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Christmas

A Bear Does Whatever It Wants In The Woods

bears-trail-camera-nova-scotia

One Christmas season over a decade ago, I looked after a dog whilst her owners went out of town.

Tibbit is a big, friendly dawg who likes inspecting piles of leaves. She has a long lead which her benevolent human allows to go as far as possible. She knows (better than her accompanying human) that there are treats at the end of each walk.

One Saturday I didn’t get Tibbit out until after dark. We skirted the university (where her masters work) and went up a street bordering the campus. We both liked the Christmas lights. Near the top of the street we met an inebriated gentleman, warning us of a bear in the surrounding woods.

“Flush him out,” said he, pointing at the dog, “And I’ll get my 3 aught 3.”

“Get the rifle first,” I replied.

We then went our respective ways.

Tibbit and I doubted the veracity of the gentleman, so when we came to a trail through the woods, we took it. I will admit I did peer more intently into the gloom than usual. One trail led to a larger trail, which led back to the university. We advanced without incident.

On Sunday, I again walked Tibbit toward the university, though from a different direction. It was a crisp, clear day, and she gamboled (as much as the leash allowed ) through the new fallen snow. Sunshine gleamed. This time we were on the other side of the campus, but our walk eventually led to a position about half a mile away from where we were the previous evening.

We followed another trail into the woods, and admired the sun through the fir trees. The path was wide and sloped. It came to a turn some distance away, that led us even closer to where we were the day before. At the top of the slope, Tibbit stopped dead in her tracks.

She stared and stared. 

She glanced briefly into the woods, but mainly kept staring along the trail.

I saw nothing nor heard anything (and I was intent upon both).

Tibbit did not move and made not a sound. She just kept staring. After a solid two minutes of this, I started to backtrack.

She made no complaint.

You betcha she got her dog treats.

(image) https://i.cbc.ca/1.4288335.1505334305!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/original_620/bears-trail-camera-nova-scotia.jpg

An Elephant Tale At Christmas For Jesus

 

creche2b1

The Elephant was not oblivious to the

Christmas season, and wanted to pay his

respects. He travelled to the special clearing

where a cloud waited for him.

“It’s your Son’s birthday and I want to congratulate him.”

“Thank you.” The cloud descended further.

“It is a grand time.”

 

“I’d like to …” the elephant hesitated.

 

“Yes.”

 

“You sent your son for us to see, so we

would believe.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Well, I want to …”

 

“Spit it out,” said God. “You’re fired up.”

 

“I want to see you.” The elephant spoke

quickly. “I don’t have to see you, you know

that.  I believed even before you talked to

me. But I want to see you; it would mean so

much. I wasn’t around for the Baby, but

cows and sheep and things got to see Him. I

can’t explain, but …”

 

“Go home,” said the cloud.

 

“You’re not angry with me?” said the

elephant.

 

“No.” The cloud started moving away. “It’s

an honest request.”

 

“Thank you for coming to see me,” said the

elephant.

 

“Sing some carols.” The voice was distant. “I

like them.”

 

The elephant turned and started through

the woods. He ignored the tasty leaves

within easy reach, and the rich grass near

the brook. He wanted to get home as quickly

as possible, so he could join the singing at

the Mission he knew was happening later in

the evening.

 

He trotted along the trail, snapping a branch
here and there in his haste, when he noted
the stillness, the hush which had overtaken
the forest. He slowed down and then
stopped in his tracks.
He turned his head, his small eyes squinting
into the brush. There was movement
coming toward him, and when the trees
parted, he went to his knees with a gasp.
Tears rolled from his eyes, and the golden
trunk touched his own, and gently

wiped them away.
(Image) 3.bp. blogspot.com/-Cu2l0Z3a5RY/UNX-AVe2xcI/AAAAAAAABfo/xse8jdvJsLo/s1600/creche%2B1.png

Is It Santa Claus, Or Is It Me, For Christmas?

santa_chairs_003b
Although I am no fan of having the Santa Claus story take such a bite out of Christmas, I’m not against Santa Claus. In fact, we’ve had quite the relationship.

As a child, I had two ‘encounters’ with Santa. I can’t place the years, but I remember them from the houses I lived in.

The first time I would have been no older than five. I was going to the outhouse on a dark Christmas Eve. The outhouse was a couple of minutes walk from the house. On my way, I heard the bells on Santa’s sleigh. Don’t try to dissuade me, I know what I heard. I even remember the direction I had to turn to see if I could see anything. I was right quick about doing my business.

The second time would have been a couple of years later. On Christmas Day I saw the marks from Santa’s sleigh runners on the snow beside the house.  Never mind your smiles, I know what I saw.

