This morning, the sun sent down shining rays of pure gold. These rays picked up the diamonds in the snow and sent their light back to my eyes in refracted colours. It was -27 Celsius, quite cold, but there was very little wind and the air was clean and clear. These are the days that make the heart sing while your cheeks tingle with frost. These are the days we missed so much last year.
Yesterday, just as the sun was about to set, Glenn and I made our way across the perimeter bridge to the countryside on the way to Shelmerdine Garden Centre. We were off to buy our Christmas tree. As we drove, I tried to ignore the signs of encroaching settlement among the oak forests on either side of the road, but there was a big bold house visible through the trees. It seemed to spring up rudely over night and I know it is just the beginning.
But, oh, the land is lovely so close here to our home in Charleswood. It is such a heartwarming jaunt to the garden centres down the road. There are glimpses of the river through the oak forests, and in some places, there are fields that still get planted. I live as close to the country as I can and it breaks my heart to see it disappearing, giving way to new homes for people who never look outside their windows.
As we drove, the sky put on a beautiful show distracting me from my resentful, but perhaps unfair, thoughts about development. Gray scudded clouds tinged with pink charged across the foreground while behind there were slices of clear blue sky traced with yellow. The weather today, is the reward that sky foretold.
At the garden centre, all was bustle amid the hung trees and the cut greenery. Members of the staff were trimming trunks and wrapping up evergreen trees as fast as they could and Chad, who bought out former owner Jan Pedersen, was working like a beaver along with his people. He chose a nice tree for us, cyutting it down to the 3.5-foot size I want these days so it will sit on top a table and not be too much for Glenn to carry.
There was Christmas music playing in the background and folks were stopping at the little corner coffee stand that Nicole has set up at the garden centre, sipping tea and coffee while soaking up the steamy air and the smell of things growing. I love going to the garden centres at this time of year. I always buy a little plant to be nurtured and this time it was a Christmas cactus all in bloom, plus, of course, a giant pink poinsettia.
I set the tree up and decorated most of it last night, finishing the job today, and relishing the ritual that I have now been following for a very long time. Now all is lovely and clean and the Christmas decorations are in place, making the house seem brand new. Next Sunday, Lori and Joe and Holly and Graeme will come for dinner and I will play Christmas carols in the background. Downstairs, Glenn will have lit a fire in the fireplace and the house will be warm and filled with good cooking smells. I will have pale pink roses in the living room and there will be candles glowing around the room. The table will be set with my favourite white china and the good flatware and the tall white tapes in the crystal candle holders. Perhaps instead of the white linen napkins, I will use the exotic black ones with the elephants and tropical birds and flowers that I brought back from Thailand. They are made from the finest cotton and feel like silk.
I love doing these things for my family and my friends. I enjoy making things perfect for them.
On Christmas Eve we will have a very small group of favourite friends to join us. We will have our dinner on our laps downstairs around the fire, just being warm and casual and cosy, eating something unexpected as is our tradition. Sometimes it is just hors d’eouvres or maybe homemade pizza or it might be sushi on those mats and with chopsticks I bought home from Malaysia for just this purpose.
Christmas is still a magical time of year and I can’t help but get excited about it no matter how many I’ve been through. I think it’s all about the possibilities, the anticipation and, of course, the sanity of tradition.