• "Oh, if I could only put things into words as I see them! Mr. Carpenter says, 'Strive, strive -- keep on. Words are your medium -- make them your slaves -- until they will say for you what you want them to say.' That is true, and I do try, but it seems to me there is something beyond words -- any words -- all words -- something that always escapes you when you try to grasp it -- yet leaves something in your hand which you wouldn't have had if you hadn't reached for it. ... I have written myself out for tonight, and am going to bed."
    - Lucy Maud Montgomery, Emily Climbs

    This is my place to "write myself out" -- sharing both my day-by-day thoughts and my artistic output. Thank you for visiting! - Carmen Pauls Orthner
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Grace for the solstice

Filed under Christmas • Written by Carmen @ December 21, 2010

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” – Isaiah 9:2

After lunch today, I was in a foul mood. The Christmas tree was still “naked”, and the only decoration up was a wreath on the front door (not even hung by me); I felt it advisable to cancel plans to have my mother-in-law babysit after I called to confirm and heard how worn out she was feeling, and I concluded that with the baby here, I wouldn’t get to do any of the “catch up” cleaning or paperwork I had planned for today; my “time of the month” arrived on this cold, soon-to-be-dark day (the shortest of the year, and right after a total lunar eclipse, no less — the first to occur in conjunction with the winter solstice since the year 1638!); we got up late and I had no time for a shower or a proper breakfast, and found myself eating way too many cookies at the Parents and Tots Christmas festivities; and the baby was cranky — oy vey, was she cranky — so exhausted that she couldn’t even keep her balance, but there she was standing up in her crib every time we tried to put her down for her afternoon nap, rubbing her eyes, crying great fat tears and wailing like a banshee.

But Bryan had to do some at-home testing of the office’s virtual private network (VPN), so he was home long enough for me to call about some potential contract work for January, which sounds promising, and he got our dental appointments booked in Prince Albert at Bouverie Dental for the day after Sara’s CT scan, which will save us making an extra trip and also have a legitimate excuse not to drive back all the way from Saskatoon the night before. And he got Sara bundled up into her fuzzy orange Tigger jacket and into her carseat, and she was nearly asleep before we even left to go get the mail (a flyer for Princess Cruise Lines’ Caribbean vacations (sigh), an “O” magazine for me, and a “Bloomberg Business Week” for Bryan).

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She snoozed through our stop at the post office, and gave me a chance to rest and drink a peppermint chai latte downtown at the Java Shack, and she was still asleep when I got her back in the van. And as I looked through my windshield toward Lac la Ronge, I noticed how the frost had made lovely, intricate patterns on the glass, and outside, the clouds were streaked with pink and gold, in sharp contrast to the ghostly sculptures that hoarfrost had made of the trees on Kitsaki Island. I could still feel the tightness in my neck and the weariness in my limbs, and on the spur of the moment, I decided to do something I used to do when I had had a rough day at the newspaper office and it was nearing sunset like this (yes, at 4 p.m. — this being the winter solstice and all): head to Big Stone Lake.

So I turned the van out to the highway, turned off again by the First Nations-owned gas station, Kathy’s Korner, and drove toward the lake. There is something about driving down the gravel-lined road through that forest corridor, the Montreal River glimpsed in flashes through the trees, that always fills up the depleted parts of me, but particularly so today — maybe because it had been a few months, maybe just because God knew I needed it — and as I got toward the bend where you can see the river most clearly, I rolled down the window and just had to breathe in with amazement as I heard the music of the water rushing over the river rocks, and saw the mist rising up and the trees silhouetted against the radiant pink sky. I will go back tomorrow with my camera and see it again, because it is hard even an hour or so later to believe it was beautiful as that. After a few minutes, I put my foot to the gas pedal again, and listened, as I drove, to the crunch of the snow-coated gravel until I reached the end of the road and the lake spread out before me. I saw the wreath on the small red cross someone put on the shoreline years ago, and the vast sky and the golden sun, low on the horizon, and the trees, and I got out of the van — leaving Sara still asleep in her car seat and the window rolled down — to lift my hands up and breathe a short prayer of thanks.

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