Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Getting in Touch With Me Before the New Year

It may have been the first cold day of winter today.  As I checked my rain gauge this morning it was -15.3*C and the Environment Canada weather forecast was stating a windchill down to -23*C.  So since I had my afternoon off today, "Why not go for a short hike and blow some stink off before the New Year."  The dog needed a good outing too since we'll be leaving her in the house for the day on New Year's Eve.

I didn't want a really difficult hike, nor did my father, who I invited along.  We took a short drive up the Mill Brook Road and started up the familiar Cotter Holler Road on foot.  Since the fall rains, the road had washed out.  This was the second time this year.  The more intense rain events simply inundate the culverts and once that happens the steep stream seeks out a way around and often that is down the roadways.  If the culverts were enlarged it might change this new natural routine.

As Dad and I discuss the erosion we turn up the Secord road and lean into the steep uphill climb.  In some places the road is also heavily eroded here.  As we reach the crest of the first rise a small, steep, and scenic tributary calls for me to explore its tiny cascades.  Since there is no snow yet, the ice clings to the branches and leaves that were scattered on the ground earlier this summer.  It looks much colder than I feel at that moment.

As the dogs traipse off ahead of us we take in the terrain and enjoy the fleeting sunshine as it penetrates the cold and the shades of the hardwoods.  We reach the top of the hill and stop for a quick drink and head towards the old farm field well below.  The hike down the hill is slightly more gradual than the hike up and so we enjoyed the change of pace.

There was not a great deal of conversation, just a mutual enjoyment of being.

It was not an overly eventful hike but one that connected me to me again.  Funny how nature does that eh?

Here is the route if your interested - hike map.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas and Don't Keep Score

I find Christmas very hard to write about.  Obviously I want to wish all of our friends and family a Merry Christmas but once I get beyond that, what else can I say.  For me Christmas is a family time but it also gets very busy.  Personally I can get wrapped up in gift buying and socializing and then forget what the whole meaning of Christmas is about.  It doesn't happen intentionally but when I get caught shopping, or maybe more appropriately when I wander around the mall aimlessly, I start "keeping score".  You know what I mean by that.  You look at who you have on your list and you think "Hmmm they are likely going to buy me a gift so I have to buy them one."  Once I start down that path, I'm missing the point. 

It is hard not to "keep score" at times.  Even with the kids, we try to make sure that they each get the same amount of toys or that we spend the same amount of money on each, but that isn't Christmas.  We should be trying to make sure that they each give the same if anything.  We shouldn't care what others give to us nor should we feel obligated to give a gift.  If we can't give freely, then we can't fully appreciate what we recieve.

Most of you are probably much better at not keeping score than I am.  I will keep working on it and again I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 12, 2014

An Alabama Rockwell Christmas Town

I am fortunate to live in a wonderful part of the globe.  Sussex is a great little community with resilient and friendly people and pastoral scenery.  All this is elevated during the Christmas season.  Main Street recently has been enhanced by the addition of two great stores.  Outdoor Elements and Viewfinders have added a splash of color, class, and culture to the already impressive landscape.  This entry was my column for the December 9th edition of the Kings County Record and will serve as my Christmas version for the KCR.  I hope you enjoy it. 
My kids recently celebrated "Ugly Sweater Day" at school and my wife did a great job of getting them ready.  Photo cred: Michelle King Whalen

Merry Christmas.  Wow.  It is hard to believe that we are already well into another Christmas season.  This is a great time of year and we are fortunate to celebrate it in an area that could come right out of a Rockwellian Christmas card.  Rolling, snow covered hills with frosted limbs and smoky rivers giving you a feeling like you're in the middle of an Alabama Christmas song

On the weekend I was walking down Main Street in Sussex and there were people window shopping, couples holding hands and hot chocolate, and carolers serenading us all.  My kids were walking beside me laughing and I couldn't help but turn my head skyward for a minute and give thanks.  When you consider the comfort level we have and the peace of mind we possess as we walk down the street, the blessing is amplified that much more.

A simple walk down Main Street would set our area apart but it goes well beyond Main Street.  Why not go to a Christmas tree farm, not a stand, a farm, with your family and cut down your own tree and enjoy being outdoors.  That is an old fashioned Christmas and that is how memories are made. The smell of the fir and pine trees will forever remind you of Christmas and how cool would that be when you walk into the woods in July.  You could celebrate Christ year round.

The congregation at St. Mark's church know a thing or two about an old fashioned Christmas too.  As we drove by their church tonight my son asked "Hey Dad, when is the living manger this year?  Honestly I don't know off the top of my head when it is but you can bet we'll keep an eye out for the sign and make sure not to miss it.  If you have never taken in the event, I encourage you to come out and watch this year.

If you can't celebrate Christmas without music then you're in luck.  There are lots of Christmas shows going on.  The St. John's United Church is hosting a music night at their center and if you're not in the Christmas spirit when you go in, you will be when you come out.  If you need more, then check out the local bulletin boards and music shop windows.  There are some big names coming to town and I don't mean Santa.  All the performers are his opening act and all them seem to revel in the role. 
How about those bright windows and the great color on Main Street.  Photo Cred: Outdoor Elements

Don't worry, I won't forget the presents.  The best part is, I don't need to leave town to get all I need.  Main Street is looking vibrant again and with some new shops our choices will be more difficult to make.  There will be lots of people to chat with and share smiles and catch up with.  It might be hard to get all the shopping done if you chat too much but don't worry, I'm sure Santa will take care of it.

Even with all these great activities and surroundings, I hope you have some time to slow down and enjoy family.  From my family to yours, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.