The autumn tree: Column
I know I’ve told you all that I have a deep love for Christmas trees in general, and I think I’ve even told you that I have a 13-foot artificial Christmas tree, but I’m not sure I’ve ever told you that for the last two years, that tree has been continually standing in my living room. And I’m not saying that leaving my Christmas tree up since 2019 is what opened the portal that may have brought COVID upon us all, but I am willing to capitulate that it’s a weird coincidence.
I didn’t set out to leave my tree up, initially. Normally I put up my Christmas tree in November, then take it down sometime in February. That probably still feels like a long time to people who adhere to a strict “Tree up in December and it comes down on Jan. 1” schedule, but as y’all know, I really like Christmas trees, so I enjoy having those twinkling lights on through the winter evenings when I’m working upstairs. Also, my tree takes about five hours just to put up, not including decorating time, and then takes five more hours to take down, and if anything takes me 10-plus hours to accomplish, you better believe I’m getting my time back out of it.
I kept putting off taking my tree down in 2020. February came and went, and March was almost over when I just said, 'Forget it: I’m taking the ornaments off, but the tree is staying up.' After all, lots of people leave trees up in their houses; mine just happens to be larger than most year-round trees. But I also realized I couldn’t just have a naked, non-decorated, 13-foot artificial Christmas tree up in my living room till December rolled back around; I mean, I’m eccentric, not insane. If I was going to leave that tree up, it was going to need to be decorated seasonally, no pun intended.
I will admit I have so far failed in getting it decorated for spring and summer. My first thought was to go full woodland-animal themed — squirrels, rabbits, birds, anything that I’d find in the forest, I could stuff into the branches of my tree. But I could never find fake animals that I liked enough for that, so then I thought I’d invest in some pretty fake lilac flower garlands, but I didn’t like any of the ones I saw, so that fell to the wayside too. Then I thought I’d just go full Easter with tons of pastel tulips and daffodils, glittery eggs and maybe a giant, lit-up rabbit for a topper, but even I could see that was going to be 13 feet of tacky, so another spring went by with a naked tree in the corner of my living room.
And then I went to the Amish country this year to one of my favorite stores, where they had a 12-foot tree decorated with artificial ivory magnolia flowers bigger than my head scattered among the pine branches; very simple and spare, but it felt very spring-summer. I think I’m going to try that out for next year because a) I like magnolias, b) ivory is a good neutral in a log house and c) if the prime decorators in the Amish country are keeping a 12-foot tree decorated all year, then it reassures me that my 13-foot one being out is actually a really on-trend decorating decision, and not something my future heirs are going to look upon as proof that Aunt Ceazy lost her mind. So if you’re out and about and you notice some massive fake magnolias that don’t require a home equity loan to purchase, get a hold of me.
But we’re finally into my favorite time of year for decorating: Fall. Y’all, I love me some fall decorating. My summer décor is super minimal: No table linens, no cute-sy whatnots on the tables, no outside décor. I keep things pretty bare, almost as a décor palate cleanser, getting me ready for the autumnal explosion to come.
And come it does, in six massive orange, grey and purple totes, because my mom taught me a great organizational trick: Put your holiday décor in color-matching plastic totes (so green and red for Christmas, pale green and neutrals for spring, etc.). That way, you pull out the right totes for the right season the first time and aren’t cussing a blue streak when you crack a lid expecting Christmas bulbs only to be greeted with Easter eggs.
Here’s the great thing about being an adult: If you love decorating for a holiday, you can decorate for that holiday whenever you dang well feel like it. Frankly the year goes by so quickly, it's harder and harder to enjoy seasons if you stick to a traditional calendar, so if you love fall or Christmas or Fourth of July, set your stuff out whenever you like. It's your house, and you don’t have to answer to anyone. Well, except your homeowner’s association, but it might be worth the warning letter to come home to one of those 10-foot skeletons from Home Depot, outfitted in a George Washington hat and holding an American flag in one hand and a sparkler in another in May.
But my fall stuff is all up now, including the tree décor. I’ve gone simple: Garlands of pumpkins, pinecones and fall leaves wrapped around the tree, with a few larger bunches of fall foliage near the farm-house style star on top. The bottom has a burlap tree skirt, and then I’ve placed a mixed bunch of fake pumpkins and gourds under the branches. It’s the kind of autumn tree shrine that the Great Pumpkin would definitely make a stop for, earning me at least a full-size Three Musketeers bar.
And even though it's odd to have a Christmas tree up for this long, and even odder to decorate it for fall, and I’m low-ego enough to admit that it is eccentric to the letter ... I love my autumn tree. I like the pumpkin patch under the branches, including the custom “Ranson Hollows” pumpkin from Crafting & Scrapping front and center. I like the hints of oranges and yellows coming through the green pine, and as the days grow shorter, I like turning on the 3,600 twinkle lights that probably come dangerously close to creating an August brown-out in Fairplain. It's 90-odd degrees outside, but inside I am autumn-cozy in my leather chair as the AC blows cold enough that I’m contemplating getting out my orange and brown-checked fuzzy blanket for warmth. You know, rather than turn the AC up.
So if you’ve been contemplating if it’s just too early to get out your pumpkins, leaves, bats and skeletons, or if you’ve been concerned that people will think you’ve lost your mind if you put out a fall wreath on your door and started stringing orange lights around your deck, well worry no more. Because if it makes you happy to start autumn in August, you go right ahead. Wear your shorts, cut-off shirt, and make sure and stay hydrated while you put out metal scarecrows in your gardens when its 90 percent humidity, and take frequent breaks as you work in the summer sun, pulling the fall décor out of your Leonard building and lovingly placing it from one end of the yard to the other.
And if at any point, as you’re wiping off sweat and feeling a sunburn coming on, if you ask yourself “Am I crazy for doing this? What kind of person puts out autumn decorations in August when it’s still ridiculously hot?” Well you just remember me, and reassure yourself that hey, you might be jumping the decorating gun a little, but at least you haven’t progressed to dressing up a 13-foot Christmas tree in autumn décor.