Green and red are nature's colors

December 12, 2010|Celeste Maiorana
  • The male northern cardinal's red coloring seems like nature's own ornaments perched in the winter trees.
By Johnny N. Dell,

The days of December seem to advance more rapidly than those of other months.

In November, Christmas and the other winter holidays seem still distant. Turn the calendar page, and suddenly you're out of time. So many things to do, places to go, people to see. It's fun, but it's stressful.

To reduce stress, take time to take a walk outside. Look around at nature's own decorating. It's true that flowers are mostly a memory and the leaves are off the hardwoods, leaving silhouettes of gray and brown.

But the evergreen trees — hollies, spruces, pines, firs and more — are glowing green in many shades, often naturally decorated with their berries and cones. Bright red male cardinals perch on branches like nature's own ornaments.

Red crabapples linger on the branches. Birds have not quite finished tearing apart the bright red seed heads of the small staghorn sumac trees. Red berries are still abundant on a variety of bushes, awaiting the birds, which often prefer the blue and black ones. Should snow fall, it only enhances the visibility and beauty of nature's green and red creations.


As the days shorten and we near our farthest point from our star, it seems natural to fill our homes with the green boughs of the trees, drape them with points of light, and hang, among other things, red ornaments, ribbons, and bows. From the end of fall harvests to the turn of our new year, we celebrate our happiness in each other, and our great, good fortune in nature's bounty. It's true that this season is also a season of increased consumption.

So, it is good to remember that our natural world gives us all that we have. Human minds and hands may extract, alter and shape it, but everything we have — in whatever form we use or accumulate it - is provided to us. The bounty of nature is a two-way street. The consumer must return to the producer, or the process will become exhausted. Nonrenewable resources must be withdrawn conservatively or they will be eventually depleted.

As you move through this holiday season, you can easily make choices that are more sustainable and less burdensome upon the natural world than other choices might be.

• Use live or freshly cut trees and boughs. Christmas tree farms maintain open space and provide habitat. Cut trees can be composted and returned as important nutrients to other plants.A live tree that has had its roots balled in burlap can be planted after the holidays - growing into the future, storing carbon and providing habitat for generations to come.

• Take the kids out and collect natural decorations - grass plumes, milkweed pods, cones and berries. Return them to nature when you no longer need them.

• Use recycled and recyclable materials. Paper is generally better than plastic, because it is a renewable resource. Trees planted for paper production spend many years extracting and storing carbon and providing important forest habitat.

• Buy a little less, and share with those less fortunate.

• Plan shopping trips to reduce the total amount of driving.

• Carpool with others whenever possible.

 • Offer to pick things up for family, friends and neighbors.

• Our natural world returns favors, with interest. 

Celeste Maiorana is a member of the Washington County Forest Conservancy District Board, which promotes forest conservation in Washington County. For more information and useful links on this and other topics, please visit the Board's website at

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