The day after Thanksgiving I make a 45 minute drive to Loweland Farm in Middleburg, Virginia, to purchase my Christmas tree. They are open for tree sales exactly seven days (Thanksgiving Friday, Saturday and Sunday and the first two weekends in December).    

A hayride will take you to their tree field where you can cut your own tree from a selection of spruce, pine, and some fir. But my tree of choice is a Fraser Fir which is NOT a “cut your own.”

 Most Frasers are grown in a limited area of the Southern Appalachian Mountains at higher elevations in portions of Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

 For many years the Farm contracted with a grower nearly at the North Carolina border to cut trees just for them. The trees would be harvested just before Thanksgiving, brought to the farm, and then each tree sat in its own bucket of fresh water to preserve the freshness.

 This year when I surveyed the Frasers, I was disappointed in the selection. The trees were as amazingly fresh as always, but the branches weren’t as tightly spaced together so there were gaps between each level.

 I politely noted this to the young man helping me and asked for the story. He said this was the first harvest from their own Fraser Fir tree farm in Highland County, VA, after eight years of growing.  (The county is referred to as Virginia’s Little Switzerland. )

 Well, guess what? I didn’t make a 90-minute round trip to come home without a tree, so I chose one that ended up a tad lopsided with branches that stick out here and there like my hair does when I use too much thickening spray for that “natural” look.

But here’s the upside: I had enough room to tuck larger lights into the tree next to the trunk; that provides an unusual effect. And while this is not the widest tree I’ve ever had, the wide-gapped branches provide more room so that every ornament is able to have its own space which means you can actually view each one to appreciate it.

This far-from-perfect tree reminds me of a lesson I teach my students:

Perfect is so boring. Unpredictable individuality is much more interesting and it produces rewarding reactions.

That’s true whether you’re a speaker in front of an audience or a guest in my home sipping hot cocoa while admiring my tree.