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Heavy and Light

The air was heavy on Monday, the grey colored cold that rides like a burden on your back. It was a car-free day for me, so I had to walk back through this from a series of appointments on the Hill. Saint Paul is a city of 6 1/2 hills, but each one is always “The Hill”. Burdens like November air are somehow lighter when you can convince yourself they are being shared by friends, or at least a familiar terrain.

As I turned past the Cathedral and went down the steps to the West End, I found myself able to relax just a bit. I was going down, the hill now blocked any wind, and I was soon going to be in the West End. After 20 years the familiarity of every crack in the sidewalk is enough to keep me warm and happy no matter what is going on. West Seventh is my street, and only a few steps separated me from home. Well, about 80 steps, actually. It’s best to not count them and remain optimistic, I find.

Shortly, there I was. Crossing West Seventh was simple, and I was over by Tom Reid’s and waving “Hello!” to Sam. That’s when it struck me – why are those cop cars blocking the street with their disco lights partying, but they aren’t moving? I looked down West Seventh to see, and I realized that they were moving – slowly. Very slowly. Just when I thought that West Seventh couldn’t surprise me anymore, I saw what was behind them.

At first, I must confess, my vision is bad enough that I could only make out a green blur, as wide as the street and as tall as the commercial strip that lined it. This blur filled West Seventh, and the truck carrying it was winding around back and forth to try to avoid scraping parked cars.

Gradually, I was able to focus. It had a tree on the back.
A big

It took the truck a long to make its way, serpentine, to Walnut street. The cops ahead were laughing in their cars as if it was the craziest thing they had seen, too. The burden that truck was carrying made my jaunt through November grey seem pitiful by comparison. As it passed, a smoldering pine smell filled the air and grabbed my nose, as a wisp of smoke dispersed in the wake from a branch that had become caught in the wheels of the truck.

What was this spectacle? I found out the next day in the Pioneer Press that the 76 foot tall spruce was donated by the Dreyling family. It was that big tall one down Smith that, frankly, did look like it might one day take out a house or two if it fell:


Don’t forget to look at the slideshow, especially the shots of it coming across the High Bridge. I never have a camera with me when I need to, so I have no pictures of my own. What I wanted more than anything else was how the tree was much larger than the truck, and thus was being dragged as if coming home from Grandma’s farm. It was only a matter of scale that made the moment any different from anything we all know.

But this is why I love Saint Paul. It’s not as if it was a huge surprise that morning, but it was a lot of fun. I’ve seen a lot of things block West Seventh over the years, from Hockey opener to the 400 ton Armstrong House to a Prince Concert. But never the city’s Christmas tree, now standing in Rice Park. I can’t wait to see it decorated with lights.

After my fun for the morning, I went home and got a lot of work done. It’s good to have a little surprise on a Monday morning, especially one so grey and heavy. My little life is much lighter for it.

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