Plucking the Peacock Tree

The Peacock Tree fully decorated
The Peacock Tree au naturel

For the first time in my life I felt like a cross between Martha Stewart and Dinah Shore–but only because being dressed for my day at the office left me  ridiculously overdressed for  the chore of taking down the rest of the tree at the Pink Palace and then carting it and loading it into the car.

Next year I will check the classifieds in the  Flyer and see if there are any young fellows  looking for roadie work. When they and their brides celebrate their first Christmas they will either  know how to be a helpful and exemplary husband–or they will know that they should schedule  a road trip with the band the weekend the tree comes down.

It was interesting to me to see just how many decorations that had been roosting in

Glass peacock figurines

the peacock tree along with the feathers. When I decorate a tree, it is sort of like painting. You don’t squeeze out “X” amount of burnt sienna, and “X” amount of cadmium yellow, and say, “There, that oughta do it.”

Instead, you add and even subtract, although I am not known for my skills of subtraction, choosing to specialize in addition and multiplying, instead.

Stack of Feathers

The first thing we did was to pluck the tree of its feathers and stack them up–they had been the last thing that I had added to the tree. And then the glass peacock figurines were removed.

Next, to neaten things up, we pulled out the fern fronds that

Feathery fern fronds

had simulated a feather shape in flora form. To me, this was the neatest part of the tree. I find the element of repetition such a comforting element of design. Perhaps I find it comforting because it is innately familiar. Or maybe it is because it is one of the first elements that we focus on as infants and toddlers. My own children loved all of their

Golden Feathers

“shape” toys and games.

Next we pulled out all of the golden feathers. They represented the glittery, fanciful rendering of the natural feathers–as they are interpreted in the imagination.

Next I pulled out the garlands  of pear-shaped faceted jewels that were dripping from the branches  in the colors of turquoise and peridot. They were on the tree to add sparkle and to reflect light. They are a bear to keep untangled because the plastic fishing line they are on wants to twirl around the gemstones. To pack these little babies up, you should lay them on a width of tissue

Ornaments of blues and greens

paper, then fold the paper over that segment, and lay down the next portion, then fold the tissue over it, and so on until the entire length is wrapped. Then just fold in half, and in half again.

I’ve decided to dispense with boxes for the balls, and just separate them by color and tissue paper in extra large unzipped, ziplock bags in  big plastic bins. They will take up less space, and for no more oogiedeeboogiedee than they go through, they will be fine.

Metalic green poinsettia

Next we pulled out the peridot colored, metallic  poinsettias that had added some shine within the tree (you could barely see them)  and the drab

Spanish moss for filler

green Spanish moss (that you barely noticed)  that had added texture and hid the thin or vacant areas of the somewhat shape-challenged tree.

Another part of the tree that I had been quite carried away with was the peacock feet at the base of the tree. Granted, no one but myself would have said, “Oh look! The tree has feet!” But to me it did.

Glittery green brandches looked like feet

Bird feet are fascinating. Think about it! Those tiny little bony feet are very strong. And they look so peculiar, although I am  sure only to us. But they do have that “my primordial grandpappy was a reptile” mystique going on.

The fabric around the base of the trunk  (and under the bony green feet) represented a nest of sorts, and was a matte gold satin taffeta and a tarnished gold tulle.

Twined throughout the tree was my favorite ivy–I’ve had it

Gossamer ivy

for years, and a always amazed at how nicely its gossamer leaves work into a design. It looks beautiful with light shining on and through its faintly shimmering leaves. It’s one of those items that you wind up kicking yourself for not buying more of  later on when you wish you had more.

Lacy asparagus fern

As you could see from the before and after photos above, it is sometimes mandatory to re-create a more fulsome shape in a tree that has a less than desirable figure. Since there are no foundation garments made for trees, that means artful stuffing is called for. In addition to the ivy, the Spanish moss and the fern fronds, I

Tree topper elements

also used lacy asparagus fern that resembled downy feathers within the tree.

Up top, I simply created an arrangement that featured a bold peridot fiddle head fern and longer peacock feathers. I liked using the various ferns because they reminded me of the woods where the tree might have grown–and as I said, the shape of the fern fronds reminded me of bird feathers.

Lights that glowed blue into green

Finally it was time to take the lights off–after all, first thing

Faceted sphere lights

on, last thing off, although it certainly was easier to take them off. I stood in one spot and pulled them off while the tree spun around and around like a top. There were two types of lights. Most of them were little round faceted bulbs and a small number were shaped like venetian glass flowers and changed hues from dark blues to emerald green and back again.

I have to say I was not charmed by the LED lights. I thought they were a little harsh, but the Peacock Tree was wearing so much finery, it did not matter, you could hardly see them, and the blue lights that gradually turned emerald green were the real showstoppers.

Well, whew. That’s the sum of it. And to me, the Peacock Tree will always  be greater than the sum of its many parts. It will be a sweet memory to me, and I hope to the children and their parents who visited the Le Bonheur Enchanted Forest and Festival of Trees this year.


O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaubles

One of the prettiest "over the top" tree toppers at the Festival of Trees.

