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The Dead of Winter

When the sun is low in the south and the sky is clear, the late afternoon rays reach across the diningroom at just such an angle that they touch the tip of the crystal chandelier and send prisms floating on the walls. It happens only in the very dead of winter.

Prism Prism Prism Prism

Speaking of the dead of winter, they include both the Esperanza and the oleander. The former, true to its name, should come back from the ground. About the tender "Shari D" I am less optimistic; Oleander often does not regain its vigor after being killed back by frost.

Everything is dead or dormant, and I am taking stock. It is not yet time to prune, but it is time to clear away the plants we won't keep.

The big pine tree comes down this year. It is 15 years old, started from a little switch that Roberto gave me. His brother had gotten it in exchange for recycling his Christmas tree. I tucked it in the center bed and forgot about it.

It was several years before the sapling filled out and became a shapely six-foot Christmas tree. We put lights on it that winter. We used to leave them on all night. I would wake up and see the little tree winking silently under the stars.

That was one of the last years we had the office Christmas party here at the house, and Santa sat beside the pine tree handing out gifts after dark with just the one string of lights to see by. The little kids shivered and jumped in the cold, waiting for their turns on Santa's lap.

The first year we had the pool, and the very last year we had a Christmas party here, the pine was up to ten or twelve feet, still shapely, and it took three or four strings of lights to decorate it.

Since then, however, the tree has shot up to nearly 20 feet. Its shape is straggly now, and it dumps needles in the pool relentlessly. It dwarfs the center bed and makes the yard look small.

I tried to take a few low branches that were reaching out across the water, but the more I cut, the worse the tree looks. And so it goes. No dog, no pine tree. It all feels pretty bare and empty. I am ready for a new year.

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