In the Land of Christmas Trees & Wreaths
I awake, clean up, toss a piece of bread, a banana and an orange into my briefcase and head the car north on I-5. It is very cold.
At exit 271 I take the ramp and turn east and soon city symbols recede replaced by filbert orchards, frosty pastures with horses and cattle waiting sleepily for their hay breakfast, and glistening Christmas tree plantations. As dawn breaks hues of orange and reds emerge as if from an artist’s brush stroke over the Cascades.
At the outskirts of Molalla I turn left and on my left is the largest fullest moon that I have seen in years preparing to sink beyond America’s west shoreline. I turn into the driveway and drive to the end to my trailer office, unlock the door, flip the light switches, turn on the wall heater to drive out the cold, take out my laptop, plug in the Ethernet, plug into the electrical outlet, and depress the key that officially announces another workday in the land of Christmas trees & wreaths begins.
My office trailer has waited patiently for 3 years to be cleaned. It is the picture of unpretension. No one would guess it is the headquarters for a Fortune 500 company – because it is not. As I wait for the coffee maker to make its brew I gaze at the laptop screen. So small no one would guess that it issues commands to a crew of 50 in a large shed at the west edge of town to produce wreaths and garlands made of Noble fir and Western red cedar that were brought in from high up the mountains at daybreak. Or to a smaller crew next to the trailer to proceed with specialty products like Centerpieces , Swags and Kissing balls – or to another crew at the south edge of town to begin chain sawing down hundreds more Douglas, Noble, Grand and Nordman firs from growers anxious to convert 7 year-old wet green Christmas trees to cold green cash. Through this unpretentious screen 53ft trucks are summoned to lumber in, load up and deliver this year to Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Texas, California, Mexico and Canada. Through this innocuous portal I notify trains to ship my containers to a Florida port to catch a freighter bound for Puerto Rico and more ocean freighters are notified to dock at the Port of Portland to carry our containers across the Pacific to Hawaii and Hong Kong and Singapore.
I extend a hand through this humble screen to help Hong Kong and Puerto Rican and the Big Island and Iowa based chain store buyers to introduce our idea of merchandising Christmas trees through their stores – and to a wholesale garden center in humid Donna Texas and to a retail garden center in the California coastal town of Cambria. The keys click a percussive beat with the largest Christmas greens wholesaler in San Diego and to a husband-wife team trying to get ahead in this land of hard-to-find opportunity by managing a string of tree lots in a tough L,A. Neighborhood. My outstretched hand pushes through this swinging digital gate to talk to high school baseball and swim teams, a band, church youth groups, the cub scouts, boy scouts and girl scouts and elementary school kids and their parents from Oregon City to El Cajon Ca. and Molokai, Kauai and Oahu all learning to use small business skills with our Christmas trees, wreaths and centerpieces to raise money that sustains their after-school youth activities.
The Canadian Customs agent leaves a message on my cell – it is imperative that you call me about trees in a truck here at the border that came from you. My Mexican customer can’t find the Douglas firs in the tail of his truck – yes he knows the difference between Douglas and Noble firs – and fears he has to dig further into the truck for the border inspector. Hong Kong and Hilo customers tell me they can’t find the netting that they absolutely need – the bill of lading tells me it is in their containers – but ok I will air-fedex more to you. Your driver has not called me to give me his ETA – I need to know so I can tell my volunteers when to come. You sent me too many 5/6’s – I need more 7/8’s.
The day ends. I depress the key that officially puts a wrap on it, pack up the screen gate, turn off the lights and open the trailer door to absolute darkness. I re-trace my footsteps from memory back to my car thankful for my team of men and women, all nearby families, as I reflect on how many lives working in allegro – with a lively beat – together we touched today.
In an unpretentious way a Christmas tree, earth-grown, re-kindles our indwelling generous spirit. And a wreath on the front door is a 200 generations old tradition of using winter gifts from nature to say to the family in a peace of mind way – Welcome Home. Our own traditional wreath design comes from early Oregon pioneers and we are the lucky folks that bring these symbols that bottle these messages to the world. Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Saturnalia aka Happy Kicking the Winter Blues.