The Nuthatch’s brightly lit Christmas tree, an 8-foot Nordmann fir, helps fend off the winter gloom outside. It made a long trip to get here.
IT’S JUST AFTER 5 P.M., pitch dark and blowing like stink, a few days before the winter solstice. It’s been blowing for a week. The 100-foot firs around our cabin are swaying like willow saplings. Branches break and fall with loud thunks on our metal roof. It’s unnerving, and a little scary.
On this isolated island in the San Juans we’re more isolated than usual. Gusts to 50 mph mean we don’t venture out on our boat, even for the quick trip across Lopez Sound, where wind-driven whitecaps do a frothy tarantella. Amazingly, we still get mail every day through the U.S. Postal Service — that “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” thing apparently includes wind, though I worry about the postal contractor who risks his life crossing Rosario Strait in a small boat to deliver Christmas cards to us.
United Parcel Service isn’t so intrepid. No hunky guys in brown shorts make it out here. They contract delivery by plane to our grass airfield. From Anacortes, our packages go by ferry to a base in Friday Harbor, from which the small orange planes of San Juan Airlines fly them to Center Island. But they don’t fly when it’s too windy. We’ve had packages sitting in a warehouse in Friday Harbor, nine miles away, since last Tuesday, including some key Christmas gifts destined to go under our tree — providing they get here. Comet, Cupid, et al, where are you when we need you?
Getting a Christmas tree here was a challenge in itself. It might seem silly to buy an 8-foot tree in Seattle and bring it to this forested island — coals to Newcastle, right? — but we don’t have enough trees of the right size on our property to harvest one every December.
So we found a nice specimen at Home Depot, rolled it in a tarp like a giant holiday burrito, secured it with duct tape and lashed it to a bike rack on our Honda Civic for the 70-mile freeway drive to Anacortes, followed by a bouncy trip across Rosario Strait on the Paraclete Charters water taxi. Wrapped up like that it looked a bit like a dead body, so we referred to it as “Uncle Fred” when friendly folks helped us hoist it on and off the boat.
The nice Nordmann fir Barbara picked out this year made the trip just fine and looks dandy just inside the front window of The Nuthatch. We decorated it yesterday and today encircled it with the customary model train set. When the train whistle blows, we can’t hear the wind roaring outside. Whoo, bloody whoo!