The Legend of the Octopus Tree

Our college grandson came to visit us over the Thanksgiving holiday and though the weather here in the Pacific Northwest was not the best, we were determined to explore and share some of Oregon’s landmarks with him. We were so excited when a friend and co-worker of my husband offered us a nights stay at his beach house on the coast in Rockaway, Oregon. The Oregon coastline is so beautiful and offers many iconic landmarks, one of which we purposed to visit, at Cape Meares, called The Octopus Tree. 

The Octopus Tree, is a Sitka spruce with branches that look like giant tentacles reaching up 50 feet from its base. When first observing this tree, your mind is baffled by how it grew into this shape. There are lots of assumptions, like perhaps the constant blowing of the wind as the tree was growing. It is situated only 600 feet from the most beautiful scenic view of the ocean. Perhaps, the wind would come in from the ocean and swirl around the branches of the tree as it was growing, shaping and molding it, declaring to all who would see it that the tree belonged to the ocean and it’s breeze. Sorry, I am a hopeless romantic.

The local historians and the descendants of the Tillamook tribe, explains the odd shape of the tree as not from the wind, but from it being used as a ceremonial site and place where they would hang their canoes and ritual objects. It was a gathering place for the ceremonial rituals of this tribe. (I like my more romantic version:)

Typically, these trees would be forced downward while still flexible, and the branches would remain close to ground in a horizontal position. But when it is allowed to grow naturally, each branch will take a vertical leap skyward, creating the unusual shape we see.

The Octopus Tree is known to be about 250 years old. It was once featured in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, and described as on of the modern Wonders of the World. It has also been dubbed, the Candelabra Tree and the Monstrosity Tree. I don’t like the latter. It is also known as the Council Tree, because of the tribe elders who would gather around it and make their tribal decisions. 

Whatever it is called, it definitely stirs wonderment in all who sees it. I personally can relate it to many different analogies. One, much like the shape of the tree, we also come in many different shapes. Sometimes, others cannot understand or even accept the differences in our shapes. We are called by many names, some of which are not very nice. And in many ways, we too can be bent and forced to take on a shape that keeps us “horizontal”, rather than be free to reach skyward and all of the potential that we were intended to have.

Not far from the Octopus Tree, stands another structure, the Cape Meares Lighthouse. It is an inactive lighthouse, built in 1890. It was actually going to be demolished in the early 60’s, but public outcry halted the plan. I, for one, am very happy about that. Lighthouses are also very symbolic to me, especially ones like this one, inactive,  still having the power to draw people to its side and admire what it once was.

One of my favorite words is Serendipity. It simply means, coming together and making “happy, chance discoveries”. Oregon offers many opportunities to do just that. I hope to be sharing more of the wonders of the Pacific Northwest. I feel blessed to live here and enjoy all of its wonderment. God Bless all of you. Please leave a comment.

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O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree – Real or Artificial

Do you have a “real” tree or artificial one this Christmas? This can be a loaded question for some. There are differing opinions of what constitutes as an “authentic” Christmas when choosing your tree. I personally would prefer the fragrance of a real tree, however, apartment dwelling has changed the premise of my choices. Apparently, an artificial tree is more conducive to smaller dwellings that do not allow many options for disposal of a real tree. Ask me how I know….ok, I will tell you my short story.

I went from a 2200 square foot home, to a 900 square foot apartment. And, while having a small, live, potted tree was an option, I just cannot have Christmas without a massive, fragrant, tree occupying a third of my living room. So, I convinced my husband to go shopping for a “real” tree. We found one we liked at a local market, strapped it to the top of our car, and proudly went home to put it up. Everything was fine until first, carrying up a flight of stairs, then trying to clean up all the needles that dropped from the tree onto…..well…..everywhere. Then, rearranging the furniture to accommodate the tree that now had taken up most of the room, made me second guess my opting to “go green”. But, in all, after lighting and decorating, I was happy. Until, with still two more weeks to go before Christmas, the tree started to dry up and die, in spite of my diligence to keep it watered and nourished. You could not walk by it without wiping out an entire branch of pine needles. We made it to Christmas, but let me tell you, I was taking that tree down the day after. It was so dry, there was no way to simply carry it across the room and out the door without making a horrific mess. So, while my husband was at work, I got his wire cutters and snipped every branch off so I could toss it into a garbage bag. When my husband got home, he had a mere bare stump to carry out to the dumpster. Yes, I declared that future Christmases would include an artificial tree, and so be it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still love the thought of a real tree. In fact, every time we pass a vehicle with a beautiful “real” tree strapped on top of it, and the happy smiles of the family in the car, knowing that Christmas was about to be put up in their homes, I smile, and then, I snap out of it.

