Tuesday, December 24, 2013

We Need A Little Christmas - It's -35 Below!

Our First Christmas at The Moose Lodge

Christmas: magic, miracles, and possibility.  No matter what your religious or spiritual beliefs may be, the timing of Christmas and Hanukkah in the dark days of winter makes sense from a mental health perspective alone.  The holidays bring people together, drawing us out of the cozy comfort of home and in to the world.  In our case, out of our cabin at -30 to attend the school Christmas Play “December Lights, December Nights” and eat cookies with neighbors and friends).  

The holidays bring family and friends together and people to places of worship, celebration and relaxation.  Staying sane in the long dark days of winter, particularly in the northern latitudes, requires patience, persistence, planning and perspective.  The holidays from Halloween straight through Easter get you by, one celebration and thanksgiving to the next.  
This year is our first year spending winter this far north.  Southcentral has been my home for the past 30 years, now here in the wild vast wilderness of the interior the darkness lasts a little longer, and the daylight is more illusive.  On a clear day we get direct sunshine from around 10:30 AM until somewhere just after 1 PM, at which point the sky explodes with color, casting a surreal glow across the frozen winter landscape, golden rays of sunshine stretched out for miles --creating the illusion of warmth among all the snow and ice.
When Parke came downstairs this morning I asked him “What’s the temperature outside?” and he said “27.7”, to which I said “Above zero?”.  To which he replied “do you really have to ask?”.  The official temperature this morning is - 33.3 F.  At this temperature being outside is totally possible and if you are layered appropriately you can stay pretty warm given you are moving your body or working in some way.  

As of 8 PM on Christmas Eve the temperature was at:
I can't wait to see what "much cooler than today" means, it never got above -25 F today! 
Being bundled up in all that gear is a workout in its self. I feel like Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story, “I can’t put my arms down!!!”, when I am layered in a down vest, double bibs, and a hefty outer coat, bomber hat, lightweight hat liner, liner gloves, big fat mittens, two pairs of socks, and a pair of heavy duty sorel glacier boots.  Roughly 24 pounds of gear on my frame packs a punch.  It gives me serious respect for firefighters and soldiers whose occupations require hauling around gear and equipment that weighs a ton, in extreme weather and life threatening conditions, or on the battle field.  That puts my whining about lugging myself around in all that gear in -30 temps on a blue bird day, shuffling around the woods, taking in my world at -30 F.  
Slipping back inside the house, repeating the strategic process of getting out of my gear and keeping all of the pieces and parts together, and away from the reach of Honey Bear’s enormous jowls that can’t help but pluck wayward objects up off tables, floors, chairs and more.  Chewing them into submission, breaking off pieces and parts - little tokens of her puppyhood are being left all around the house.  It’s been a great way to reinforce the idea of picking up toys to the kids. It’s not a question of if Honey will eat the kids toys, but when Honey will eat their toys.  She has a hankering for anything.  Anything.  She reminds me of a marriage between Marmaduke and a Billy Goat; in her awkward, loving, adorable clumsiness and eagerness to sample anything remotely edible. 

Patience comes in learning to have a perspective about the seasons and our relationship to the passage of time and the natural periods in the year that allow for quiet contemplation and times of togetherness. Ideas, observations, and reflections rise up to greet us at the end of each year, reminding us of the many twists and turns our lives have taken in the past year, and throughout the years that seem to pass too quickly.  

The holidays are at time when we come together and reflect on the year that has gone by, recall the magic of Christmases past, and remember those who are no longer with us.  Celebrating the here and now, as family coming together to rejoice and give thanks for the many blessings in our lives, and celebrate the possibility that exists for us in the coming year.  

