The boughs sag under the fresh snow and, between them, the stars twinkle with unnatural clarity in the night sky. Well, at least it seems unnatural to me.
I am alone.
Well, not quite.
I have the dog, Timber. And he’s not bad company.
At least he’s relatively quiet.
The springer/Bernese cross keeps sticking his muzzle deep into the new snow, using it like a scent straw. Then he withdraws it with a barely audible snort and bounds to the site of his next bore hole.
I have no idea what he’s doing.
I rarely do.
But he seems to be enjoying himself. Happy even.
And that’s something.
We’re on the cusp of Christmas 2007, but to me, it feels a tad empty.
There’s no tree this year.
And no lights on the house.
This year, for the first time in ages, I’ve let down my end. And this on a year when the entire street seems to have kicked out the jams in the light department. (Sorry folks).
The family is also gone. Departed early for Ontario.
And so, I’ve grabbed my only family, our goofy dog, and wandered out into the backwoods for a walk.
And tonight, as the moonlight throws huge shadows over the clean, unbroken snow, I’m thinking about Lyle.
He’s one of my oldest friends.
Kind, responsible and a great guy to have by your side in a jam — whatever it might be.
He’s also a Canadian soldier.
Recently promoted to officer, he’s preparing for his second stint in Afghanistan. We last talked in the summer and, at that time, he said he’d be heading back overseas in the new year.
Presumably he’ll serve with the rest of the Canadian contingent in the south, the danger zone.
We last saw each other about four years ago. Maybe five.
A lot of life has whipped by since then. Communication between us has been sincere and warm, but spotty.
Far too spotty.
It’s the same with the in-laws I’m heading back to visit.
Brothers and sisters in-law, nephews … hell and blood, one nephew is preparing for university. It seems as if only yesterday we were swimming in Kluane Lake. But at the time he was the age of my oldest son Thomas, 13.
Again, a lot of time has slipped by. And it’s gone fast.
So, as good as the communication has become in the internet age, time and distance still wear away the ties that bind.
It is time to renew those bonds, rebuild common experience.
And so, this Christmas I head east to Kingston.
Here, in the Yukon, things seem a tad bare. But the extended family awaits.
There, we’ll play. And feast. And talk. We’ll introduce each other to the people we’ve become in the intervening years.
And I’ll reconnect with my best friend, a soldier bound for harm’s way in a war that few, if any of us really understand.
And as these thoughts ramble on, Timber happens across a fox trail.
The animals have been gamboling around the neighbourhood all winter. Tons of them.
This one’s snowprints make a beeline through the brush.
Timber stands erect, eyes fixed forward, floppy ears raised. His nose is twitching.
And then the spell breaks. He bounds through the snow and on to his next scent sounding.
The neighbour’s Christmas lights are visible through the trees.
But my place is dark.
In two days, I’ll be back among family and friends.
And there it will be Christmas.
Yes, finally, it will be Christmas.