Christmas on Two Feet

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Our Christmas tree Fraser, carried home by bus and part of the family since 2006.

I’ve been watching with interest Chris Bruntlett’s Twitter posts (@modacitylife) and facebook page of crowd sourced photos of Christmas trees being carried home by bike.

What I like most about Chris’s posts are that they are bringing visibility to the different choices that people are making in their lives in terms of how they get around and the meaning they bring to the holidays.  And visibility is key to creating social change and evolving our societal norms.

Our own family Christmas tree didn’t come home by bike but DID enter our lives by two feet a different way: on foot and by bus.

For years, bringing home a tree and everything else in life on foot, bike and bus was both a choice and a necessity.  Not having a car enabled me to have the money to live in a place where I could happily live without a car.  This was a self-perpetuating cycle that I felt blessed to be able to have.  Existing on foot in a very old house in need of much care and attention also created its own set of interesting strategies, including trundling home 8 foot landscape ties by bike and bags of cement by wheelbarrow from the Cook St. Castle hardware store seven blocks away.

Eventually the ongoing parade of construction materials on foot led to the creation of what I called “The Spruce Caboose,” a purpose built wagon cobbled together from old 2×4’s, plywood and wheels from two ancient golf hand carts from St. Vinnies thrift store.  It was a heavy duty lumber-carrying contraption and pulling it home (looking like some sort of punk rock version of a dray horse) always gave me a sense of power and self-sufficiency, especially when traffic would stop in both directions to let me portage across the busy road of Cook Street.

Christmas was therefore just one more extension of this pedestrian reality and involved either decorating our living room rubber tree or buying a five-foot-tall tree from local nearby charity Anawim House and putting it over my shoulder and carrying it home.  Walking the nine blocks through my neighbourhood surrounded by the smell of Douglas-fir made me feel strong and like I was channeling something from another time.  It also gave yet another goofy reason to chat and interact with the folks I passed along the way and so the walk home with the tree was as much a worthwhile part of the tradition as was having the tree itself.

A much smaller Fraser (with also smaller person and special guest).

A much smaller Fraser in his second Christmas at our house (with also smaller person and special guest).

Nine years ago with a kiddo on the way, it was time for a new tradition.  This led to the purchase of a little live tree carried home on our laps by bus.  A Fraser Fir and therefore nicknamed “Fraser,” it / he has become a part of our family and grown along with us.  Enjoyed on our back deck throughout the year, every Christmas he makes his progression into the house to be decorated, celebrated for the week and fed a steady diet of ice cubes before heading out once more.

One day Fraser will be too big and we’ll plant him somewhere special to grow tall.  And I’m sure the cycle will then start again with another little live tree and another understanding bus driver tolerant of all the interesting things brought home by transit and on foot.  In the meantime, we’re going to take the time to enjoy him and all the things he stands for: green needles and hope when our part of the planet is in wintry rest, light during the shortest days and a reminder that the true gift of the season is a sense of connection to the people and world around us.

Whatever your traditions this time of year, I wish you all the best.  And if your tradition involves two feet–whether a tree (living, cut or artificial) or other little treats brought home by walking, bike or transit–I raise a glass to you for being part of the change and for making visible all the little, magnificent choices that add up to creating a new path and outcome on the streets where we live.

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