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Christmas in the Country

by Nancy Ames

About then, Jim started to spend more and more time
helping old Henry, working together in the bush, and I
really didn`t mind at all. I thought the arrangement
was quite admirable, in fact, a fair exchange between
experience and youthful muscle. All that long winter,
the two men spent the daylight hours outdoors, cutting
some saw-logs when they could get them, but piling up
firewood mostly. Henry was adamant about seasoning his
stove wood. They stacked it in rounds close to where it
was cut, not to be hauled home until the following year,
standing dead wood being the only exception. They used
Henry`s heavy winter sled and his well-trained team of
work horses, a pair of huge blonde Belgians that were
the old bachelor`s pride and joy.

I couldn`t believe how Christmassy everything was that
first Christmas there. Henry arrived bright and early,
looking unusually festive with his flowing white beard
and red (hunting) coat and driving his fancy old-fashioned
sleigh, with its brasses and runners all polished and some
real antique jingle-bells on the horses` harness. He laughed
a lot and gave us our hand-made presents before going on
to the little "Stone Church" a few miles away. We were so
poor that year, but I was able to give him a pretty tin box
full of his favourite cookies, peanut butter with jam centers.
Henry cheered us all up that morning, especially the boys.

The night before Christmas had been quite terrifying for me
because it was so very cold and still, the deep dunes of snow
sparkling like diamonds under the bright white moonlight and
an immense sky full of stars. I had stayed up late by myself
to stoke the two fires, and I did some more baking for the
next day too. Our two little boys slept snugly upstairs and
everything inside the house looked as nice as I could make it
with decorations, and the Christmas tree was all aglow with
its tinsel and coloured lights and giving off a lovely piney
smell. I could hear Jim snoring comfortably in our room.

But I couldn`t stop feeling how tiny and insignificant we were
in comparison with the vast indifference of the numberless
universes in the deep blackness above the frozen white world.
And I could feel the icy, probing insistence of the sub-zero
air that seemed to be finding each and every leak in our newly
insulated roof and walls. I burned oak and maple until the stoves
were tinged with cherry red, but the frost was still thickening
on the windowpanes, creating sculpted pictures of a strange,
exotic scenery that looked oddly like giant ferns in some
prehistoric jungle. It was almost as if winter was an artist
who was trying to tell us something about the apparition of life
in a medium that was much too cold and crystalline to allow life
to even begin to exist. For miles around, I could hear the
continuous booming of the trees as they contracted with the cold,
and it sounded like artillery in some mythical battle.

12/24/2018

Author's Note: a descriptive excerpt from my short story "The Dragon of Rural Route Four". Merry Merry Christmas, dear ones.

Posted on 12/25/2018
Copyright © 2019 Nancy Ames

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Kristina Woodhill on 01/02/19 at 04:48 PM

Engrossing, excellent story telling, Nancy. That last paragraph/stanza is so compelling, visual, filling the senses with sound, color, nature's power. Thank you.

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