The True Message of the Season

Every Christmas, for at least a decade and maybe more, someone has decorated the roadside pine tree at the top of Kanan Dume Road. Santa Ana winds have blown down the decorations, and on at least one occasion the ornaments were stolen, but that hasn’t deterred the anonymous decorator. Every year, the pine tree bears its glittering holiday treasures, even this year.

The entire Kanan corridor burned in the Woolsey Fire. Hundreds of area residents lost their homes and that entire section of the Santa Monica Mountains looks like the aftermath of a war instead of a scenic mountain road. It seemed unlikely that anyone who lives in the area would be in a merry mood for the holidays this year.

When December arrived, there was the Christmas tree, silhouetted against blackened hills and itself half burned, but bedecked with ornaments—bells, stars, incongruous orange seahorses, and glass balls made from repurposed light bulbs.

The tree has grown over the years and the decorations are only hung as high as the decorator can reach. There aren’t a lot of them, really, just a scattering of brightly colored baubles, but seeing them this year, shining brightly against a background of devastation was deeply moving.

I have no idea who the decorator is, or why they take the time and effort each year to decorate this lone roadside pine, but that tree and its fragile crop of holiday baubles was more than just someone’s whimsical holiday tradition this year; it was a living reminder that the true message of season is one of hope and renewal, peace and goodwill, even in dark times.

Photo by Suzanne Guldimann


Suzanne Guldimann

Suzanne Guldimann is an author, artist, and musician who lives in Malibu and loves the Santa Monica Mountains. She has worked as a journalist reporting on local news and issues for more than a decade, and is the author of nine books of music for the harp. Suzanne's newest book, "Life in Malibu", explores local history and nature. She can be reached at

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