And, a few years after that, I was with some younger friends who questioned me about the reality of Santa Claus. Now, by then I did not believe that Santa existed. But, I didn’t want to tell the “children” that. Neither did I want to lie. I don’t know how long it took me to think of a way out, but long enough (obviously) for it to remain strong in my memory. My answer was: “Well, there must be a Santa Claus. How could your parents afford all those gifts?”

In the years when I did a fair amount of house-sitting, I did so for one couple where the husband had a perfect resemblance to Santa Claus. Thus, for many a Christmas, he was the hit of local gatherings. And he had a beautiful suit and hat and – of course – a real beard.

I also know a poet whose first book was about Mrs. Claus. She is also known to dress up the part (even with a Christmas bonnet) and read at Christmas gatherings.

As for myself, one day I entered my financial institution around Christmas and got into line. As we snaked forward, I came opposite a mother and father with a young child. He looked at me and screamed (literally) “Santa Claus!” Then he burst into tears. I don’t know what troubled him (maybe I was out of uniform).

A few years ago, (and this was not around Christmas, though it was Fall) I was walking in a park. A family approached, two parents and three children. One of the boys (and he looked five or six) dashed ahead and stood in front of me. “Santa Claus,” he said. I thought it was some sort of joke, but he turned excitedly to his siblings. “It’s Santa Clause.” He was quite happy. The father said “Maybe not.” but did not really try to dissuade him. And neither did I.

Finally, a few weeks ago, as I was seated beside a very early “Visit Santa” display, an old codger, with whiskers of his own, approached, pushing a walker in front of him. He stopped and looked down at me.

“When do you take the chair?”

“What?’

“And get the red suit on?”

“What?”

“At least ya got the padding for it.”

I think it is fair to say that the twinkle was in his eye, and not mine.

(Image) https://slm-assets2.secondlife.com/assets/8867706/view_large/Santa_Chairs_003B.jpg?1386456018

Pondering Winter Beside The Christmas Display

alders-after-storm
For a mid-November day, the storm was all rain and no snow. In addition, it was very cold, so I took shelter in a Mall. I settled into a bench near the ‘Santa Claus / North Pole / Toy Workshop’ display, because that is where the benches had been moved. I have the guess, they were moved so they could be filled by kids and parents when Saint Nick made his appearance.
 
Two other fellows were already there. After the younger man (whilst looking at his phone) made a brief comment about the weather, the other man, older, grizzled and full-bearded, spoke.
This conversation is edited, not verbatim.
 
“Makes me wonder how young folk today get by.”
I look confused – which I am.
“That’s the only jobs there are for them.” He points to the fast food court.
I indicate agreement.
“Hard to get jobs.”
“Yes, it is.”
“We’re stuck here until eight.”
I again look at him quizzically.
“Me and him. The shelter closes eight in the morning, opens again eight at night.”
“Three more hours.”
“I like the little animals.”
“Pardon?”
“Along the entrance.” He points to the Santa display. “They’ve got little animals in the snow.”
“They’re real looking.”
“Yes.” He laughs. “From the old days. I lived in the woods.”
“You did?”
“Cabin with eight brothers and sisters. Had a wood stove.”
“I had a wood stove a number of years.”
“Got real hot.”
“Yes.”
“I used Alders once.”
“In the stove?”
“Yeh – bad idea. They burn like hell. Hot as hell.”
“They can be.”
“I thought the cabin would catch fire.”
“Can be dangerous,” I agreed
“That’s where i started smoking.”
“Where?”
“In the cabin. Been smoking since I was ten.”
“That’s young.”
“My pappy was a bootlegger.”
“Yes?”
“Lots of men came by to get beer.”
“I suppose.”
“They’d smoke and toss their butts. I collected them.”
“To smoke?”
“Thought I was a big man with the other kids. Smoking in front of them.”
“That’s what being young is.”
“Cigarettes got tentacles. I still can’t get rid of them.”
[image] https: /brighttreecare.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/alders-after-storm.jpg

The Elephant Welcomes The Baby Jesus

b81c513a9ca06fc7b93f4325bcad11b7
The Elephant was not oblivious to the Christmas season, and wanted to pay his respects. He travelled to the special clearing where a cloud waited for him.

“It’s your Son’s birthday, I want to congratulate him.”

“Thank you.” The cloud descended further. “It is a grand time.”

“I’d like to …” the elephant hesitated.

“Yes.”

“You sent your son for us to see, so we would believe.”

“Yes.”

“Well, I want to …”

“Spit it out,” said God. “You’re fired up.”