Why do we even have Christmas trees? I bet there are many different reasons that the diverse global population has for having a tree at Christmas time. Every family has its own stories of either going out into the woods to find that perfect tree, or just the plethora of tree lots that make it fun to shop for one. But the history of the Christmas tree dates back to ancient times when the early Romans would adorn their homes with evergreen branches as a symbol of life. (Hence, I suppose, real might be better for demonstrating this) It took the Renaissance era to display the tree in homes as a symbol of Christmas. There are many theories and stories relating to this iconic part of Christmas, but I prefer to enjoy the simple meaning… is a part of the decor that families choose to have as part of their own expression of the season.

The tree is symbolic of the place where gifts are stored til Christmas morning, or the where we can hang beautiful lights and ornaments. I read somewhere, long ago, that when you look at the tree, it is pointing upward, to remind us of the fact that it is not what is under tree that matters, but the birth of a child long ago that was and still is the ultimate gift of the season.

It does not matter if your tree is real or artificial. What matters is if your heart is real, if the love you have for your family and friends is real, and if your faith is real.  What matters is the family that gather around it. May the blessings of the holidays be abundant in all of your lives.

As always, I ask that you leave your comments below. Thank you and God bless all of you.

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For the Love a Snowman

I look forward to decorating for the holidays every year. I toggle between the traditional red, white and green colors of the season, and the rustic country look with a raffia garland and wooden ornaments. This year, I actually went for a more elegant bronze and gold look. But no matter what I choose, I make sure my snowman decor is incorporated. Every year, at the end of the season, I look for bargains on snowmen ornaments of all kinds.

I don’t know why I have such an infatuation for them. There is a book written by Bob Eckstein, on The History of the Snowman. He really did a lot of research and his book is filled with so many interesting facts about the Snowman and it’s beginnings. I would have personally never thought that my beloved snowman actually had a part in history dating back to the Middle Ages. I love how he relates to snow as “free art supplies dropped from the sky”, and, how famous artists, like Michelangelo, was asked to sculpt a snowman in the courtyard of the ruler of Florence, Italy. Wow! the snowman really does have a rich history.

But, for me, they are simply fun and happy, and they bring me joy when I look at them hanging on my tree or gracing my family room in all of the many forms I have collected over the years. I have an entire Snowman Family that stands around my fireplace, as well as smaller stuffed ones sitting around the room, just hanging out. I have snowman candle holders, nutcrackers, snow globes, and wood wall decor. I love them all. I feel sad when I need to pack them all away to wait a year before being allowed to show themselves again. (no, I’m not crazy)

Who doesn’t remember the famous children’s Christmas song, Frosty the Snowman. He, the song says, was a jolly, happy, soul. He knew his “life” was for a season, and it did not bother him at all to have eyes of coal, or a carrot for a nose. He danced around and brought joy to all the boys and girls who believed in the reality of him. We could learn a small lesson from this fantasy-like character.

We too have been created by a loving God who shaped and formed us from within our mother’s womb. We too, live for a season, however long that may be for each of us. Our eyes are not coals, and are noses are not carrots, yet sometimes, we behave like they are. We sometimes choose to be blinded by the good in others and we forget to inhale the sweet fragrance that surrounds us in our lives, e.g. the scent of our mom or grandmother when she gives us a hug, or the sight of a beautiful, snow-capped mountain in the distance. We need to dance more, feel and appreciate the freedoms that we have, more. We need to acknowledge the hands that have shaped us throughout life and the creator that always knew we had the potential to love and bring joy to others.

Am I being too philosophical? Perhaps, I just want to provoke you to be able to see how an inanimate object, and even a fictional character like a snowman, can stir us into looking at life a little differently. The holidays can be a stressful time. We can worry about finances, what gifts to give who, being alone, or feeling the obligation to be at some party or event. All of these things rob us of the simple joys the season can bring.

Whether it is the story of a simple snowman, or the laughter of your grandchildren, dancing with glee to all their favorite Christmas songs, I encourage you to have a happy jolly soul and just be thankful that when the season comes to an end, we will not be melting into the ground. Right?

God Bless you one and all! Please leave your comments below.

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