Back to the forest –the Enchanted Forest and the bedazzled and bedecked  Christmas trees at the Le Bonheur Twig’s Festival of Trees located at the Pink Palace.

People have keenly developed opinions about Christmas trees that are almost codified in their structure and ideological in their espousal. People who SAY they don’t care about Christmas trees, surely do have strong beliefs about them, which always says to me, “Oh yeah, you care alright!”

There are notions about when to put them up, what kind they should be, whether they should be amongst the living or the fake, and on and on. I’ve even found some folks who seem to have a real antipathy toward the Tannenbaum Nation. Sheeesh!

The theme of the tree topper was repeated under the tree.
The theme of the tree topper was repeated under the tree.

My mama will tell anyone who asks, and anyone who does not ask, that I have “always loved pretty.” This is true. Even when I was a child, I loved the dew because I imagined the dew drops were millions of sparkling diamonds scattered over the Bermuda grass that grew at the side of our house where the septic field was.  A child with a lot of time on her hands, I also noted that of all the various grasses and ground covers, Bermuda grass, with its fragile thin blades, makes the best setting for diamond dew drops. In case you want a field of diamonds in your own back yard.

Candy pandemonium reigns on the branches of the "Sugar and Spice" tree.

Christmas trees, too, should be chosen according to what sort of treasures you choose to hang upon their branches. That’s if you have a choice, but trees come to us like life and family members, and you just have to adapt to their idiosyncrasies.

This is something that you can glean from a walk through the Festival of Trees. The ones that look the best followed the lines of the tree–or as in my case, sort of  re-shaped the tree through the addition of additional materials.

Mr. Wu put up his Christmas tree at the Royal Panda on Thanksgiving Day. That is his tradition.  Like Mr. Wu, it is a very orderly tree, lovely but not given to flamboyance, its ornaments placed with care so that each one is observable and able to be enjoyed both by itself and at the same time, admired as a part of the whole. In other words, a lot like Mr. Wu and his cuisine.

Titled "Sugar and Spice", this tree created by the cheerleaders of St. Benedict at Auburndale picked up an honorable mention and is sponsored by Belz Enterprises.

Candy Corn and The Hungry Ghosts of Taiwan

These little ghosts who are happily licking their chops tickled Mr. Wu--he told me all about the Hungry Ghost Festival and Ghost Month in Taiwan where ghosts are viewed differently.

When I went to pick up my supper and lunch boxes from Mr. Wu tonight, I showed him the photos that I had taken during my walk this afternoon.

After looking at several images, he began to chuckle–and when I asked him why, he said, “Because Chinese do not like ghosts!”

All of the pictures I showed him did indeed show benignly happy ghosties and ghoulies.

I asked him to tell me more about how Chinese view ghosts, and he told me that in China there is an entire month devoted to the ghosts  of

Is this ghost hungry?

ancestors whose spirits are released from the spirit world, and apparently, they arrive hungry.

He tells me that no one wants to do anything that would upset these starving ghosts, so there are no marriages, no one buys a house, and no one makes any business deals. One doesn’t begin anything new because the fear is that the visiting ghosts will wreak some sort of mischief that will cause the endeavor to end badly.

I thought this whole concept of hordes of hungry ghosts was pretty interesting, since one cannot help but think of the minions of kiddies on the streets tonight, pillowcases in hand, looking for treats and supposedly ready for tricks. And yet I have never heard this Chinese custom mentioned in relation to our Halloween tradition. As to Ghost Month, Mr. Wu says that it is like many of the old customs and traditions of old China, and is an old way

This ghost that looks a bit like Rodney Dangefield might prefer to be in Taiwan cause around here he "don't get no respect".

that is falling out of favor with new generations. Mainly he says because it doesn’t make any sense, and also because a lot of  people believe in Christianity. His mom still follows the custom and observes tradition by following the superstitions that dictate taking great care as one goes about ones activities during Ghost Month.

In contrast, we have candied-up our own Halloween traditions.

A happy witch.

Our ancestors, if  they came trooping back, might not be hungry, but they sure would be surprised to see how commercially successful Halloween has become.

My walk today was made so much more interesting because of the many decorative touches that celebrated themes of Halloween and the harvest season. The decorating efforts of the homeowners demonstrate a generosity of spirit as they provide touches of cheer and beauty to their neighborhoods, and to the children who will revel in the candy coated sweetness of Halloween night.

For me there is a lesson in Mr. Wu’s story of the Hungry Ghosts, for I suppose I have my own hungry ghosts, the memories of my own lost loved ones, and perhaps this has caused me to in a strange way feel an aching  hunger that is not physical.

I can see meaning in Chinese Ghost Month, for it allows the human mind to deal with the loss of loved ones, and our desire to make up to them what we wish we had managed to better do in caring  for them in this life. I would not have told Adrienne I “needed to run” that last conversation that we had before my trip and her accident.

Patches the Scarecrow

It isn’t candy corn I needed today, but the sweet kindness I saw all around me while I was on my walk, and I bless and thank my neighbors for their gentle offerings–I arrived home with a bounty of treats that I was  happy to share tonight.