As many other West Marin residents had already done, today I hauled my Christmas tree to the dumpster behind the Point Reyes Station firehouse. Old Christmas trees become highly combustible when they dry out, so the Marin County Fire Department each year provides free disposal.

Enjoying the woodland niche in my loft created by the little tree. Photo by Janine Warner, founder of DigitalFamily.com

Photo by Janine Warner, founder of digitalfamily.com

While I appreciated the firefighters’ program, saying goodbye to the tree was the culmination of a bittersweet story. At eight feet tall, it had created a cozy niche of woodland (above) in a corner of my loft. Decorated branches jutting through the loft’s railing had over overhung the dining-room table a floor below, turning guests beneath the tree into colorful gifts.

But even before the little pine served so loftily as a Christmas tree, I had become fond of it. The Monterey pine was a volunteer that had sprung up next to my propane tank and was rooted more in rock than soil. When I first noticed the then-weed-high tree, I doubted it would survive.

But survive it did until this Christmas. When the still-tiny tree became half choked by a fungus-caused goiter, I performed surgery. Unfortunately, I later performed some unnecessary surgery, twice accidentally chopping off branches with a weed whacker.


By this year, the little tree’s branches had begun to engulf the propane tank, which annoyed the DeCarli’s driver because the foliage made it difficult to open the hood of the tank to refill it. Finally, I agreed I’d trim the tree back a bit come winter, and the driver seemed satisfied.

Late last summer, however, the tree’s fate was sealed when the same county fire department that disposed of the tree wrote homeowners around here, ordering us to undertake 10 precautions against wildfires. One of the precautions was to eliminate any combustible vegetation within 15 feet of our propane tanks.

The fire department also ordered us to return a form within 30 days, saying that we had completed these precautions. I immediately set to work making my property safe from wildfires and returned the form on time. However, where the form asked whether I had cleared all vegetation back 15 feet from my propane tank, I penciled in that a small pine tree remained, but it would be cut down at Christmastime.


Photo by Joel Hack

The tree had only three months to live, and I felt guilty every time I looked at it, which was every time I got in or out of my car at home. Finally, on Dec. 19, I took a chainsaw to the little tree and cut it down.

For two weeks, the tree sparkled with colored lights and shiny ornaments. Now as I park my car and see the empty space where the little tree once grew, I pine for it — dead and abandoned in a dumpster behind the firehouse.