A Very Prairie Christmas

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The bees were out yesterday.  I could hear their sweet buzzing all around me as they took advantage of the beautifully tepid day.  Just a hint of coolness swept the air to remind me that it was December but the sun shone bright and warm and I decided to take a walk across the prairie.  The barn owl swept in front of me, round and solid, his steel colored wings glinting slight across the air in front of me, gracefully sweeping across the prairie.  The mountains rested majestically across the horizon, their shadowy masses holding the sky.  A group of horses gathered in the distance grazing softly.

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The ancient willow holds masses of singing blackbirds and large owls.  A century or more of memories do my favorite trees hold.  Signs of cattle that grazed here long ago, and of antelopes not so long.  The Buffalo grasses with their curvy heads and the colorful prairie grasses defied the supposed snowy landscape that is so often envisioned with Christmas.  This is what a Colorado Christmas often looks like.  I find myself wishing for a bit of snow.  Sunday we are to get a little and the feeling of Christmas will shine all the brighter.

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I gather kindling with my companion. (The neighbor’s dog, Serina, who is ridiculously cute.)

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Inside the house, all is bright.  Simple decorations best show the spirit of Christmas in this hundred plus year old homestead.  This year we got our first real Christmas tree and it feels simple and beautiful.

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Real greenery, candles, pine cones, feathers…cats…all decorate the scene.  The birds play outside in their feeder entertaining the felines.  Our new rescues add quite a lot of Christmas cheer to this place!

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A vintage sled sets boldly on the dining room table with fresh greens and candles.  This helps create a feeling of fun and winter magic.

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Outdoors the woodland creatures welcome visitors.

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Everyone has one sadness or another at Christmas time.  Remembering and missing loved ones, financial woes, relationship troubles, irritation with our consumerism society.  But the spirit of Christmas is there all the same.  Beautiful and glowing, we remember that God ever loves us and takes care of us and that our prayers are always answered.  Sometimes the puzzle comes together later and we can see why things occurred but they are always answered.  We will celebrate Hanukkah with Doug’s parents and remember the miracles that God made and we will remember the child born, the reason for the season.  Not in a legalistic, all must believe everything I believe way, but in a spirit of humility and humbleness.  Prayers for those deceased, prayers for the living.  Acts of kindness without folks expecting it.  Simple things like paying for someone else’s coffee or sending an unexpected letter.

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This year we haven’t much money.  All the lists I love to make throughout the year of things I would like to get people I cannot.  It makes me sad because even though I talk about simple this and simple that, I want to spoil my children and give Doug all the things he won’t buy for himself.  I want my friends to have beautiful gifts and I want…well, this year is a handmade Christmas.  Quilts, aprons, scarves, canned foods, and baskets of goodies, gifts tailored for the recipient and wrapped with love, but not store bought and I wonder how folks will take to these but I shall give them with the spirit of Christmas, with love and with a giving heart.  I will remember that our blessings are many.  For I had material and food to can and I have people to make things for.  My heart overflows with joy.

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A handmade, simple Christmas on the prairie is a blessing for sure.  Time to put on my favorite Christmas album by Andy Williams (my son’s namesake) and do a little sewing!  May you have a simple season filled with love and fond memories of past and present.

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And may your heart be filled with the childlike wonder of Christmas…

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Samhain (remembering and new traditions)

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I am intrigued by history.  Fascinated by it.  I learn from it and am entertained by it and live by it.  So many modernized things were not for the best, in my humble opinion.  Of course with my long flowing skirts and aprons I, myself, look as if I skipped out of another time period.  There is so much to be learned from the history of our people and so many lovely things that if added to our life would make it all the more sweet, meaningful, magical.  Samhain is one of them.

Now I do not consider myself wiccan or pagan.  If I were to put my spirituality in a box, I am Catholic.  A Catholic married to a Jew.  We raised our children in a Christian church and they are now oddly Atheist.  One of my best friends is Catholic married to a Buddhist who used to be, along with his parents (also our dear friends) Mormon.  Our family and friends are all different races and religions and in the end we are all connected to one source.  I am fascinated by the similarities in religions and histories across the world.

