By the time my parents migrated to Down East Maine, in the late 1960s, they'd left behind a few traditions — and consequently needed to invent a few of their own. So when my brother and I grew to slightly taller than the surrounding snowbanks, we began a Christmas Eve practice of searching for our own balsam fir in the woods behind our Surry house.

In 1970, 53 inches of snow fell in December alone and there were almost no years in the decade that followed without it. Still, the snow and cold never seemed an impediment to any arguments about symmetry. And choosing a tree was a fine exercise in democracy.

Durin Chappe is a carpenter and occasional writer who lives with his family in the shadow of Schoodic Mountain in Downeast Maine.

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