If you time it right, if you get that old Christmas tree to the curb on time, the city will pick it up. Haul it away in the back of a salt truck and turn it into compost. Most of the trees get picked up this way, but a man has been spotted ’round here, stepping from his Cadillac, considering the trees curbside, occasionally selecting one and wrestling it into his trunk. But that doesn’t happen too often.
What can happen is that people are late. They miss the cutoff, don’t get their tree to the curb early enough. And so there it sits, poor miserable tree, once cherished, now a thing to be disposed of, accumulating a layer of salt and snow, putting up with the indignity of prodding dog noses, under constant threat of being mistaken for a fire hydrant.
Here and there, these leftover trees are scattered, the trees not picked up by the city or by the man in the Cadillac. I wondered what would happen to them.
My question was answered the other day as I drove out of town: A man rode his bicycle down the icy street, a Christmas tree tucked beneath one arm. He was headed for the woods.
And that’s where I’m headed now, the pup on her leash. I notice, as I leave the house and look around to make sure that cat’s not following us, that the old house needs a fresh coat of paint.
I follow ski tracks through the woods, decide not to cross the creek at my usual spot, knowing the path is icy there, knowing, too, that the dog wouldn’t mind watching me slip and slide my way after her. I come up at the lake at a different spot and I see there’s a sled, of all things, at the center of the lake. A red sled carrying a black milk crate.
Two figures walk on the ice.
I stand, watching.
One of the figures, a man, carries an ice auger. He stoops and studies the ice; applies the bit of the augur to the lake’s frozen surface and begins turning the handle. His companion, a woman with long hair tucked beneath a woolen cap, holds a short fishing rod, a bright red and white bobber dancing from the line.
There’s a third person there at the lake. A man, who stands at the back entrance to his house, fumbling through his keys. “Now that’s loving fish, ain’t it?” He laughs and returns his attention to his keys.
I smile and continue on my way, thinking about the soup I will make for dinner, thinking, too of the coming storm that will bring us a fresh coat of snow to brighten our little city and the freezing temperatures which will seal the wounds bitten into lake’s ice.
This was written for this week’s Extraordinary-Ordinary linkup.