I put this up at a new blog I started, but figured it wouldn’t hurt to throw it on here as well. You know, in case anyone was wondering what we were up to.
This year we had had it with the whole Christmas thing. I have not celebrated it in many years, but this is the first time that Gerri had joined me in my hatred of this most wretched of holidays. We did the bare minimum for the youngest, who hasn’t been poisoned by having to take out a loan for a damned X Box and all of the niceties that go along with this bullshit season.
We went to the bush and cut down a Charlie Brown tree, the girls masking taped up one string of lights outside, and they decorated the tree.
End of story.
When their dad came to pick them up for some holiday time, Gerri and I took off for the Liard River Hot Springs in Northern BC. It was a nipple hardening -26°C. I called the lodge, but they were closed for the winter, so we decided to throw the mattress in the van and camp out with the dogs in the hot springs parking lot. We really aren’t fancy.
It was about 10 or 11 hours to drive there, so we probably should have left earlier than 10 AM. As it was, we ate some A&W in Fort Nelson and then had the bagels we had packed for a supper under the northern lights. It was Gerri’s first time seeing them, and while they weren’t the greatest, there were a few moments where they were fairly active.
We walked down to the springs in the dark, but decided not to chance it. It was so cold that the flashlight quit working, and we weren’t dressed for a frozen two and a half minute run down the icy boardwalk in the pitch black.
How do I know that it’s a two and half minute run? This guy right here.
I’m not sure if that’s a thing he does all of the time, or if it was a one off, but either way, I think that a GoPro would be the way to film that sort of thing. I have never used one, but I remember when my buddy Jay Sharp put one on his dog, Dewey. It was a lot less shaky, and while it may have got a bit more piss spray on it, I think it is all in all a better choice for filming a run.
The reason that I’m writing this is to talk about letting go of the whole Christmas lie. Gerri and I have never bought each other gifts for any holiday. It’s pointless, and life is expensive enough without having to worry about whether or not you got big enough gifts for the people you love. I think that your love should be enough of a gift. Well, unless you’re a complete asshole, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that you are probably a pretty decent person.
I do miss the whole family aspect, but I figure that I can go home in the spring or summer and make some family time when flights aren’t an extra thousand dollars each. I will get more one on one time with everyone too, because you aren’t trying to mash a years worth of visits with ten people into a four hour pig out.
That’s why this year we chose to go on an adventure to celebrate the winter solstice. The summer here is fantastic, with eighteen hour days, and kids out playing in the streets until ten o’clock in the evening.
Winter? Not so much. It gets light around 9:30 AM and is dark by 4:30 PM, so when the longest night of the year was around the corner, we decided to go and celebrate the downhill slide into spring and summer.
That brings us here
This was the next morning when we decided to try again with proper clothing and precautions in place. We are responsible, carefree adults you know.
After we laid out a tarp to put our clothes on, we got ready to change into our swimwear. There was no sign of another human around, so we decided that it would be better to not get our bathing suits smelling like sulphur if we didn’t have to.
It was like we were free.
While we were creeping around the shallow pool, we were overcome with just how good life can be when you just do what you want to do, instead of following what the societal norms are. We were both brought up to embrace the festive spirit and give freely of our time and resources to keep up the facade of the perfect time of year.
Well it’s not the perfect time of year. The days are short and cold, nothing grows, and people get depressed. I suppose that’s why people make a big deal of Christmas, but they don’t have to. It’s much simpler to take off and do something you want to do. Something that you haven’t done before, or that you love doing so much that you would do it every winter. For us, I think it will be an annual pilgrimage to the Liard River, but it could really be any magical getaway. For you it might be to gather around a lit up tree and feel the warmth of your family all together in one place. Maybe it’s a cheap, last minute all-inclusive to Cuba or the Dominican, but whatever it is, you should do it because you want to do it, not because anyone else tells you that you should.
If you do what others think you should do, there is little chance that you will feel the excitement of hearing footfalls crunching on a frost crusted boardwalk as you stare at your clothes thirty long feet away from where your pale, completely naked ass is locked in a warm embrace with your beautiful wife and best friend.((They are the same person))
You will also miss the oddly comfortable conversation with the friendly park caretaker as your white ass floats out behind you at the steps in front of the pile of clothes that you couldn’t quite make it too before said caretaker rounded the corner by the change rooms. Also, it turns out that we weren’t the first to do this daring feat of almost hippie-like naturism.
As you can see, we weren’t bothered in the least at not having to shell out the probably seven or eight thousand dollars that it was going to cost for us to get back to Ontario and spend the holidays with our harried family.
For one thing, we didn’t have the cash to do it, and for another, we didn’t feel that we would get enough quality time with our loved ones as they rushed around getting everything ready for their version of Christmas. We bribed the girls with money and trinkets to not go home, and spent a few hundred bucks on gas and food to share a truly remarkable experience with each other, and the dogs, in a wondrous part of our picturesque province.
The ride home was pretty amazing as well. We stopped for lunch at the Toad River Lodge. That was worth the trip right there. I had stopped there in the fall of 2000 for supper on my first and only trip to Canada’s Arctic. We decided to stop for more than fuel on the way home after a sort of frosty welcome at the Northern Rockies Lodge in Muncho Lake. The fact that the gas was 40¢/litre cheaper in Toad River also helped make the decision.
At Toad River we met Darrel, the owner, after he was done helping some motorists with their vehicle problems. The people there were very friendly and the burgers were big and tasty. We dreamed of what it would be like to own and operate a roadside stop for weary and hungry travellers in the north, and what we might have to do to end up there. If you are ever travelling the Alaska Highway, I strongly recommend fueling your vehicle and yourself there.
We stopped at mile 135 to watch the northern lights, because they were absolutely fantastic and I was starting to get distracted by them. The temperature had warmed up to -10ºC so we decided to shut the van off and we watched the light show until the windows were frosted up and then we fell asleep.
The next morning we drove the rest of the way back and enjoyed the few extra minutes of daylight that we knew we were getting. It really is the simple things that we need to learn to love again. Being around mountains and the other wonders that nature presents to us should really be all that we need to embrace to find the balance that so many of us are missing.
I’m learning to find mine, and I hope that you can too.