Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Déjà vu

Not everybody can have a juniper Christmas tree.
 On Christmas Day 29 years ago we were living here.

Dean brought our supplies in on a sled.

I remember two things about that Christmas.

Yes, that is our wok lid covered in foil.

Number one: the main course was antelope. The four antelope we had shot that Fall were the only meat we ate for the nine months we lived out in the middle of nowhere, in a cabin with no electricity or running water, at the end of a road that was closed – either by drifting snow or mud – for five months of the year. Well, to be perfectly honest, we ate four antelope and the chicks we later mail-ordered, raised up until they were plump and tender and then sacrificed to the God of Hungry Stomachs.

Number two: Friends from town drove 40 miles on a wintery highway, seven miles on a snow-covered dirt road, and then skied ½ mile or so in to our little cabin just so they could share Christmas dinner with us. I don’t remember what time we had determined dinner would be served but when that hour came, even though our friends had not yet arrived, we sat down and ate. There was no discussion as to whether or not they may have driven off the road and were lying bloody in a snow bank. There was no discussion as to whether or not they might have gotten lost and were wandering around freezing and disoriented. There was no discussion as to whether or not we should worry about them or wait for them. We just figured they weren’t coming. It was time to eat so we ate. I now know, many years later, that we should have waited for their arrival before we ate our Christmas dinner. But when you’re living in somewhat “rustic” conditions, you become a bit primordial. You just kind of forget about small details like brushing your hair or not eating dinner until your guests arrive.

We had just swallowed that last bite of antelope and wiped the grease from our mouths with the back of our hands when our visitors arrived at our door. Their cheeks were red from the cold; they were invigorated from the ski and their hungry stomachs were anticipating a warm and welcoming dinner. I hang my head in shame when I tell you we felt no embarrassment as we told them we’d already eaten. We just brought them in, sat them down at the table, and placed the measly remains of our Christmas dinner in front of them.

Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? Emily Post would have been red-faced at our total disregard of common courtesy. But here’s the thing. Living in isolation can sometimes cause a person to become a little bit weird or even the teensiest bit crazy. I’m sure Dean thinks he stayed perfectly sane but it wasn’t me who thought pickups could fly over snow drifts four feet high.  And anyway, I only beat my fists in the snow bank and screamed at the stars once.

Twenty-nine years later, we once again spent Christmas in a cabin, only this time Dean and I were the visitors. Christmas morning we donned snow shoes and walked about ¾ mile in to a cabin on the mountain to surprise three little grandchildren. It was a sunny and crisp day with only the sound of the crunching snow and Dean yelping each time the bell on his pack swung into his elbow.

You’ll just have to imagine a picture of three surprised faces excitedly running out of the cabin door because as we approached the cabin, I reached for my camera, and promptly fell into a twisted heap.

Fortunately for Dean and me, Leslie and Ryan were much better hosts than we had been to our visitors.  They made Emily Post proud. Even though we were ½ hour late arriving they did not eat without us. There was lots of food –  cheese, salami, delicious soup, homemade bread topped with butter Emerson had shaken by hand in a jar with a marble, ham steaks, baked beans, garden carrots and potatoes, cornbread and homemade cookies.

We wore ourselves out sledding,

playing games,

and helping with chores.

There was a bedtime story under the soft glow of kerosene lamps,

before we all crawled into our beds. Dean and I shared a bed with Pierce. It was a quiet and peaceful night. There were no cars roaring down the street, no sirens, and no barking dogs. The only sounds were Myra’s soft snoring, the occasional snap of the fire flickering in the stove, and a sharp intake of breath whenever Dean rolled over onto Pierce’s freezing cold water bottle.

It came to an end much too quickly. There was a quick icicle tossing contest before we packed up,

 fired up the snowmobile,

left the peace and beauty of the mountain, and headed back to town.

However, unlike the visitors who came to see Dean and me all those years ago, we left with bellies filled with oatmeal covered in brown sugar and homemade butter and many happy memories.

More photos of Christmas on the mountain are here.



Jerry said...

The only thing missing is a picture of the log cabin.

Leslie said...

Awesome pictures! And just so no one thinks we're lazy we did snowshoe in with three kiddos....but we did snowmobile out.
We had a great time with you guys!

Anonymous said...

Three antelope and one deer actually.