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If you are like me and had most of your family come over to America in the 1700’s you will find that you are missing customs that would have been brought over.  I am a bit saddened that we have zero cultural ties left.  Most of my DNA will lead back to a strong Celtic heritage mixed in with some Dutch, Yeopim and Cherokee Indian, and Black French, but what they used to celebrate has been lost.  So we create our own customs.

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Samhain (pronounced Saw-win) dates back long before the Christian festivities (and the Hollywood made festivities too) and was an agrarian holiday.  Now that we are homesteaders we understand these holidays so much more.  Homesteading has become our lifestyle, our day in day out, our entire life is marked by nature and the seasonal shifts all around us.  Instead of a smart phone, the changes in the natural world around us make our schedules.

Samhain is the end of the calendar season.  The beginning of rest.  The livestock were humanely butchered, the pantries were full, the fields were empty and the weather kept farmers indoors more.  The folks that died over the past year were now mourned.  Agrarians kept so busy during the late spring and summer that once things slowed down things really started to sink in.  That is the case with us as well.  And if we were all honest it is not just losing folks to death that bothers us, it’s any regrets we feel too.  My friends and animals are in a better place, I know this.  I am heading their same direction.  It is the natural cycle of things.  Not a new phenomenon for things to die.  But I feel bad that I didn’t return Rollie’s phone call.  That I nitpicked everything with Nancy so much during our time together pursuing our Farmgirl business, that we didn’t achieve her dream of a large farm to table dinner, partially because of my attitude.  I feel bad that there are two more young widows out there who lost husbands.  That I didn’t hold Loretta when she was dying.  That I was so frustrated with my old dog.  That I chose to put to sleep (so feel as if I murdered) my beloved cat.  These things start to settle in as I spend more time on the homestead with less to do.  If I knew they were going to die….or that I was responsible….these things set heavy on the soul.

Samhain was a time to light the bonfires as protection from evil spirits, the veil was thin between October 31st and November 1st and you could talk to your lost loved ones and perhaps they could communicate with you as well.  It was a time of contemplation and respect.

In our modern world we do not take time to contemplate anything.  The crafts and chores that were done that created a methodic rhythm have been replaced with fast shortcuts, things that do it for us, and no time to actually think.  If we could take some time to work out our sorrows and talk to those that left, we could free up our hearts and minds and allow more joyful living to take place.

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I will spend Halloween day with Emily and Maryjane trick-or-treating at a local mall then in the evening I will light candles.  I will commemorate and talk to and say goodbye to those I have lost.  My animals are our roommates, farm mates here.  They are my people.  Their loss, even the farm animals, is just as sorrowful to me as losing an old friend.  They are included in my festivities.  I will set some extra plates and invite them all to dinner along with Doug (who is thankfully still with the living) and give thanks for my life and ask that my friends and animals that left say a prayer for me, forgive me, and that they be at peace.  I will be thankful for the harvest, all those still here, my own life, and for the year ahead.

Who will you light a candle for?

My friend, Nancy, my partner in crime in many of these blog posts, passed away suddenly from cancer.

My friend, Nancy, my partner in crime in many of these blog posts, passed away suddenly from cancer.

Our fun friend, Ken, died way too young of cancer.

Our fun friend, Ken, died way too young of cancer.

A friend from middle school high school, Rob, died in a car accident.

A friend from middle school and high school, Rob, died in a car accident.

Our friend, Rollie, who lost his battle to cancer.

Our friend, Rollie, who lost his battle to cancer.

 

Our sweet goat, Loretta, and baby.

Our sweet goat, Loretta, and baby.

My favorite chicken who used to like to sit on my lap, Shirley, along with Ethel and Mahalia and their crazy antics are missed.

My favorite chicken that used to like to sit on my lap, Shirley, along with Ethel and Mahalia and their crazy antics are missed.

My sweet cat, Snuggles, who I will forever miss.

My sweet cat, Snuggles, who I will forever miss.

Windsor, our eighteen year old loyal farm dog.

Windsor, our eighteen year old loyal farm dog.