Monday, 29 December 2008


A large wave of reverie is flowing over me. Another Christmas has come and gone. The parties are over; weekend guests have departed; hugs and kisses are suspended; and this fleeting year has all but ended.

The intensity of the month preceding Christmas was filled with such energy: Lights to string around the yard; the tree to decorate; gifts to surprise; the anticipation of family dinners; the warm smells of shortbreads, fruitcake, and gingersnaps. Today, however, clich├ęd metaphors, like deflated balloons, or unstrung puppets, or kites without a tailwind, crawl in behind my back and press against an aching nostalgia.

With each passing year I am discovering that my personal experience of Christmas is changing. And while I continue to use most of the same decorations of the past, prepare the favourite treats of children young and old, and bake the same special turkey recipe that I have been making for thirty years or more, a new slant to the program is emerging.

Perhaps it is the arrival of new babies, or puppies, or the memories of family members who are no longer with us, or those who could not join us this year. Sometimes, the season involves several gatherings, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. Each family is wanting its turn to show off their decorated homes, to host their family and friends.

On other occasions, like this year, for instance, there was a huge four day event prior to the actual Christmas week, including out-of-town guests ranging in age from four months to ninety-four years. The baby and the senior both needed care above and beyond the resilient energies of the season or the hosts. By the time Christmas Day actually arrived, lovely as it was, it was somehow an echo of Christmases Past, with fewer of us at the table, and quieter than in other years.

And now I reflect on how the whole series of celebrations might have been different, maybe even better for all of us. What plans could I try to coordinate for next year? I am beginning to realize, however, that most of what happens around me on such occasions is becoming increasingly beyond my control. My children now orchestrate the rituals for their own homes, families, and timelines. I have become audience to their plans and programs, in much the same way that my own parents were relegated to the second balcony when I became the concertmaster of festivities for my young family.

All of this is totally natural, of course. It is how generations evolve. I guess it is just that we are not handed a guidebook at the outset of each stage of our progression through foggy mists or glaring sunshine. We are only granted the option to live through it, eyes wide open, or shut, as we choose. Sometimes a wink can be mistaken for a nod.

So why am I feeling melancholy? I know it is a conflagration of many things. Is this my mother’s last Christmas? Will we have the sledding, snowfires, "Christmas in the country" next year? Will my sister and niece make it a tradition to come back next year, as they said they would, with great enthusiasm, at their departure? I think not. Too many other interruptions will prevent their best laid plans.

Gerard Manley Hopkins' famous poem about a young girl, Margaret, crying at the sight of a tree losing its leaves in the fall, concludes with the line allowing that, in truth, she is not mourning the loss of the leaves but rather, “It is Margaret you mourn for.” Perhaps that realization applies to many of us at this time of year.

So please excuse me while I take leave of my current nostalgia. I need to go outdoors, windy as it is today, and break the ice in the creek to allow the water to flow more freely under the culvert. Smashed boxes and torn Christmas wrappings are languishing in the garage, waiting to be loaded into the wheelbarrow and carted to the fire pit at the back of the garden. Enroute I will stop to marvel again at the frozen apples still clinging to the orchard tree, like suspended Christmas ornaments. Surrounding us, throughout the year, nature shows off and throws off its own decorations and seasons without remorse. And so should I.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


December, according to Wikipedia, is the twelfth and last month of the year in the Gregorian Calendar and one of seven Gregorian months with the length of 31 days.
As we all know, in Latin, decem means "ten". December was also the tenth month in the Roman calendar until a monthless winter period was divided between January and February. December's flower is the narcissus or holly. December's birthstones are turquoise, lapis lazuli, zircon, topaz (blue), or tanzanite. It is the month with the shortest daylight hours of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and the longest daylight hours of the year in the Southern Hemisphere, and it starts on the same day of the week as September.

It is also a gathering of threads, an assembly of relatives, a time for "snow and mistletoe". That last phrase, cold snow, warm kisses, conjures up the oxymoron that is Christmas. Faith and frivolity join hands to bring a fusion of fidelity to family gatherings. This year, by virtue of the economic pendemic traversing the world, we may have less commercialism and more carolling and comradery. A delightful site, for those of you interested in the panoply of Christmas, will provide fun and information to share around the various dinner tables this season.

I hope that you are all up to your elbows in sugar and spice and that, throughout this month, we can all take time to seize the moments to enjoy one another, with whatever traditions are part of our families, including snowball romps, snow angels, and lots of hugs and kisses.