Christmas Lights, Madrona Trees, and a Cordless Phone{31}


No contest: Mother Natures puts on the best holiday display.

No contest: Mother Natures puts on the best holiday display.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is to install flood lights at the base of my century-old madrona trees. The underlit behemoths put on quite a show. In the Pacific Northwest, the iconic madrona tree stands unmatched in growth habit and sculptural beauty.  The sinewy, cinnamon-barked tree reaches for the sky in a pose seemingly choreographed by Martha Graham; dramatic to say the least. From the road, the madronas mark a well-traveled corner on the island, and thus the perfect vantage point for a little holiday dressing.


Ooh, ooh, ooh, what a little floodlight can do-ooh-ooh!

A couple of years ago, I decided to ramp it up a bit, not in a crazy see-my-lights-from-space way, but rather in a little-more-sparkle-and-color-wouldn’t-hurt kind of way. Adding Christmas lights to my branch fence flanking the madrona grove was the plan. Initially I tried my favorite old-fashioned C-6 and C-9 Christmas lights and proceeded to blow every fuse in the strand and a couple in the house. (And that was the day I learned amperage, wattage and circuit loads applied to Christmas lights as well.) Twinkle lights were no better as there was a load limit to 200 feet of these little dazzlers, too.

Thanks to LED lights, the fence is now lit in a rainbow of colors, but not without a little side story.  As you may recall from a previous post, I am one of four people in Washington state without a smartphone. Instead, I clip my cordless landline phone to my shirt pocket or collar and go about my day on the farm, well aware that 250 feet seems to be the reach of my electronic tether. Should I be working in the greenhouse or down in the orchard, say by the potting tables or apple trees, respectively, I am but a phone call away. But should I venture toward the rhubarb starts, or beehives, Farmer Tom is on the dark side of the moon and totally incommunicado.

Not a bad Holiday display if I don't say so myself

Not a bad Holiday display if I don’t say so myself

After putting up my lights, feeding the dogs, and sitting down to spot of tea, I realize my cordless phone is not attached to me (darn, weak pocket stitching). Darkness has set in and and a line-of-site search is futile. No problem, I just press the locator button on the phone base, head to the front porch and follow the ring (a good plan in theory). In hot pursuit of the ring, I trip over two bulldogs, slip down eight mossy wet steps, do a faceplant into the deer fence, and get clotheslined by the grape arbor. (I should have brought a flashlight.) Within yards of the ring, the signal stops.  “Are kidding me?” I say out loud. Apparently, the locator button has a limited number of rings? (Talk about a design flaw.)

Back inside, I apologize to Boz and Gracie for disturbing their sleep, find a flashlight, curse the button, and then, try it again. Knowing I have ten to 12 rings at the most, I fly out the door to find my phone. Down the stairs, past the wood swing, around the old maple, through the now-opened gate, under the grape arbor trip wire, and toward the madrona fence. In the distance, I hear one ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingy and then silence. Drat, spoiled again. I make several more attempts, but to no avail. I doubt even Usain Bolt could have made it to the phone in time.

I come up with a Plan B, which is to have someone call me. I retrieve the upstairs phone and call my Mom and ask her to call me back. I would have called a local friend, but ironically, it seems those with cellphones grafted to their hands rarely pick-up.  Mom has a landline and can be trusted to answer. Back down in the field,  I await her call-as-tracking-beam. My in-hand phone rings, but not the one buried in the brush. I discover (painfully) that when two phones are in proximity, the phone closest to the base is the only one that rings. Again, I ask out loud (albeit a little more colorful this time), “Are you kidding me?”

I move on to Plan C: to locate my landline using my flip phone. But first I must ponder one of the great and continuing mysteries of my life: where the heck is my flip phone? I eventually locate it in one of several available ‘junk’ drawers, and not surprisingly, it’s dead.  Plan D rears its necessary head. I must now find the charger for the flip phone. This time the ‘junk’ drawers prove poor options (though I did find a much-loved garlic press), and I finally locate the charger entombed in dust bunnies behind my desk. Once exhumed, the charger and flip phone are reunited and the search is called off for now.

Daylight arrives, and I confidently make my way to the orchard. I flip my phone open, and proceed to call my landline. The responding ring is anemic and barely audible, so I scramble feverishly to locate it before its battery dies. Amid wet leaves and twigs my cordless phone is found. After removing a couple sunbathing slugs, I wipe off the phone and return it to its holster inside. Success!

And then it dawns on me, what did I do with the upstairs cordless phone? (Sigh.)

Merry Christmas, my friends. May you find the light (and your phones) wherever you travel.

Summer sunsets backlight

In the summer, sunsets take over the tree-lighting responsibility.