Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Upon arising and drawing the drapes this morning, a heedless glance out my frozen bedroom window reminded me what a desolate place Canada can be in the winter. On these normally cloudy days everything is dull - grey and brittle branches on the trees, forlorn snow on the grass and fields beyond, even the evergreens look faded and bleak, somehow tarnished. The barren and austere appearance is compounded by the mixture of filthy salt and dirty brown sand which now litters our roadways. It is so inhospitable.
When I was a youth with far more imagination than I now have or care to entertain I prayed for snow in December. I conjured in my mind pictures of igloos, tiny sleighs and miniature reindeer flying over roof-tops, a huge blazing fireplace next to which stood a sparkling ornament-laden pine tree with a cat curled up beneath, maybe even mulled wine into which was plunged a scorching hot iron poker giving rise to the aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg, and red holly berries on dark green prickly leaves. But such images are strictly iconic. No one my age in their right mind would do anything to encourage such a godforsaken wasteland of snow that is the reality.
It makes sense of course that the holiday tradition at this time of year is to do everything possible to brighten the landscape, both in and out-of-doors. I confess I am still smitten by those highly decorated and over-sized Christmas cards with the glitter on them, portraying huge evergreens with snowy boughs in a pristine rural setting, perhaps even a horse-drawn cutter, its carefree occupants smiling and wrapped in blankets. If I happen to hear Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” I succumb. Indeed music is probably the last remaining trace of my erstwhile Christmas spirit, though I now tend more towards Tchaikovsky than Handel. Gradually, however, I put our fewer and fewer Christmas decorations either in our home or at the office. The only ornamental testaments to the season at the office thus far (apart from the bottle of Lagavulin with the bow on top) are two fake hanging fir boughs with pine cones and red ribbons. All other accoutrements have long ago disappeared or been given away.
Eventually the Christmas cards will start to arrive, almost always from the same people each year. Most people who submit to this annual routine have their “Christmas list” from which they work. My tact is to avoid Christmas cards entirely, but I always make a point of responding to them with a personalized letter (though I admit that the advent of the computer has made that particular task greatly more efficient). Once or twice I receive a form letter which is nothing more than a broadcasted message to one and all about how well they and one’s children are doing. I take exception to that brand of communication. It elevates retailing to a new and undesirable level in my opinion. Since I too have tediously cultivated my own share of navel-gazing, it was, for example, but the work of a moment to silence future broadcasted messages from one particularly loquacious chap by emailing him my conglomerate 817-page journal entries for the past several years (thanks again to the convenience of the computer). I have never heard from him again. There are also the electronically signed Christmas cards from one’s favourite accountant, software provider, title searcher and Trustee-in-Bankruptcy. While those cards do nothing to promote my business (which they already have), they at least flesh out the gathering collection of colourful cardboard which progressively sprawls from one table in the reception area to another, finally making it to the tops of filing cabinets and any other available perch throughout the office. Come January 1st, they all come down like a house of cards, into the waste basket.
Speaking of Scrooge, I would be less than transparent if I were not to say that the seasonal reading of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is de rigeur; or alternatively the viewing of the film adaptation starring Alastair Sim.
Likewise I am constantly enthralled by a reading of Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”:
"One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six."