The Enchanted Forest
and how it grew...
When I was a very small girl, my grandfather used to take me to the Christmas display at one of the downtown department stores in Fort Worth. This was so elaborate that you actually rode an amusement park mini-train around a circular track, with dioramas and panoramas and general Christmasiness on either side. In reality, it was probably cheesy and glitzy in the way of most 1950's department store decor, but to a little kid it was an enchanting fantasy.
Fast forward almost fifty years...
This began with an innocent purchase: a set of that trio of artificial trees from the Home Depot. I set them up on one of our folding tables and hung a few of the mushroom bird ornaments among them and added some of the extra little trees from the creche (which is a story for another day). For a natural touch,
I scattered some enormous acorns on the green cloth base. My tiny Steiff bear and Bob's resin troll, a gift from a fantasy fan co-worker, were the other inhabitants. And that was all, at first.
This project must have struck some deep childhood chord, a memory of delight. Because the next year, I bought another set of trees at Jo-Ann's, pre-lighted this time, and several bags of those miniature, glittery, jewel-tone fruits: pears, apples, and pomegranates in gold and red and green. Through the year, I'd been collecting any little birds that I thought would fit, as well.
I mixed the lighted trees with the plain trees, hung them with fruit and clamped on the birds, which were now an ornithologist's delight. Besides the ubiquitous mushroom bluebirds, there were an owl, a mallard duck, a hen, a dove and a pheasant with a long tail. And the bear and the troll and the acorns.
There was some slight criticism.
"You've got fruit on pine trees. In winter."
"Well, it's an enchanted forest, you see."
"Mallards don't roost in trees."
"Yes, they do, if it's enchanted."
"So, the bear is, what? Fifteen feet tall?"
"Scale doesn't count here. It's enchanted."
And it was, with the room darkened and the trees lighted, reflecting off the jewel-like surfaces of the fruit.
The next year, which was also the year Nini and I made beeswax candles, Father Christmas made his debut. His face and hands are modeled of beeswax, like German nativity figures, and painted. At least, his face is- his hands missed that for some reason and remain a ghostly white, wrapped around his twig walking staff. He has hair and a beard and fine bushy colonial mustaches of wool roving and a stern, yet kind, expression. His robe is olive green suedecloth trimmed with braid and he wears a hooded cape knit of some leftover Homespun in a red, purple and gold mix, to blend with the fruits. The troll, depending on whim, either meets him on his way, or walks ahead as his little helper.
For the last two years, Nini has been my official assistant in setting this all up.
We consult, or we debate, or we both act like five-years olds and argue, about every detail. Do we like the tree placement? Which should be the apple tree? Which should be the pear tree? Do we want one tree to be all white doves (this year's addition)? Do we want the resin elf sitting in a tree or sitting on a log? Shall we move the knitted sheep to the Christmas tree? Yes. How about letting the two cardinals sit under one of the littlest trees, as if they're looking for food? Spread out the insects (rescued from a bridal shower project) or make a bug tree? You know what we need? An angel! Wouldn't that be great? Up high on the big tree, like a guardian for the forest.
And so it evolves, little by little. When it's finished and the lights are turned on, it's a small, magical world of its own, where anything can happen. Where you can recall a cherished memory for yourself and create a new one for the dearly loved. Where fruit can grow on conifers and the bear can lie down with the fawn. Because it's enchanted. Because it's Christmas.