Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Winter. He arrived with a vengeance during the last few days. Snow has piled up against any resistant object. The driveway, not so long ago pristine and ploughed, has many inches of the powdery stuff on it. And Snow has once more obscured the deck.

This year I've decided I am going to be vigilant in shovelling Snow off the deck as soon as she arrives. It is my place where I meditate, where I think over a problem, where I take my joys...and should Snow take over, as happened last year...I would miss the spiritual aspect of my walks along it sorely.

I shovelled yesterday, during a Snow Storm. I've shovelled many times already this year; it looks as if I will shovel at least a few more times before year's end.

I like shovelling. This powdery, flighty, light Snow, at any rate. It feels much like sweeping, to me...another activity I really love. My shovel and my broom...both have prominent spots on the deck, ready to be put to use at any given moment.

Both cleanse. Both move energy about. And sometimes, if I am in a somewhat downward spiralling mood, shovelling or sweeping becomes a metaphor.

This morning, after watching a depressing newscast, after visiting a few not-so-joyous  news sites on the 'net, after hearing some negative news which made me worry...there was a bit of garbage I carried within me which required that shovel.

And what better way than to clear the deck...of Snow, of anger and frustration at my inability to use my fingers the way I once did, of general anxiety? Wrapping presents was the final straw,with those aforementioned trembling fingers. The shovel moves oh-so-smoothly through the powder light Snow! Nary an obstacle in the way.

Each shovel load is thrown over the deck railing, each representing a thing which has me bothered.  It is very light, this Snow, yet bits of it persists in clinging to the shovel...and to me. But I will not let it. I stamp my feet, brush my coat and bang the shovel against the wooden deck.

The bright Winter Sun, peeking through Fog which surrounds the white-clad Forest, winks at me. I hear the message. I begin to notice the sparkling, absolutely pristine Winter's day with which I have been blessed.

Over and over, the shovel bites into the pile of Snow blanketing the deck. Over and over again, a shower of sparkling, crystalline Snow descends down the bank, giving more cover to the young perennials huddled in it. Each shovel load leaves me feeling lighter, refreshed, farther away from news I can do nothing about. My grim mood has left me, along with piles of Snow.

Even as I find I am beginning to adore the day, even as I find the hidden reserve of joy once more...I am very thankful, at the end of it, that I only have to shovel the deck. Our tractor takes care of the rest of it.

Yes. Winter has arrived; there is no doubt. Winter...a season of clarity, joy and depression, sadness and a sense of the if-onlys...and finally, understanding. Eventually, if I shovel long and hard enough, there is also acceptance and balance, once again.

As long as I use that shovel.

Happy holidays, everyone...and don't forget the shovel!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

North Wind and Santa

He's making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who's naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town! 

When North Wind blows his icy breath around my home, he will, depending upon his mood, tell stories about the Far North...and the following story is one he told me.

Santa is outrageously busy at this time of year.  He can get overwhelmed and crabby, but he has learned much, much wisdom and guile over the Centuries.  Still, he takes the time to balance and centre himself a whole lot.

He completely understands by now, after years and years of handing out toys to all the kids out there, that once he has finished that last house, he will have time for a rest.

And that another whole year will pass before he has to check that toy list again...twice.

Santa's Techie Elves all got together, recently, and gave him a laptop computer. When he figures out what he considers to be an odd gift, he has the tools to be very organized, right there on his lap! He could have files in his computer with every child's name on it. With every year categorized. But North Wind heard that Santa can become quite exasperated with his newest tool.

Many of his Techie Elves are quite sensitive to his moods; they help Santa when the computer becomes too difficult. And then... the Elves, after Santa's worked on it for awhile, urge him to go and find a cup of Herbal Tea and cookies.

After he's gone, grumbling and mumbling, the Elves fix his computer so that all the boys and girls, whose files have been all mixed up by Santa's ineptitude, will all be back in place, easily found. It took the Elves a very long time to convince Santa that the computer was the way to go, in this day and age, rather than that long list he carried around.

