Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas in the Mountains

At a Christmas fund-raiser in the state park

Camp Connell, CA - The sky is almost crystal blue today, not a cloud in sight and only a slight haze (from the wood-burning stove that keeps us warm) between us and a screen of bright green conifers.

Pat is somewhere in the back of the cabin, I suspect in a cleaning frenzy, and I am sitting by the picture windows doing as little as possible.
Christmas music is filling the room and the dog is carrying a tennis ball around out on the deck, dropping it into the snow then pouncing on it, perfectly happy to entertain himself. I could spend an hour watching him watching the ball, listening to a great version of "Silent Night" that includes the story of how it was written for a church service.
After a big snow the barbecue grill is hard to find!

The Advent season always seems like positive anticipation for us, and a time for looking back across the year and years to memories of friends and places and family.

Forty years ago we were living in Florida, and daughter Ruth was a tow-headed baby with a perpetual smile. I was reporting on the manned space program for Gannett Newspapers, and there was one year when we were so busy that we never finished decorating the tree. Just a few balls and no tinsel, and off to work.

We took a scuba diving course and I talked my way into writing assignments in the Virgin Islands and the Bahamas. Life was good then.

Friends from those years remain in our hearts today: Benton and Sandy Bingham, our first close neighbors and friends with whom we shared dogs, children, cars, hikes and joys and a few sorrows; Bob Bentley, my editor and friend through great newspaper opportunities, and battles; Burke and Beth Edwards, 20 years older than us but a couple that knew no barriers to friendship and who took us on our first sailing voyage to the Bahamas, and Pat's parents Bob and Florence Taylor, parents, friends and great grandparents.

Thirty years ago we moved to California, with Ruth and Zack and an old dog named Fang, finding a new life and new friends that blessed up for another twenty years. We were welcomed to the neighborhood, work, and church as if we belonged. And we did.
The Coley and Christie families brought us into their homes for holidays and shared
food and friendship. Zack grew up through baseball and soccer and Ruth went off to college.
C.K. McClatchy and Frank McCulloch and Erwin Potts treated me as a colleague at McClatchy Newspapers, gave me unstinting support, and were mentors and good examples of what a journalist could be. How many people can claim to have great honest bosses for a 20-year span?
Mark Vasche', Dave Cummerow, Ray Nish, Dick LeGrand, Rich Petersen, Susan Windemuth and many others at The Modesto Bee made coming to work a daily joy.
The people at Centenary United Methodist Church, particularly the Nelson family, helped us learn and grow and share, and provided a place or worship and celebration, and even backpacking.
We discovered Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada, and began coming to Calaveras County to camp and ski and hike, finding a beautiful place that later became our home.
Life was good then.

Ten years ago we moved again, that time to Sacramento as empty-nesters, and a whole new world and group of colleagues and neighbors. I learned to spell "ombudsman," and even how to define it, had a chance to write again, and we learned the joys of living in a big city.
Our friends Michael and Sylvia rekindled our love for sailing and re-introduced us to the beautiful people of Mexico.
When I retired early we spent two years in Florida with Pat's dad, then came back to California to live in our mountains. Renewed friendships with the Grassmyers, new friends like Jeri and Gary, and the bonus that both our grown children and their children live with 20 miles.

We are surrounded by forests, which is a good reason for me to oppose clear-cutting, and the state park is a short distance away with roaring rivers, giant trees, wonderful employees and terrific volunteers.
Life is good now.
The dog, Rusty, loves the snow

Christmas Eve 2010 was a day between storms, snow is due Christmas day and a good time for quiet pondering. I had good intentions of going skiing today, but a good book trapped me late last night and I decided to sleep in and hang out instead. Maybe later we will go walk in the state park just down the road.

For now I just want to remember good friends, good times, and the blessings of Christmas.

So dear friends, named or not, you are all in my thoughts on this lovely Christmas Eve.

Alleluia indeed!Okay everybody sing real pretty!

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