Home Christmas Christmas Lights, Madrona Trees, and a Cordless Phone

Christmas Lights, Madrona Trees, and a Cordless Phone

Christmas Lights, Madrona Trees, and a Cordless Phone


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.


  1. Beautiful pictures! I’m going to be visiting friends in Portland, OR between Christmas and New Years. Do you know if they have these trees there? I’d love to see them in person! Btw…I think I was the last flip phone user in NYC. Just got my first iPhone a few months ago. I’ve always been slow to change with things in the tech world. Love reading your blog posts! Have a wonderful holiday!

    • Thanks for the link, Tom! I’ll try to persuade my friends to take me to this park. I’ve already got a restaurant list as long as War and Peace, so one little park shouldn’t matter to them at this point! Again, I enjoyed your Seinfeldian story…though I’m sure you didn’t enjoy living it!

  2. LOLOL! As I visualized you saying out loud “Are you kidding me?” I could not help but think of an Easter Sunday long ago on Bainbridge when stuck at the bottom of the tram with some small friends you ventured up the “mountain” on foot. When you arrived everyone asked “Did you push the button? Did you latch the door? Did you…” And your reply, “People, please listen to what you are asking me!” Love and miss you friend and a very, very Merry Christmas! See you this winter on your East coast visit! <3

    • Ah Miffy, love that we continue to share some wonderful memories and laughs. I look forward to a sunny visit soon, I’ll keep you posted. Merry Christmas my little Miffala.

  3. Always look forward to seeing your lights this time of year Tom. Gives me a smile when I motor past during my daily commute @ 5:30 in the morning. Madrona’s are such a special tree, emblematic of islands and salt air. Maybe there will be a thermos of coffee waiting at the gate some morning? Haha

  4. Hi Tom, I love your blog. I’m new to reading it but this one made me laugh because I think you might be the only one without a smart phone beside my 12 year old daughter lol. But that is exactly why I’m trying to move to the island from Tacoma. I’m hoping one day I can get rid of mine 🙂

  5. Sounds to me as though this was the universe’s way of making sure you found your garlic press. (The universe does sometimes have a skewed sense of humor, and a meandering methodology.)

  6. Thanks for the much-needed chuckle this morning. It’s nice knowing that there are others who have days similar to mine (that occur more often than I’d like to admit).
    The Madrona trees with the hedge winding through is just lovely.

  7. To be cold with open fires and snow at Christmas must be just heavenly. Have a very Merry Christmas Tom and thanks for the giggles and snorts throughout the year.

  8. Hi Tom!
    It’s been a while..I had opossums who got in the attic and messed with my phone & internet
    connection it was intermittent and then nothing! I had to do everything old school..
    I missed a lot of your posts but I am back in the saddle again!! I love your decorations as
    always they are so beautiful! You are still having quite the adventures!! Hahaha Man alive!
    Glad all is well with you and Boz & Gracie 🙂 Hope you have a very Merry Christmas!!

    • Holy Moly Roberta, I see a story there. Yep the critters both in the house and out of the house keep things interesting, though I prefer the indoor dogs to the outdoor varmints. Not that either of them listen to me. 😉

  9. Hi Tom,
    I enjoyed your phone antics immensely. Fortunately the batteries held out for you… barely. Your writings always hold the promise of a good dose of humor. This one made me think of Stuart McLean, Canadian storyteller extraordinaire. If you haven’t heard of Stuart, many of his stories can be found on YouTube. He often pokes fun at Christmas traditions. Here is a sample to check out.

  10. Once again, I find you so entertaining that I can clearly see every step you are taking…tripping over the guard dogs, etc. A very Merry Christmas to you and Boz and Gracie.

  11. Yes and don’t set your landline on the car and drive down the road…fell off, find the flip phone and call it in the dark, why could I not wait till morning? Then today I could not find my phone, it was in the charger, imagine that.


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