But North Wind tells me Santa's not so sure. That hard copy list of old never changed, was always easily read. He never had to worry about deleting the list, as sometimes happens with the computer. He never had to worry about the anxiety that suddenly anxiety. But he does have the best Elf technicians anybody could ask for...and if it gets too tough, computer wise, he could just hand it over to them.

But Santa's stubborn and determined...he pushes out his lower lip, and pulls down his bushy eyebrows. When he does this, most Elves leave him alone.

Santa tells North Wind, who can be very empathetic when he wants to be, that he really doesn't have time to argue with those Elves these days, anyway. They want him to take his laptop in his sleigh, when he goes to deliver those toys to all the boys and girls who have waited a whole year. He gives North Wind an example, from a recent delivery, when he saved the day...

 In his wisdom, he knew it might not be a good thing to rely on that computer. It is not always easy to contact online computer technicians, who always promise incomprehensible help, over Christmas. He has accepted his limitations...he can read a written list, but how does he find those lost files, once they seemingly disappear? No matter which button he pushes. Or clicks, he forgets the new terminology sometimes.

But Santa had a plan. He always does, shrugged North Wind, as he blew this story into my ear.

Santa took his written list on his journey around the World to deliver those toys, along with his laptop. He felt it was just too wearing to argue with those Elf technicians, so he pretended that he couldn't wait to take his laptop with him. But he hid his list in his back pocket, not even telling Mrs. Claus that he preferred the written list. She's so much better on the computer than he is, he didn't want her to know that he still preferred his list.

But as soon as he was out of sight of the North Pole, he tossed the laptop into the back of the sleigh, squared his shoulders and took a deep breath. He took his folded list out of his back pocket, and checked the first name. He was back in control.

After checking each name (twice!), directing his Reindeer, climbing on slippery roofs, getting stuck in tight chimneys, drinking gallons of milk and eating a million cookies, Santa got tired.

Sometimes...he told North Wind...he wishes that the boys and girls would leave some hot Chicken soup, with his cup of Herbal Tea. All those cookies are great, but sugar just doesn't sit well in his tummy anymore. Shrugging his shoulders, he reminds himself to be grateful. It would be a long night, indeed, without those sugary snacks to keep him going.

Finally, the last name is checked (twice!) and the Reindeer, with round tummies from all the apples and oats left outside for them, turned wearily home.

Just before he saw the lights of his compound in the North Pole, he pulled his laptop from under the empty Toy Bag, and quickly tried to make it look as if he had used it the whole night. Ding! ...went the computer...and up came the blue screen. With nothing on it. Oh oh.

Santa tossed the computer onto the back seat again, and congratulated himself on a job well done. He was extremely thankful for his wisdom in taking that long list of written names.

After Santa stumbles towards his home, his Elves unload the sleigh. They brush cookie crumbs and spots of milk off the upholstery of the sleigh seats. They scrub the seats, which are covered in soot from Santa's forays into chimneys. They take the Toy Bag away to be cleaned. And then, they find the laptop...

The Elves are puzzled. How did Santa ever manage to deliver all the toys, when the computer was frozen solid, when it wouldn't even boot up? They shrug their shoulders, telling themselves they shouldn't be too surprised...Santa's done this trip a million trillion times without a computer, and he's just done one more. Perhaps next year...

In the meantime, Santa had eaten the Chicken soup he had dreamt about all night, had his cup of Herbal Tea, and found the couch. Mrs. Claus placed one of the Elf babies on his belly...and they were

off to dreamland.

Santa mumbled, just before sleep overtook him...MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL...AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!

North Wind heard Santa's words and he delivered them to his compatriots...East, West and South Wind...who swirled and twirled them around the World.

