Christmas tree on 24th Street, San Francisco

Each January I find myself both fascinated and saddened by the appearance of spent Christmas trees on the city’s sidewalks. It is not until I find myself sidestepping around them on walks about the neighborhood that I begin to reminisce on their behalf.

For many weeks, the tree was the pride and joy of a home and a beacon around which family and friends gathered for holiday rituals. Bedecked in an array of  family stories and tiny ornamental heirlooms, the tree stood in a place of honor holding court for the duration of its reign.

The festivities ended as quickly as they began. The new year arrived. The decorations were packed away and are at the ready for Decembers to come. The tree, however, has a different fate. Its bouquet is barely discernable, and the once pliant green needles have become brittle. There’s dread over the temporary mess that will be created when the tree is dragged through the house and out the front door.

At the curbside, the majority are now recumbent, naked to the world or barely concealed in large white or (ironically) evergreen colored plastic household trash bags. And then there’s the rare oddity, like this tree I came upon four years ago this week – a tree standing upright, evenly decorated with shiny silver and blue balls. It was still ringing in the new year with the help of a local who had come by with a can of spray paint and it’s new friend, the corner trash bin.