This year I am finding more ways of going with the season instead of fighting it. I can appreciate how Mother Nature is stepping in to give us “Land of the Midnight Sun” people a break to recharge and reboot after a wild Alaskan summer spent outdoors -- exploring, or in our case packing, moving, unpacking, more moving, etc.  Earlier this summer when we were at the peak of our sell, sell, buy juggling act I told Parke “Come Christmas until whenever, I think I am just going to sleep a lot and relax and recover from the craziness that has been the last 15 months.....five years.  This Christmas marks our 8th Christmas, since we first met, and life has been in perpetual forward motion from the moment we went on our first date, to this Christmas Eve here at The Moose Lodge.
Now that school is over and I have graduated and met the goals I had set for myself when I started out a little over a decade ago, I am trying to relax, sit, and be.  I am finding that it is impossibly hard and this reminds me of being on bed rest when I was pregnant with George.  In theory bed rest could be a nice little pre-baby vacation.  In reality it’s harder than you might think and it can feel isolating and deeply reflective in way that feels like a major transformation is underway.  This post-graduation, pre-next chapter of my life phase is even more abstract to wrap my brain around, now that we are here in this wild, vast wilderness, so far away from where we were this time a year ago, or at any other point in our lives.  This is not where I thought I would be when I graduated.  This dream was too wild to possibly come true that I really didn’t spend much time working out the change in course, because in order to more forward I had to run on and not get hung up on the details.
The dramatic striking differences of our life in this unfinished log cabin, to our life in the perfectly manicured, posh Labrador House is something I still can’t give much mental energy to, because it is all too crazy to really comprehend.  The how and why of our arrival here and belief that this was the moment for us to reach for our dreams.  Being here I know that it was destined, our being here, because it has worked out so beautifully, miraculously well, that the only way I can figure is that it really was meant to be our home, this Moose Lodge of a road side shack on the edge of the wild vast wilderness.  
Now we’ve done it, and are standing on the other side, an in between of sorts as we figure out what comes next.  Christmas and the New Year, Graduation, and the reality of being here, all coinciding over a joyous holiday, filled with hope, miracles, belief, and possibility.  This Christmas I am thankful beyond belief for being here, in this moment, in this place -- even if I don’t know what that means for each of us individually, and for us as a family.  

For now I am content to sit and watch the sun rise and set again roughly three hours later while sipping hot cocoa, tea, coffee or egg nog, and munching on excessive quantities of gluten-free cookies while writing it all out and reflecting on what has come to pass, and meditating on the possibility that exists in the coming year for each and every one of us. Oh, and eating ham, turkey, and taking short runs and cozy naps under the warm glow of electric Christmas and the glittering and dancing of glitter, garland, and metallic snowflakes, ribbon, and bows. This year the inside decorations are a bit over the top.  Hanging out in our living room is like being on the inside of what I imagine a Gingerbread House to look like.  The other day I came across this cartoon, and it summed up my reasons perfectly.

Later that same day as Parke took the snow machine over to a neighbors house to hang up a surprise string of lights when they got in from town.  While he was gone I did some flash christmas light blitzing of my own, by the time he and Maya returned the exterior of The Moose Lodge was beginning to match the interior in terms of Christmasy glow and and ranking on the cheer-o-meter.   
Glancing around the living room paneling and the glow of the lights warming the room and creating a dazzling brilliance on our christmas decorations, ornaments, and table where the centerpiece Maya made us (at school) for Christmas sits on the table.  She brought it home on Friday after school, her last day until January 6.  Every night at dinner time and sometimes at breakfast as well, we light the candles in the centerpiece she made and enjoy the glittering glow of candlelight as we eat our dinner under the glow of the christmas blitz that is The Moose Lodge.  
Above the dining room, living room, and kitchen windows is a x-mas light sandwich!
This Christmas Eve I wish for everyone to experience some spark - a hope filled moment of belief with a dash of Christmas Magic that resonates on the deepest level of your soul, reminding you that anything is possible if you believe it, even the wildest dreams come true.  

Tonight my friends anything is possible - dream big!  

Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night! 

- Honey Mama

P.S. Have you read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas at The Moose Lodge yet?  There is no time like the present!  Read on for a wildlife inspired tale of survival in the arctic landscape, that closes with a pack of wolves howling at the Christmas Eve moon.