The snow is thick on my balcony, thick on the trees in the yard, and it’s still coming down. I’m happy to sit by my window and watch it fall, in slippers and sweater, with a blanket and a cat on my lap. It’s time for cozy doings, quiet reflection, and I am grateful I don’t have anywhere I need to be. The solstice is almost upon us and Christmas soon to follow.
“How would you feel about getting Chinese food on the 24th?” my son asks. I know why. For his entire life, until we left Calgary, it was a tradition to go to Confederation Park to look at the lights on Christmas Eve and pick up Chinese food on the way home.
“Good idea,” I said, “and while we’re out, we can take a drive down Candy Cane Lane to see the lights.”
I understand the need for tradition, rituals, ceremony. I’ve incorporated them into my daily life. I like the way they keep me grounded, yet open to whatever the universe might have to teach me. I love the way they remind me to appreciate all I have. We all have traditions that speak to our hearts, but they’re not the same for everybody.
Some of my favorite holiday traditions have been brought forward from my childhood, and others are my own design. Christmas dinner, for example, must include perogies and cabbage rolls, even if I’m the only one eating them. I love that we each add a couple of things to each other’s stocking and wrap everything, no matter how small. And I really love giving and receiving gifts that involve some aspect of personal creativity.
My best friend, Jaki, has a favorite tradition, too. For her, the best part about Christmas is going out to find a Christmas tree. We’re not talking about walking around the Canadian Tire parking lot looking at pre-cut, farmed trees. No, we’re talking about getting a license, heading out to the forest, finding the perfect tree, and bringing it home.
Last year it was just me and LumberJaki (a name she gave herself that makes me giggle every time). This year, we were joined by Jaki’s sister, Kat, our friend, Michele, and Tusket-the-Dog. Kat was doing the driving, so all I had to do was sit back and enjoy the ride.
There wasn’t a lot of snow in the valley, but it didn’t take much of an ascent before the landscape began to change. We travelled east on Highway 33, and turned off on Three Forks Road, into the Graystokes area. The snow here, and there was a lot of it, was pristine, marked only by animal tracks. The sky was dove-gray but had an ethereal glow. The whole world was black and white with shades of grey.
The forecast was for heavy snow, any second now, but we were in no hurry. Finding a likely spot, Kat parked the Rav and everyone got out to explore. Armed with her hacksaw, LumberJaki led the charge and before long, pine trees of various sizes were laid aside.
The snow began to fall.
Tusket-the-Dog was tied to a tree with a lengthy lead and was having a marvelous time in the snow.
LumberJaki and Michele were selecting and cutting trees, and Kat dragged them back to the Rav.
I’m not exactly sure what happened to Michele, but at one point she looked like a partially dipped ice cream cone.
I could relate. Needing to pee, I managed to get myself into the forest and out of the line-of-sight. There were animal tracks there, but they were small, probably a rabbit. My business completed, I endeavored to cover my tracks by kicking fresh snow over the spot. Losing my balance, I grabbed the nearest tree, only to have it dump it’s load over both me and the spot I was trying to cover.
Mission accomplished, I guess.
I laughed, imagining that rabbit watching me from the cover of the trees, wondering what kind of strange ritual this was.
The rest of the party had gathered back at the Rav and were loading the trees into and on top of the vehicle. My legs were done, so I parked myself and from inside the vehicle took this photo of LumberJaki loading a tree on top of the Rav. Yes, that’s a knife between her teeth.
I swear, when the end of the world is near and we have to head to the mountains to live off the land, I want Jaki by my side. She knows how to do stuff.
Once the trees were loaded, all that was left to do was find a spot to share a snack. Kat found a little alcove to park in, and the treats were brought out.
There were freshly baked cinnamon buns with cream cheese frosting, chocolate chip cookies, cheese, and mandarins.
Tusket-the-Dog didn’t get any. Poor Tusket.
The drive home was at a relaxed pace, our goal being to get out of the mountains before dark. That still gave us time to stop and appreciate the fast-moving stream and the pair of White-tailed deer that graced us with their presence.
A few days later, a small group of friends gathered at Michele’s house for an afternoon of poetry and soup. Her beautiful little pine tree was enveloped in Christmas cheer and surrounded by about a million Nutcrackers.
We all have our traditions.