raven in a tree

The winter solstice seems to have come and gone; I will admit, I missed the lunar eclipse on the solstice. I am somewhat disappointed in having missed something that last occurred in the year 1638. It is not like I had any pagan rituals planned, moreover, it is not like I had anything planned.</div>

It seems that Christmas (at least for those of a western European descent or leaning) is now upon us. As children, my sister, Meghann, and I would dread the long trek through the many days of December leading up to Christmas. She would make those paper-count-down-chains; tearing off one link per day until Christmas had arrived. On or near December 12th, our mother’s birthday, the tree was brought into the house and decorated. Shortly after, the presents would be brought down from our mother’s closet and set under the tree. Our family always celebrated Christmas by opening the presents on Christmas Eve; this was followed by driving around the city or region looking at Christmas lights. Some Christmases, our mother would put out luminaries; they lined the sidewalk coming up to the front door. By morning, the forgotten white paper bags would be nothing more than charred and blackened rings in the snow. Christmas day was spent assembling Legos as well as brewing the coffee (yes, even as a child, as young as 8 or 10, I received coffee as gifts). We also had a semi-large Christmas-day meal.

Throughout the 1990s, Christmas and the general patterns and rituals surrounding Christmas changed. Meghann went off college; the paper-chains disappeared. Grandparents passed away and the number of people receiving and giving gifts decreased. The Christmas-day meal went from being an event where the good silverware was brought out and a large Christmas ham was carved up – to a mid-afternoon gathering where hot tuna sandwiches were eaten and a game of Trivial Pursuit was played.

A few years after Melissa and I were married, we arrived upon our own ritual: go someplace on or near Christmas. Last year, we drove to Grand Marais on Christmas day. The year before, it was a drive up the shore to Silver Bay. This year, we headed to Ely. Piragis Northwoods Company, Wintergreen Northern Wear, Northern Grounds Cafe (there are businesses that do not have "North" in their name), a nice drive around Lake Shagawa, and a short drive up the Echo Trail. The cafe was excellent and even had vegetarian menu items. Hound Madelyn came with for the adventure, too. She was warmly welcomed in Piragis where she was fitted for a skijoring harness. Melissa helped the local economy by purchasing two skijoring harnesses (one for Madelyn, and one for her friend Annie’s dog, Jack), two pairs of snowshoes (one set for me, and one set for her) and a few other odds and ends.

Today, on Christmas Eve no less, I did the unChristmasy thing of making vegetarian red-and-black bean chili. Even with nearly two feet of snow on the ground, it just does not feel like Christmas. Only today did we get a tree. A 20″ potted Italian stone pine. At least there are the memories of Christmases of yore – when I was a child.

For the next posting, I hope to detail herbs I have planted in the house for growing during the winter as well as what I have up my sleeve for bees this spring.