The Perfect Christmas Eve

If I had a blog, today I would write about my recipe for a perfect Christmas Eve day.

Sawyer - Zen Master of the Nap

Sawyer – Zen Master of the Nap

Throughout the years, I’ve always had trouble knowing what to do with the daytime hours of Christmas Eve. In our family, we actually wait until evening to start our celebration, so the early part of the day can be a little flat. Well, no more. Today I discovered the perfect lead-in to my favorite Eve of the year: Spend the day with cats. There is no creature on this planet that understands the finer points of rest, relaxation, rejuvenation better than a cat and today, I let Sawyer and Claudia Jean set the tempo of my day.

Claudia Jean

Claudia Jean

The three of us got up early and had breakfast, then returned to bed for an hour of luxurious rest. I left the cats curled up among the blankets and did barn chores around 9:00, then returned to the cat-cave for more nourishment of body and soul. After a long bath, with cats sitting on the tub’s edge, basking in the steam, I gave myself a pedicure, put on my comfiest jeans and a favorite shirt, then did a bit web-surfing with Claudia perched on my shoulder like a guardian angel turned gargoyle. She particularly enjoyed the funny cat videos a friend posted on Facebook.

Claudia Working Hard

Claudia Working Hard

By then, it was time for a holiday ice cream cone (shared among the three of us), followed by another rest-period. I plumped up the pillows on my bed, put a heating pad on my back, and snuggled beneath my favorite fleece blanket, the edges held down by my feline friends. We napped and watched a movie, then napped some more. Occasionally I’d feel a bit guilty for doing nothing more than lounging, but one look at the cats, dozing peacefully around me, and my concerns vanished. If the cats’ say its ok to lounge, then its ok to lounge.

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

Even though I don’t put much stock in New Year’s resolutions, I am tempted to make “Cat Days” a regular feature in my life this coming year. Cat’s understand something we humans don’t: They are masters of the art of “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” and that is a skill I desperately need to learn. Today, for the first time in ages, I feel relaxed, refreshed, and filled with peace – the things I believe Christmas should bring. Thank you Claudia and Sawyer, for giving me this rarest of gifts – a truly happy Christmas Eve.

 

Christmas to Me: Part II

If I had a blog, today I would continue the story of my favorite Christmas…

The Dogs Arrive at Our Cabin

The Dogs Arrive at Our Cabin

Christmas Eve dawned grey and cold. By mid-morning, snow began falling, giving the landscape an ethereal, “Jack Londonesque” quality. Just before noon, the tableau was complete as two teams of sled dogs appeared from the forest edge. If Santa and his reindeer had appeared on Lark Lake that morning I could not have been more excited. I had wanted to be a musher since I was ten years old – the winter I hitched our yellow lab, Michael, to my toboggan and played “Iditarod” from dawn to dusk on the snow-covered fields that made up our farm. Now, at long last, I had a chance to do the real thing: Ride behind a string of sled dogs in the wilderness of The North.

Our Sled Dogs

Our Sled Dogs

The afternoon was everything I’d hoped for: Flying over the frozen landscape under the expert guidance of our mushers, getting a sense of the skill it takes to manage a team of eight canine athletes. My experience driving horses did little to prepare me for the experience of running dogs. Although the dogs were harnessed and attached to the sled, there were no reins to guide or stop the team. All directions, “gee” for right, “haw” for left, and the all important “whoa,” are spoken by the musher. The dogs have complete control over whether they obey or not, thus making a well-trained team an absolute necessity. Happily, both teams we rode with that day were the picture of obedience and their synchronicity with their drivers was poetry in motion.

Rest Stop on the Trail

Rest Stop on the Trail

After a couple hours of traveling, we stopped for a rest. We were cold and needed hot cocoa to fuel our inner fires, while the dogs were hot (it was, after all fifteen degrees that afternoon) and needed time to rest, drink, and roll merrily in the snow. If I ever had any doubts as to whether or not sled dogs were happy in their work, they were erased that winter’s day. I have never seen dogs with more joie de vie. As soon as our break was over, they were ready to go: Jumping and barking and pulling at the traces so we’d know they were far from ready to go home.

Thanking Our New Friends

Thanking Our New Friends

We returned to the cabin shortly before dusk and thanked the mushers and each of their dogs for giving us the adventure of a lifetime. As they vanished into the woods across the lake and the light from the mushers’ headlamps faded from sight, The Great Silence returned to Lark Lake and Christmas Eve began.

A Toast to Christmas

A Toast to Christmas

Our holiday dinner was simple fare: Hamburger casserole and dinner rolls, accompanied by fine wine, with which we toasted family, the North Woods, and the sacredness of the season.  As we did the dinner dishes, we turned on the short-wave radio and listened to a boys’ choir in Germany, singing carols to celebrate that holiest of eves. One-by-we made our way to the sauna, returning warm, clean, and ready for an evening around the fire. We sat up until midnight, sharing memories of Christmases past until, at last, we blew out the lamps and turned in for the night. Mom and Dad slept on the futon by the stove and David, Kindra, and I slept in the loft, nestled in our sleeping bags, with starlight shining in the windows. Music from a choir in England lulled me to sleep and for the first time in decades, I felt the spirit of Christmas in every fibre of my being. My last thoughts that wondrous night were the words of favorite carol. “O Holy Night…O Night Divine.”

To be continued…