Thursday, December 25, 2008

Going With The Flow

This has been the most unexpected Christmas season. Almost everything we had planned for the last two weeks was cancelled due to weather, and now even Christmas itself has been rescheduled for many in the Portland area. My family will now be gathering on December 27th for feast and frolic, partly due to snow and partly due to a Christmas Day doctor's appointment that my mom couldn't avoid. We're all just going with the flow around here, and seeing where the days take us. They are handing us some surprises.

Having all our plans cancelled hasn't turned out to be all that bad. We have had time to truly relax for the first time in months, and playing in the snow right outside our door has been a treat. We've gone on several snowshoe outings with very little time and effort, and no gasoline used at all to go find the powder!! Ked got to start putting together my new table saw that he got me for Christmas, and the one thing we payed money for this holiday season was not cancelled--the weather let up enough to let us go see the Oregon Ballet Theater perform The Nutcracker. We went with some dear friends, and then all came back to our house for a quick change of clothes and a nice long late-night stroll in the snow. Perfect.

That was, as I mentioned, just about the only event that came off as planned. Not a single other day was what we had put on the calendar. (It's a good thing I keep my calendar on the computer, or it would be nothing but a scribbled out mess!) We spent one whole day wrapping and distributing gifts for Angel Tree (a really cool organization), because hardly anyone else could get out of their driveways! We spent another on a medical errand of sorts. A third saw us driving friends to the airport so they could escape to warmer climes. All of these days had other plans that weren't meant to be, but it has been quite a peaceful week despite all this. We have learned to embrace the changes, and even be glad of the opportunities they have brought.

True to form, our Christmas Eve plans also proved a challenge, and any other year we would have been upset, but this year is truly special. We will reschedule the plans that got cancelled, and because they fell through we ended up having a lovely Christmas serendipity. Not far into the evening, Ked and I heard a faint hint of Christmas music which we knew wasn't coming from inside our house. The music grew louder and we went to the window to see what was afoot. We saw our next-door neighbor had brought a portable fire-pit into his front yard, and soon he had a merry blaze going. He had Neil Diamond singing Christmas songs from his car stereo, and the open door allowed the music to fill the street. Ked and I wandered out to enjoy the show and then our neighbor invited us down to share the fire and see what other intrepid souls would poke their heads out of their doors to join us.

Two other couples decided to stand in ten inches of snow and brave the light rain (yes, for the first time in two weeks it decided to rain. How's that for ornery weather?), and we all had a lovely time getting warm by the fire and passing around fresh-baked cookies and my husband's famous homemade butter almond toffee. We got to meet some new folks we hadn't met before, a couple up from San Francisco who moved in not too long ago--hilariously enough, they moved here for the weather!! We had a simply lovely time connecting with the people who live closest to us, and I'm so glad it happened that way. I asked our "hosts" if this was an annual tradition that we always missed because we're never home on Christmas Eve, and he said no, that they hadn't been home on that night themselves in 27 years!! They just thought that if we were all going to be stranded together, we might as well enjoy each other's company. Isn't that a nice neighborly attitude? I hope that this becomes our default tradition--whoever is around on Christmas Eve shares a fire and some cookies, preferably in the snow.

For your holiday enjoyment, I wanted to share some pics-about-town that were taken all over the city this week. Some are personal. Some I just thought were pretty. (Click on them to enlarge.)

My friend Su has this wonderful marsh/pond behind her house, and she's always taking these amazing wildlife photos. Here's one she snapped of an egret--I think it's safe to call it a snowy egret at this point, even if it's not!!

I don't think she'll be dining al fresco anytime soon. Unless she wants a nice big snow cone, that is. Anybody have any cherry syrup?

After we finished making our Angel Tree deliveries, the friends who were part of our delivery crew had a few more errands of mercy to perform. Ked just loves to drive in the snow, so we were off!! They all showed great patience for me, letting me stop frequently to take pictures of scenes that I thought were pretty. I thought this picture fit that description.

Here are our patient friends. She didn't mind me stopping for picture-taking, partly because she's a shutterbug herself, and one of the most artistic people I know. It was nice to have such cheerful company on our travels that day.

I loved this spot of color in an almost endlessly white world. I do think snow is gorgeous and magical, but I have to admit that it can be rather monochromatic.

On the way home we drove down Peacock Lane, a local landmark this time of year. There are two densely packed blocks where every home is decorated and aglow. It has been this way every Christmas as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, it was too early in the evening for every house to be lit (we got there 20 minutes too soon), but a few of them were prepared for eager visitors who jumped the gun, so we still got to see some pretties.

On one of our snowshoe treks, Ked and I noticed this fallen tree in the park blocks near our home. It's hard to tell with no people in the shot to give it perspective, but that's a fully grown tree just toppled over like it gave up on life. When we looked more closely we saw that, even though it had significant girth, the roots were extremely shallow. I don't know if that is common to this type of tree, but if it is, it explains the several other nearby trees of this type that have lay down and died in our near-annual ice storms. Perhaps the park planners ought to reconsider their tree of choice...

We went out yesterday, after the heaviest snowfall of the week, and walked around the golf course--snowshoe clad, of course. We saw lots of other people on cross country skis and sleds. One family even had a stroller with a ski attachment. They said they had never gotten to use it before, but that it was proving itself worth the purchase. After this week we feel the same way about our SUV. Guilt us all you want about our gas guzzler, but when people needed a ride this week, we were the ones they called.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again--Snow is fun!!

As I said, snow is fun, but I must admit that I chose a terrible week to loan out my ski pants!

Today we got what is likely to be our last blast of snow from this record-setting year. The series of storms decided to go out with a bang this morning, and we got the biggest flakes and most beautiful snowfall yet. Needless to say, we wandered outside, to take pictures!

Ked was thirsty, so he took a taste of what libations the sky had to offer.

I just stood outside this morning being happy in the snow--happy that this unusual end-of-the-year foray into winter has given Ked and me so many gifts. It's made us slow down and enjoy the moment. It's given us the opportunity to help people, and meet our neighbors. It's helped us remember that Christmas isn't about the date we celebrate, or the traditions we keep, but about Jesus, and the people that He came to Earth to love and give His life to save. I'm still looking forward to celebrating with my family this Saturday, but I'm looking forward to it with more peace and less agenda than I've had for many a Christmas. That is a gift indeed.