This post was published here a couple of years ago. I've edited some of it, in the interests of clarity...but the message holds true.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Arctic Front and...Baking

This morning, when I arose, the temperatures were -28C. Other than taking the dogs out for a walk, I intend to spend little time outdoors today, never mind that the Wicked Winter Sun beckons and beguiles! He is a trickster; there is little warmth in his long, golden fingers.

It is the Christmas Season.  There are more gifts for me to find as yet, but with the Arctic front which has us full in its grip, I will not travel into town this day.

Instead, I will organize the gifts I have. This year, I plan to wrap nicely, with thoughtful touches here and there, on each gift. I plan to wrap nicely every year...but more often than not, I end up wrapping on Christmas Eve, with great haste and not much flair.

Also on the radar is the baking I want to take with me to the family on the Coast.  Sometimes, my bars and cookies and tarts look a little bedraggled after the long trip in the backseat of our car.  So this year, I have decided only nutty caramel popcorn and chocolate fudge will make the journey. But I will tuck in a few butter tarts for my daughter for whom the confection spells Christmas.

Oh! There are moments when I am so excited to be visiting the Coast, I remind myself of my childhood years. This will be the first time I have ever spent Christmas morning in my daughter's home. Usually, we arrive later in the day. Instead, this year we will be travelling to the Coast on Christmas Eve, arriving late...but we will be there!

This is the first year Graydon will be truly aware of Santa Claus at his grand old age of almost three. I am looking forward to telling him stories about Santa, reading countless books to him, and just snuggling with his warm little body.

I haven't seen Bree since the summer.  We travelled to the Coast for Thanksgiving in October, but she was entered in a Soccer Tournament in Victoria that weekend. She will be celebrating her birthday on December 20, which we will miss, only to make up for it when we arrive.

This will be her fifteenth birthday. Can anyone tell me where the time goes? It seems like only yesterday when it was Brianna who wanted stories about Santa, who wanted to sing and dance to Christmas music.

Bree is growing up...I am not as sure of her as I was when she was younger. Her interests are so diverse, many out of my realm of experience. But, as usual, no matter how anxious I am before I see her, love transcends all...and we chatter together just like a pair Magpies within minutes of seeing each other!

It doesn't seem to matter how old my family gets...every year, at Christmas, I can still see the youngster in my daughter. Her eyes sparkle with delight over visitors, food, entertaining and yes, even over presents. Just as they did when she was Graydon's age.

I've heard it said that Christmas brings out the child in everyone. And if it does, then to me this is one of the greatest reasons to celebrate a holiday such as this. Perhaps, if adults could grasp hold of their child within once a year...they may remember how joyful childish things can be...and continue on throughout the year.  

If adults could grasp the Christmas Spirit and hold it deep within their hearts, every day of the year, if our leaders could re-member their childhoods, no matter their religion...I wonder if the World would be in the trouble it is in.

If we all re-membered what it feels like to give freely and with joy, if we all re-membered childish anticipation, would we take as easily? Perhaps grasping greed would not be as prevalent, if we could only remember how a child gives...with his whole heart.

But I realize I'm naive.  I realize, as well, not everybody can remember wonderful Christmases. And I wish for all those who did not have the memories I have, that they will make good, solid remembrances over the coming years. And that they will contact that deep part of oneself, where anticipation, excitement and joy still exists, even if there are bad memories of a long ago childhood gone wrong.

As cold as it is outside, I believe I will create warmth and gaiety inside today.  Fudge making is on the could it be Christmas without fudge? And oh...those butter tarts...can't forget those! The scent they produce in the oven will transport me right back to all the Christmases past.

Back to when my children were small, back to when I hid the gifts, back to when I volunteered at the Soup Kitchen, back to when our family swelled to include four foster boys who needed a home for Christmas, back to when we all sang the Christmas songs loudly and with great gusto on our way to my mother's home...

It's all about creating wonderful experiences and then... re-membering them year after year...

I don't believe I could have a better day!