Sunday, December 25, 2011

Kananaskis Christmas

Kananaskis Country - Courtesy James Bernier

Consorting with the Reindeer - Courtesy James Bernier

Christmas Eve. Outside our window in the Delta Lodge in Kananaskis, a child is being photographed against a background of penned reindeer under the watchful eye of a six-foot elf. Santa is nowhere to be seen but I presume these reindeer are not HIS reindeer since getting them to fly to the North Pole before nightfall would be difficult.
Beyond the pen of reindeer and a spruce forest, a jagged mountain peak rises into a dark cloud; they say there’ll be snow tomorrow.
This is a great place to be; a comfortable lodge that welcomes kids and dogs, both of which have the run of the place. (Not quite true, actually; the dogs are on leashes.) We’ve met people for whom coming to Kananaskis for Christmas has become a longstanding tradition. A huge hot tub—half inside and half outside—is great just before bed. Cross-country skiing is not great; it’s too warm and the trails are icy. Luckily, we had no intention of skiing anyway. Earlier, we hiked past an outdoor rink where a rollicking hockey game was in progress, a skating oval just behind the lodge is busy all day and into the evening.
I remember Christmas in 1987 when Agnes and I took the train up to Oberammergau as a diversion from the emptiness of a Christmas far from home. It was like this place, this year: mountains in the background, snow melting in unseasonably warm temperatures, plenty of time and places to take long walks and marvel at the views. We’ve gone to Jasper for Christmas since, as well as to the spa in Moose Jaw. Seems being somewhere that’s not home is becoming a tradition for us. I wonder why that is.
In my experience, it’s not possible to “recreate,” to rejuvenate without leaving home. The old adage, out of sight, out of mind, applies here; everything you see, do and experience at home is a reminder of any stresses from which relief is wanted. The reindeer outside my window are no stressors whatsoever, especially now at five o’clock when they’ve nearly disappeared into the early dusk.
The upshot: you must go home for Christmas, and then you must go away. That, of course, makes no sense whatever.
I don’t know how you describe your experience of Christmas. I don’t mean when you were a kid and couldn’t wait to open your presents. I mean now, when you’ve passed all that, when you’ve long since ceased anticipating Santa Claus. For me, it’s become a much-needed sabbatical at exactly the right time of year, when the shortness of the days, the length of the nights threaten to dampen the spirit.
And it’s in this vein that I wish you all a wonderful, sabbatical Christmas with opportunity aplenty to put your tools and your anxieties aside for a few days, and to refresh your relationship with those you love, and with the vision we follow. The vision of which Christmas should be a reminder but, alas, is often more of a distraction.
Merry Christmas anyway, and a Happy New Year!
And now, it’s Christmas morning. The first cup of coffee is sweet. At 10:00, the hotel will lay on an enormous brunch buffet for us in the Olympic Ballroom and tonight, a “Traditional Christmas Dinner.” I’m guessing . . . oh, turkey? After which the elves from Ontario, Australia, Great Britain, the Maritimes—the young folk who have followed some private dream to the mountains of Canada—will clean up after us.
There certainly is that to be said for Christmas away!
Have a great day, wherever you are.

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