Memory Tree

Need a break from the Santa images, overplayed holiday jingles and frazzled crowds at the mall? My personal escape from the chaotic aspects of the Holidays is my Christmas tree. Over the years my tree has evolved from a potted palm with twinkly lights to a stately conifer draped in memories. My trees now are a veritable shrine to family, friends and happy memories – the truly important aspects of Christmas. Here are some of my favorite trip ornaments:

Yes, this is a key chain but who says key chains can’t be ornaments? This one displays Maasai beadwork and harks back to my college semester in Kenya. The night I spent packed into a windowless Maasai hut with calves, goats, squirming bugs and a smoky fire was truly a night to remember.

Maasai beadwork from Kenya.

My Maasai host family in Kenya.

This Hopi Red-tailed Hawk Katsina doll and the Navajo sand painted ornament beside are reminders of my summer whitewater rafting down the Colorado River, a body of water that has sustained these cultures and more throughout history. 

Red-tailed Hawk Katsina doll ornament.

Navajo sand painted ornament.

Whitewater rafting on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

A second summer in the Grand Canyon for my rim-to-rim hike merited another ornament. I couldn’t resist this long-necked turtle both for love of the design and appropriateness of the symbol given how much my pack began to feel like a shell on my back!

Turtle ornament from the Grand Canyon.

Starting my rim-to-rim hike on the Grand Canyon’s North Rim.

It doesn’t take long in the Bahamas to recognize the cultural importance of the Queen Conch. It’s not an accident that this beautiful shell is a national symbol adorning their coat of arms. So, what better way to remember the pink sands of Harbor Island than an angel carved from a conch shell?

Angel carved from a Bahamian Queen Conch shell.

My dog shares fond beach memories of Harbor Island!

Gondolas, gothic cathedrals, and symphonies dueling in the city square; resisting Venice’s charm is futile. The ancient and the modern are creatively fused in this Renaissance town and Venetian glass, perfected in the 12th century, is an exquisite reminder. I purchased this beautiful example while strolling across the Rialto Bridge last fall.

Venetian glass ornament from Venice’s Rialto Bridge.

View of Venice from the Rialto Bridge.

It’s hard not to get penguin-obsessed while in the Antarctic. I confess to desperately wanting a pet penguin upon disembarking, but was forced to recognize the challenges of keeping a snow-loving bird in Miami’s tropical weather. Ah, well. My compromise was a set of woven penguins made by Argentine artisans, one for each of the penguin species I saw on my trip. This one is a Gentoo.

Woven Gentoo Penguin from Argentina.

Gentoo Penguins on a beach in the Falkland Islands.

This wooden parrot came atop a fruity sunset drink, but it certainly reminds me of the endemic Bonaire Parrot that nearly evaded me on that trip. I had actually given up on seeing one and was standing in the hotel lobby to check out when squawks lured me to the garden. Sure enough, I’d trekked all over the island and here, at the last possible moment, a flock of Bonaire Parrots showed up at my door step!

Wooden parrot decoration from atop a sunset drink in Bonaire.

Endemic Bonaire Parrot.

I did look for an Agami Heron ornament to commemorate my last trip to Costa Rica but alas, one was not to be found. This clay toucan in a stump was a good alternative though. It’s certainly not every trip that a Collared Aracari breaks into your room!

Pottery toucan ornament from Costa Rica.

Pair of Agami Herons at the Pacuare Reserve in Costa Rica.

Intruding Collared Aracari next to its entry point.

May you all have a memory-filled holiday season!

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