View From The Glen

Friday, December 30, 2011


I love this week. It's a week to lay low, to savour the holidays after the rush and excitement of Christmas and before the glitz and glamour that is New Year's Eve. Often we hit the ski hills, but the weather has been less than optimal this year and so we've spent most of it in quiet seclusion beside the fire, ridding ourselves of the chill that comes with minus twenty degree temperatures and a blustery wind outside the walls of the old farmhouse.

The world around us is frozen, the only colour on a grey horizon the sparkle of distant Christmas lights at dusk. Inside we light the lamps and the tree lights, catch up with friends over a pot of beef stew and fresh made bread, and sit with our books, our tech toys, and our projects.

To me, this week is similar to the first week of September. It's time to reflect and to enjoy, to plan and to dream. To relax with loved ones and let the moment take us where it may knowing full well that this pause will pass, that 2012 will come ringing in, and that another new year, full of activity and joy and life will soon be upon us.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

At Last I'm Ready for Christmas

(One of our favourite family Christmas songs, by the inimitable Stan Rogers. Just hearing his voice makes me feel warm!)

We must be fools - just look at that pile!
You can hardly see the tree!
We said this year we'd keep things simple
Then did our usual spree
But it feels so good when the kids go nuts
It's worth the toil and strain
These kids are only this young once
It will never be so again.

At last I'm ready for Christmas
I've even finished the tree
At last I'm ready for CHristmas
Like I thought I'd never be
With my feet propped up by a good hot fire
And a matching inside glow
At last I'm ready for Christmas
With nearly two hours to go

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2011

On The Outside Looking In

When I was in my 20's, living in Halifax, one of my favourite activities when dusk fell early in the winter was wandering around the the old neighbourhoods near Point Pleasant Park. Especially this time of year when the lights were lit, the trees were decorated, and as I walked past the beautiful homes, I would sometimes catch a glimpse of a person or a family inside. I liked the way the light mellowed and the way it was like watching a scene unfold in a book. Who were they? What were their stories? I suppose that, in a nutshell is why I write.

Two things today on this eve before Christmas Eve (yes, we are that family - the one who counts Christmas Eve Eve as an actual part of the holiday!):

1) I am taking a writing course called Story is a State of Mind. I heard about it through a friend, and though I don't make resolutions at New Year, I decided this year to make time to write more of a priority. Taking this course with some new friends is as much about accountability as it is about honing my own writing, although that will be fantastic as well. I'll keep you posted.

2) We have snow today. Sounds crazy, I know - I live in Canada where we should have snow - but there has been some doubt about whether it will be a white Christmas or not. Today I am hopeful and the scene outside all the windows in the house is like a Christmas card that says winter wonderland in big sparkly letters.

Kitchen Window (looking East)
Office window (looking West)
3) My children are amazingly happy, singing and dancing their way around the house. It's their last day of school today and I'm heading out shortly to the open house and Christmas dinner. I snapped these picture of our tree from outside last week, and when we talk about a snapshot in time, this is what we mean. I love the light. I love the fact that you catch a glimpse of Erik. I love the hint of hominess that they capture. It's exactly the kind of scene I used to delight in on those long ago walks through Halifax. Except now it's mine.

From Porch into living room

From porch into family room & kitchen (you can just see our huge century stone hearth in the background)

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Christmas Carol

This morning I drove the kids to school. The school band concert was last night, and though it was not a particularly late night, spirits were high afterwards and it was rather past bedtime when I finally got rid of settled the kids for the night. The kids like it when I drive them to school, probably because it doesn't happen very often. At least they DID like it. Not sure if that's still true.

You see Erik is reading A Christmas Carol for his grade 6 novel study, and I took advantage of our 20 minute drive to engage him in a discussion of the thematic importance of a story I have long loved. It's a bit of a challenge, eliciting expansive responses from my son, but hey, in a car, there is no escape. By the time we got to school, he was
  • able to comment intelligently on the significance of Scrooge's "transformation" and the three-fold process that got him there;
  • somewhat able to identify similarities and differences between 19th century social conditions and today;
  • tell me his favourite scenes and why they are important, and expand on how the lessons in A Christmas Carol could be applied to everyday life ("it's all about making the right choices and having the courage to change."); and
  • thinking that maybe taking the bus to school wasn't so bad after all. LOLOL
We watched the Jim Carrey A Christmas Carol the other week. I personally have a soft spot for the Muppet version. But my all time favourite - sorry Alistair Sim (who also stars in a great version) - is the 1970 musical film starring Albert Finney and Sir Alex Guinness.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Silver Rivers

My drive to the college is beautiful. I get to meander along two rivers - a small country river that takes me almost from my house to the college, then after, five minutes of asphalt, I come face to face with the majesty of the St Lawrence which I follow to the campus.

This morning, both these rivers were silver. Not shiny, but more a pewter silver, reflecting the snow clouds above, and looking icy and hard with the slanting, sharp snow that was coming down. Not falling - far less gentle than that - but beautiful none-the-less.

Rivers are peaceful., and as I drove, I initially thought about how paradoxical it was to be faced with a peaceful river when my mind is so busy. Christmastime is a crazy time for so many of us, and this year, that has never been so true for me. I envied the river. But only for a moment.

Because immediately afterwards, I realised that I like being busy this time of year. I like having friends to greet, family to shop for, excitement to harness, cookies to bake, a tree to decorate. I keep things pretty low key in general, but there is still plenty to be done, but it struck me that it's all part of the excitement of the season. I'm thankful for it. Thankful to have to be rushing around because it means I have a reason to do so. Thankful to have to bake because that act to me represents all the love and friendship and cheer that is present in our lives.

There is a fine line between consumer frenzy and Christmassy hustle and bustle, but the overall pace of December is one of the things I actually like. Most of the time, at least.

And in January, well, the peace of the silver rivers will still be there then, too.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December the First

It is December the 1st which means two things: One - it's my mother's birthday (Happy birthday, Mom!), and I took care of that with a nice gift basket; and two - the Christmas season officially starts for me today.

Now, it's true we have already done some Christmas things. The tree lighting was last weekend and the kids went down to serve hot chocolate with the Scouts, for example. Some shopping has been, well, contemplated at least. And the children have been practicing music for their upcoming concert and sneaking in Christmas songs when they can. But they are the minor, peripheral things. The real beginning for me is right here, right now.

And how does it start? Simply, as ever.

I take time on the 1st to sit down with paper and a calender and a glass of wine to plan the next few weeks leading up to Christmas and into the New Year. I listen to Christmas songs (Elvis is crooning Silver Bells as I type this), and try to think about the things that will make us happy: A trip to Upper Canada VIllage's Alight at Night; Christmas caroling around the neighbourhood; making gingerbread and cookies and tourtiere and sausage rolls; picking out and decorating a tree; reading A Christmas Carol; and my favourite tradition of the season...celebrating the solstice with a Deck The Halls afternoon.

 Yes, as of today, we can really think about decorating and baking and watching those Christmasy movies (Love, Actually, anyone?). I love December.