier.

    About halfway down the slope a young spruce tree was awakened from its winter dormancy by an airborne sled with a middle-aged lady flying over it and two snowshoes flying behind her. The snowshoes, from the tree’s perspective, looked like weird, distorted wings, making the whole scene look rather like a freakish angel on a plate, swooping down at near mach one speed, sounding similar to a siren during a power surge. The tree saw the incoming, direct hit and lay down out of fright. As the angel went over it one of the loose snowshoes stuck in the snow, looking like a strange tombstone.

    Linda stopped shortly after she started up the other side of the ravine. When I got to her, she was still sitting on the sled and half buried in snow. At first I thought she had lost her eyelids, but then they slowly reemerged from deep within her sockets. She did suffer from some hyper-extended vocal chords and a little windburn on her face, but nothing else.

    When we climbed back up to the tree, Linda insisted we couldn’t cut a second tree as this one was already down. I was glad she hadn’t hit the young tamarack a few feet away.

    We didn’t put the tree in front of the bay window where it could be admired from all sides, as planned. We put it in the corner where the side without branches, some of which might still be flying form the impact with the sled, could not be seen.

    On Christmas day we will enjoy that tree, the decorations and a big meal with family and friends, while listening to music of the season from the shiny stereo. We will be celebrating the new beginnings that this season is about, and in Christmases to come, the angel at the top of the tree will forever hold a new meaning.


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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

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