I was about four hours into a very labor-intensive project. As dust swirled around me in my basement workshop, I stopped and looked at the many pieces of wood laying on the work bench, floor and the cutting table. What if this doesn’t turn out like I envision? My aching neck and shoulders grumbled and I recognized the risk: It could be a flop.

The project began as a desire to abstain from the commercialism of Christmas. After several years of not having a tree or decorating, I really wanted to bring lights and celebration into my home. There were excuses: Nobody every comes to my house anyway, so why bother? Or, It’s too much trouble, bah humbug! I think it was just a time in my life where I wasn’t feeling it. But now, I’m calling my passion back in, lighting up my life again.

I’m not sure how the idea of building a tree from scrap lumber started. It was a glimmer of a thought on a Saturday morning during breakfast and by lunch, dust was flying and I was wondering if I was wasting a perfectly wonderful rainy day. 

It took a lot of thinking and figuring how to design it so it could be disassembled and stored, and yet be sturdy. And a favorite way I create is to challenge myself by not buying anything for projects. How can I create something using materials and supplies I already have on hand?

During that dusty pause, I realized the project was much more than building a Christmas tree. It reminded me of dreams and life and passions. We never know if an idea we have or the path we take will lead to success, yet if we engage in life and take the risk to dream and infuse our dream with passion, we are actively engaging in the process of living, of being alive. 

As I looked at the stacks of wood pieces, I wondered if they would become the object of beauty I envisioned or firewood. Likewise, will my dreams and all the energy and time I’ve devoted to them become dust or will they flourish some day? 

We can’t answer those questions in the middle of it all. We can only keep creating, keep feeding our passion into our dreams and take the risk to continue on the path we build as we move through life.

I’m inviting light back into my life this holiday season and actively engaging in celebrating with childlike wonder. If nobody else sees the Tree of Life I built or the many lights winding around my stair banisters and fir tree that grew a few miles from here on the mountain slope, it’s okay. I see the lights and smell the wonderful fir smell and I’m nurturing the kid in me who loves Christmas and the adult in me that understands and honors the Solstice. It’s time to nourish my dreams once more.

How I built the Tree of Life:

I started by gathering all the scrap lumber I had. I used a slab of oak for the base and drilled a hole using a Forstner bit. I added a piece of 2 x 4 and also drilled a hole and matched it to the base and screwed them together. I used an old wooden handle as a dowel and sawed to proper length (finished the length sawing after I assembled). I used pieces of 1 x 6 boards for the cross pieces and cut them to length using a skill saw and then used my fabulous cordless jigsaw to create funky shapes with curves and angles. Each of these pieces also had a center hole drilled. I used a longer piece of 1 x 2 inch board for the spaces, each needing the center hole as well. I painted everything after doing basic sketches on the cross boards. I use a funky folk artsy style. In a little over 8 hours, I had the tree cut out, did a test assembly, took it apart and painted it and put a semi-gloss clear coat on it. I woke up the next morning with a lingering dream of how to design the star. I created it after breakfast using a piece of 2 x 4 drilled in the vertical end so it would sit on top of the dowel. I cut the star out of a square piece of plywood. I drilled onto the 2 x 4 before painting just in case anything cracked or broke. Once I had it screwed together, I painted the star. I ended up with about 10 hours of hard work in this project. I’m super-happy with the outcome. It’s fun and happy and makes me smile.

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