Saturday, December 24, 2011

Cut Down Your Own Christmas Joy

I went to a holiday party recently hosted by a good friend of mine. She is one of those people who has wholeheartedly embraced many rural-type behavior, such as a boasting a bountiful garden which she tends to with seasonal precision, makes her own jams and jellies, and even blows her own glass. I often listen enviously at her stories about exchanging goods with unique crafters and finding small farms with the best produce. Therefore, I was not at all surprised when she told me that she traveled up the California mountains to cut down her own Christmas tree.

Of course, I had heard of people going to a tree lot and cutting down Christmas trees, even while residing in sunny Southern California. In fact, any average Joe can find the nearest location to cut down their own trees on the California Christmas Tree Association website. But my friend had gone beyond the usual urban elite version of the process. Her face beamed with pride as she told me the details of the adventure. She had a particular tree in mind, a Silver Tip Pine (a picture of which can be found here courtesy of Arizona Traveler Blog), which boasts strong branches and needles that shine with pewter at the ends. The tree is long and lean, with a significant amount of space in between the branches. This type of tree could not be found in any old DIY lot, but she and her boyfriend went to great lengths to find the remote location that would allow them to cut down their very own Silver Tip Pine Tree.

Much like a recent Rural Legalism post regarding “Picker Sisters,” I too struggle with whether “rustic chic” derides, elevates, or co-opts rural culture. My friend’s experience feels more authentic to me then going to more commercialized lots that cater to urbanites’ craving to capture a piece of rural America. But I admit, I find that even the more commercialized lots evoke an appreciation and celebration of rural America and carry with it the American individualist spirit.

But even my friends experience can’t compare to the blog post in Rural Revolution featured earlier this month on the blog author’s own Christmas tree adventure. The blog’s tagline boasts that it is a blog containing “[i]n-your-face stuff from an opinionated rural north Idaho housewife.” The family had spotted a tree that was to their liking on past walks through their area. The family members independently (without the help of a Christmas Tree farmer) hiked to the trees location, cut it down themselves, dragged it home, and made any last minute trimming on the tree for it to be the perfect dimension to fit their home.

The experience described by the Rural Revolution post exhibits the self-sufficiency many associate with rural small towns. However, a comment to that particular post served to remind me that not all small towns have the luxury of a forest or other natural resources that support said self-sufficiency. The comment states:
“I'll probably be the dissenting opinion here, but where I live we don't have any forests in which we can cut our own tree. We could pay $30-$60 in a store or at a Christmas tree farm, but that's a lot of money, at least for me. I invested $13 for a fake one at a local thrift store and this is our 4th Christmas using it. In 10 years, I'll have saved enough for a rifle or handgun. Since a gun can last a lifetime, and will often hold its value, that, for me, is the better investment than a purchased "real" tree.”
The comment reminded me that this is a very idealized version of how we see rural America. We (meaning myself and many urban elites) assume that individuals in rural communities can all cut down their own trees and fail to realize that not all of them have access to forests. We say snobby things like “nothing really compares to a live Christmas tree,” and belittle the celebration of those who may not be able to afford the luxury of spending $30-$60 every year to buy a live tree. It takes seemingly little jabs such as this or President Obama reference to Arugula prices that make urban elites appear out of touch with rural America.

1 comment:

JWHS said...

I have to agree, the whole fad-ification of rural culture is annoying. Partly because its also condescending. It's like, "oh look how unique we are, doing this rural things, just like a real cowboy."

It blends into that notion of otherness, rural stuff is special because it belongs to "others."