“I want to see you.” The elephant spoke quickly. “I don’t have to see you, you know that.  I believed even before you talked to me. But I want to see you; it would mean so much. I wasn’t around for the Baby, but cows and sheep and things got to see Him. I can’t explain, but …”

“Go home,” said the cloud.

“You’re not angry with me?” said the elephant.

“No.” The cloud started moving away. “It’s an honest request.”

“Thank you for coming to see me,” said the elephant.

“Sing some carols.” The voice was distant. “I like them.”

The elephant turned and started through the woods. He ignored the tasty leaves within easy reach and the rich grass near the brook. He wanted to get home as quickly as possible so he could join the singing at the Mission he knew was happening later in the evening.

He trotted along the trail, snapping a branch here and there in his haste, when he noted the stillness, the hush which had overtaken the forest. He slowed down and then stopped in his tracks. He turned his head, his small eyes squinting into the brush.
There was movement coming toward him, and when the trees parted, he went to his knees with a gasp. Tears rolled from his eyes, and the golden trunk touched his own, and gently wiped them away.

The Baby Jesus Worked Overtime

Grand-River-Valley
I am not, and have not been for decades, a great fan of Christmas. It is more of a chore than a snore. But I don’t blame Jesus.
However, as I wended my way westward for the season, I was given a Christmas gift I would never have expressed that I wanted. It was a rustic blend of the old times and the old ways, which I’m led to believe is – in great part – what Christmas is all about.
For part of the trip, the bus took the *old* route. I imagine I had not been along that stretch of rural road for a quarter of a century. I later queried the driver about this change in the usual way. I was told that, at this holiday time of year and night, traffic on the major highway in and out of the city was massive. The roads avoiding the main highway were a time-saver.
It was a back, country road, after dark, single lane in both directions. Many of the country, rural, and village houses were alight  with Christmas decorations. Poor and rich alike. External and internal Christmas trees, with multi-coloured lights, or of a solid hue. Flashing, twinkling, changing colour, or one solid block of light.
The outside lights were festooned on everything. In addition to trees, they outlined windows, eves and chimneys. They were strung on shrubs, bushes and hedges. They adorned mailboxes, carts, rows of chopped wood, outbuildings and barns. There were a couple of waggons and one vintage automobile with their own outline of Christmas lights.
In addition to the festive additions, just being on the back roads was a memory adventure. There was no (admittedly efficient, but boring) straight highway with, across a grass verge, two streams of vehicles going in the other direction. No uniform band of trees across the uniform ditch to the side. No seemingly endless Endless.
No, this road had dips, and hills, and curves. You could see if a car was approaching by noting their lights shining on the telephone wires (I had forgotten that). There were wrought-iron bridges going over streams and small rivers, that rattled and rumbled as the heavy bus crossed them. There were pastures without their cows, vistas to darkened hills beyond, and actual forest where wild animals prepared for their sleep.
It took me back to my distant youth, it did. I do so enjoy driving at night (as long as I’m not the driver).
See – it’s already a Merry Christmas.

Kafka And A Husky Meet On Christmas Eve

cute dog hasky running in winter

Someone just walked a pure white husky through the snow storm on the other side of the street. Too far away to note blue eyes on the dog. In my novel,  Kafka In The Castle, I gave Kafka a dream about a husky. Kafka’s dream, however, was based on the very true event which happened to me as I took a country walk. Fitting for what I just saw, and the time of year.

In Kafka In The Castle, I fill in the ‘missing’ diary entries from Kafka’s real diary. He either did not fill in these days himself, or he destroyed them. There are some estimates that Kafka destroyed 70% – 80% of everything he wrote.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

24 December 1916

Dreamed I was in Amerika last night – playing with a Husky.

The dog was all white, and possessed an intelligent face. The shape of the muzzle made it look as if it were smiling – even laughing – and having a good time. It was free, and could do such things.

It did not speak, but that does not mean I thought it incapable of speech. I played with him, and because of his gentle persistence, we went running through the snow together. I chased him as he wanted, along a winding trail and through young woods.

I hid from him once, and he was much confused, his breath hard, and his feet scratching across the snow as he came back to look for me. I jumped out of my snow cover with a shout. He smiled at me, and he nearly spoke.

I looked for him, this morning, on the way to work. And then again, tonight, as I came up to the castle. Before I leave, I shall gaze into the Stag Moat from my darkened window. The snow there must be the purest in the city. If I see him, will I give chase?

(image)https://www.huskypuppiesinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Siberian-Husky-Off-Lead-in-Snow.jpg

Christmas Married To A Pagan Feast

2014-DE-5835-limmat-V.'14 014

[ABL photo]

“The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.”

