Christmas reflections

Paul Smith
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It looks like this Christmas might be a white one. If memory serves me well, the last few festive seasons have been unseasonably warm and green. I don’t fancy reflections from my Christmas bulbs dancing off my drab yellow lawn, or should I say, not creating much of a poetic atmosphere.

I’m not likely to be spotted outside at night, Nikon on tripod, attempting some digital art in fog and rain. Give me a cold frosty night with sparkling snow clinging to the evergreens; and even those new fandangled energy sipping electric bulbs can stir one’s soul amidst Jack Frost’s wonderland.

I know I’m going out on a limb here. Chalk it up, if you like, to wishful thinking. If you read my column at all regularly, you know I love snow. You will read this on Dec. 21, just a few days before Christmas Day. I’m writing, of course, a week previous.

Peter, my most competent editor at The Telegram, needs time to correct my grammar and whip my scribbling into tiptop shape. So, by the time you read this it could be raining and 15 degrees with not a blade of snow in sight. I pray not, but we all know how fickle Newfoundland weather can be. I am an optimist by nature, a long time salmon angler, and there are no pessimistic chasers of the silver king.

It seems winter has locked its icy grip suddenly and with vengeance. I drove the one-hour ATV ride to my cabin yesterday morning before daylight, long before the sun had a chance to curtail at all the night’s bitter chill. My cellphone weather forecast said minus 10 with a wind chill of minus 18. That’s bloody cold for December; it’s been a while since I’ve seen that kind of cold before Christmas.

I should have installed those electric ATV hand warmers, the ones Goldie gave me last year for Christmas. I’ll get on that very soon.

I bundled up in layers and pulled on my warmest riding mitts. My lord, it was cold on the face. It takes one’s nerve endings some measure of time and exposure to adjust to freezing temperatures. This was a sudden shock on my system.

Somehow, Rob and I reached the cabin without freezing solid. The thermometer on our deck read 13 below zero. We are at fairly high altitude and it’s always a few degrees colder. The crackling dry splits and smell of Colombian coffee percolating took the edge off the cold.

The forecast is predicting up to 30 centimetres of snow for tonight. To put you in my time frame, I write on Sunday mornings, spurred to creativity by strong coffee and chemicals injected into my system by a hearty Saturday in the woods. It’s weird, I know, but it works. And there’s more snow in the long-range outlook for Thursday.

I installed my plow back on the quad as soon as I got home last evening. My fingers and toes are crossed for snow.

As I walked in the house last night, the delightful aroma of baking Christmas treats greeted me. The wonderful smell of freshly baked cookies permeated every nook and cranny of our house. While I tracked coyotes and moose in what felt like a wind chill of minus a hundred, Goldie went about her Christmas baking in a warm, cosy kitchen. Each to his or her own; she loves baking for Christmas, but hates winter and cold.  Opposites attract I suppose, but I do like Christmas cookies.

On the counter, in the shadow of my Christmas Goose, rested a wonderful rack of cooling blueberry and strawberry thumbprint cookies. Thanks to for this particular baking inspiration.

There are many things I love about Christmas.

There’s the obvious, common ground for everyone stuff: kids opening gifts, family dinners, time spent with friends and family, fruit cake and rum, deep fried turkey, and so on. We all share these joys of the season.

But I’m thinking we all have memories tucked away from Christmases past that delight us privately during the yuletide. This might surprise you, or not, I suspect, but there’s a lot of outdoor stuff blended with my holiday memories.

I mentioned my Christmas Goose. There’s a story behind that wooden ornament beyond Goldie buying it for me at the drugstore. It’s a symbol for me of a wonderful story I read in Field and Stream when I was a boy sick in bed with the flu around Christmastime. You may have read my column about it, or even remember reading the original.

It’s a powerfully moving story about a boy whose father died some months before Christmas. The family was poor and had very little provision for the holiday season. The boy took his father’s big heavy double 10-gauge and went goose hunting on Christmas Eve. He shot a wild Canada goose for Christmas dinner and made his grieving mother happy and proud.

The story is told in recollection from the boy himself, then a grown man. The imagery is spectacular and the emotion intense.

I always think of that boy at Christmas. It was only a magazine article but I remember it as a very worthy piece of literature. Does anyone recall that story? I’d love to read it again but I cannot locate it anywhere. I’m pretty sure it was in Field and Stream.

We all have our private memories of Christmas, woods related and otherwise. For some strange reason, memories of my grandmother flood my brain the first time the tree is lit each year.

Nan, as I called her, was the only one in the family who wore glasses. She lived with us and was there seated by the tree each and every Christmas throughout my formative years. As a kid, I was fascinated with the way the glowing tree bulbs reflected in her shiny glasses. It’s an odd thing to remember, I know, but it’s etched in my brain with cement.

Best gift

Everyone has a favourite Christmas gift, either given or received. The gifts given that thrill me most are the Red Rider BB guns that I gave my two fully grown daughters a few years back. It was the 70th anniversary edition.

Why, you ask? Watching “A Christmas Story,” the movie where Ralphie wants so desperately a BB gun for Christmas, is a long-standing tradition at our house. You’ve seen the movie I’m sure, and now you get the picture.  I paid 60 bucks each for the guns and now they’re selling online for up to four times that. It’s the best investment I ever made, but that’s certainly not why I recollect the giving so fondly.

My all-time favourite gift received was my handmade snowshoes when I was only 11 years old. I still have them, of course, but use them sparingly these days.

I take a hike on them occasionally for old time’s sake.

This gift set me on a course that’s become one of my lifelong passions: roaming about the snowy woods. I’m hoping to indulge my passion over the holidays. Come on with the snow.

Have a happy and safe Christmas.

Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every

opportunity. He can be contacted


Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Field, Canada

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Recent comments

  • Jeannie
    December 25, 2013 - 22:45

    I have been trying to locate the issue of Field and Stream where the article of the Christmas Goose was told. I don't even know who the author was. Do you know where I may find it or obtain a copy of the article? I think I have it narrowed down to a December issue somewhere in the early 1980's. Any information on finding this will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.