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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wishing you the warmth of a hug this Christmas

Winter is feeling extra Canadian this year. Our waterproof, chill-proof boots and coats are being tested, and we find ourselves searching for that extra-warm pair of mittens and favourite toque. The snow is piling up in an insulating shield around the barn, keeping the cows cozy inside. Unfortunately the ground frost has frozen the water to the barn.
As in the winter of 2015, we have to string lengths of heavy-duty garden hose together reaching from the house to half-barrels placed just over the barnyard fence. There the cows will shove and jostle for position so they can get their 5 to 7 gallons per day. The water barrels have to be filled several times, until the beasts’ thirst is quenched. This has to be done twice a day until, hopefully, the water fountain in the barn thaws out.
If my father were still alive, he would be out in the garage, revving up his Yamaha, in anticipation of snowmobile trails opening. The smell of diesel fuel and the sound of the sleds ripping down the trail always bring back vivid memories of Dad in his puffy suit and helmet. Skiers are no doubt hitting the trails and slopes over the holidays, enjoying every cumulative inch of the fluffy white stuff. Even the bitter cold is welcomed by those who rely on it to finish up the ice on their backyard skating rinks. A truly Canadian winter is here, just in time for Christmas.
This weekend we will gather with our family to celebrate another year of blessings. We will also be comforting those in our extended family who have lost a loved one just over a week ago. Suddenly I am back in that hospital room, losing my own father all over again. At times the pain is as fresh as it was in 2008 – and tears so easily take me by surprise. But the loss has taken on a dull shade now, and the happy memories rise up to the top. Dad’s spirit will be with us as we gather for Christmas and watch our newest family member open her gifts.
I bumped into an acquaintance recently in a store. She lost her husband this year – and though neither of them were close friends of mine, because we have both lost someone dear, we have that in common. She showed me the book of photographs she was working on for her family, and her eyes filled up with tears. As I gave her a hug, I remembered someone saying the hugger shouldn’t determine the length of the hug. It should go on until the recipient lets go. And so we hugged there, for nearly a minute, in the Walmart photo lab. It’s a simple thing but the transfer of energy is quite amazing. You can almost feel the serotonin rushing through your body. I’m going to take the time to give out and receive a few more hugs than usual this Christmas. It’s the gift that gives back – and it doesn’t cost a dime.
As 2017 looms on the snow-squall horizon, my new book project waits in the wings. It has been waiting for several years, for this moment. Now that I am between fulltime gigs, I need to focus on getting the thoughts and memories of my three years in Asia up on the computer screen. I sit at my desk in the den and look out at the snow-covered pasture, free of distractions. Chickadees and jays flutter at the bird feeder.  I try to remember the sounds and smells of Taipei – the clatter of a traffic jam, the hum of the subway, the sing-song language, the sweet scent of barbecued pork, the pungent odour of fermented tofu. The beer fridge behind me goes through its crashing cacophony and disturbs my train of thought. The furnace echoes with a clunk and a bang. The cats chase each other, playing hockey with a fallen tree ornament. I will go through some old photographs to help me focus. Memories line themselves up and ask to be turned into stories. It’s as good a time as any, to get this writing done.
Wishing you and your family plenty of time to focus on the things that you enjoy most. The heat of a wood stove, meals made with love, and the occasional squeeze of a bear hug. Merry Christmas, from the Fisher Farm.


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