~ Clement Clarke Moore

 

The first serious snow is falling. Outdoor Christmas lights across the street melt through a cover of snow – a sight I particularly enjoy.  So, I’ll reprint this – albeit edited – from a few years ago. Maybe it will become a tradition.

Christmas is a fake that has taken root like the holly, and it survives tenaciously. It has become a goodies grab fest, and helps keep our commercial society stable. Perhaps reason enough to exist.

The wily Christians conquered the outnumbered Celts, and supplanted their winter festival with the birth of their God. The wily pagans live on in the numerous traditions the Christians stole, so perhaps it is a fair trade. And no doubt those wily pagans chuckle over their cups o’mead, noting that this celebration of reverence has become a surfeit of greed.

I have been no fan of Christmas for decades, but its mixed legacy encourages me not to abandon it. My Christian background enhances my enjoyment of the music and traditions. Most commercial intrusions can be muted or turned off. I do have some personal traditions I follow religiously.

I do not even rail against Santa Claus. I heard his sleigh bells one Christmas Eve, when I was four. I saw his sleigh runner tracks in the snow a couple of years later.

I have even been mistaken for Santa a couple of times. Once, in the line-up in a bank near Christmas, a two-year old pointed at me. Unfortunately, my presence terrified him, and he started to scream and cry. I was wise enough not to go Ho Ho Ho. Another time – but this happened in early fall – a family approached me as I walked in a park. A boy, who looked to be six or seven, stopped in his tracks, then ran back to his parents. “Santa Claus!”  He pointed. Happily he did not cry. They walked past me in silence.

Also, for decades, I lived close to a residence where one of the very first recitations of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas happened. The author of that stirring piece, Clement Moore, who wrote it in 1822, sent a copy to his godfather, the Rev Johnathan O’Dell, of Fredericton New Brunswick. However, the poem was not published until 1837.

To be fair to myself, I’m not a total Scrooge, as I have written some Christmas tales.  Here is a wee segment from The Elephant Talks To God:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I want to see you,” said the elephant, and the words raced from his mouth. “I don’t have to see you, you know that. I’ve believed even before you talked to me. But I want to see you, it would mean so much. I wasn’t around for the Baby, but cows and sheep and things got to see Him. I can’t explain but it would … ”

“Go home,” said the cloud.

“You’re not angry with me?” said the elephant.

“No.” The cloud started moving away. “It’s an honest request.” The rain stopped falling. “Thank you for coming.”

“You’re welcome,” said the elephant.

“Sing some carols,” the voice was distant. “I like them.”

The elephant turned and started through the woods. He ignored the tasty leaves within easy reach and the tall grass near the brook. He wanted to get home as quickly as possible so he could join the singing he knew was happening later in the evening.

He turned along the trail, snapping a branch here and there in his haste, when he noticed the stillness, the hush which had overtaken the forest. He slowed down and the stopped in his tracks. He turned his head, his small eyes squinting into the brush. There was movement coming toward him, and when the trees parted, he went to his knees with a gasp. Tears rolled from his eyes, and a golden trunk gently wiped them away.*

*Last line edited from an error in the book.

 

A Christmas Elephant Tale

357_1024x1024
From: The Elephant Talks To God
The Elephant was not oblivious to the Christmas season, and wanted to pay his respects.

He travelled to the special clearing where a cloud waited for him.

“It’s your Son’s birthday. I want to congratulate him.”

“Thank you.” The cloud descended. “It is a grand time.”

“I’d like to …” the elephant hesitated.

“Yes.”

“You sent your Son for us to see, so we would believe.”

“Yes.”

“Well, I want to …”

“Spit it out,” said God. “You’re fired up.”

“I want to see you.” The elephant spoke quickly. “I don’t have to see you, you know that.  I believed even before you talked to me. But I want to see you; it would mean so much. I wasn’t around for the Baby, but cows and sheep and things got to see Him. I can’t explain, but …”

“Go home,” said the cloud.

“You’re not angry with me?” said the elephant.

“No.” The cloud started moving away. “It’s an honest request.”

“Thank you for coming to see me,” said the elephant.

“Sing some carols.” The voice was distant. “I like them.”

The elephant turned and started through the woods. He ignored the tasty leaves within easy reach and the rich grass near the brook. He wanted to get home as quickly as possible so he could join the singing at the Mission he knew was happening later in the evening.

He trotted along the trail, snapping a branch here and there in his haste, when he noted the stillness, the hush which had overtaken the forest. He slowed down and then stopped in his tracks. He turned his head, his small eyes squinting into the brush.
There was movement coming toward him, and when the trees parted, he went to his knees with a gasp.
Tears rolled from his eyes, and the golden trunk touched his own, and gently
wiped them away.

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