Lone Wolf…

Trances With Wolves
A New Hope for a Lone Wolf

Walking On Water   

by Stephen A. Nelson
(republished)
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A musical friend of mine, Mackenzie Brown, sings a song about her close encounter of the third kind…the song is called Walking On Water:

And I’ll be walking on water baby
I’ll be walking on water with you
I’m Walking on water ’cause I’m with Great Manitou

1. Saviour, you’re my saviour 
You are everywhere I want to be
Come save me great sky leader I need
Your guidance today

2. Let you spirit surround me
Let me feel your presence
I want to be part of you
I need your guidance today

To the spiritually minded, Mackenzie’s lyrics written and sung by her, are resplendent with Christian imagery: a baby and the Great Manitou. A Saviour who leads and guides. A “spirit in the sky” whose presence surrounds.

These lyrics would have resonated with Father Jean de Brébeuf, author of The “Huron Carol” (or “‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime“), a Christmas hymn he wrote in the native language of the Huron-Wendat people. He had given the song to them as a gift and referred to it during his teachings and missionary work.

But Mackenzie says she was not conscious of such metaphors when she wrote the song. She actually composed the ode after she saw a wolf pack making its way across the partially frozen Jasper Lake. To her, it looked like the wolves were walking on water. It was a profound spiritual experience.

I thought of Mackenzie’s song – the story behind it– when I saw two photos that recently went viral on Facebook and Twitter.

The first was an image of the Northern Lights in which the Aurora Borealis took the form of a wolf; a Spirit in the Sky. It was like “the heavenly dancers” meets Dances With Wolves. It was so spooky, so unreal, that some people refused to believe it was real.

AA Sky Wolf Marja-Terttu Karlsson left her home in Pajala boost

The second photo was picture of a wolf pack trekking through the winter wilderness of Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park: One of the stronger wolves leads the way; breaking trail and making a path through the snow for the others to follow. Everyone has a place. Everyone has a role. No wolf left behind. It had people thinking, “We humans can learn a lot from wolves.”

Except, of course, we humans don’t learn from “brother–sister wolf.” Instead, our society is waging a war on wolves.

aa wolf pack lomo

For example, in Alberta and British Columbia, wolves are protected and revered inside the national parks such as Wood Buffalo, Jasper, Yoho and Pacific Rim. But outside the parks, the wolf is hunted, slaughtered and poisoned ruthlessly – ostensibly to protect the even more rare and endangered caribou. But the real reason is the deep antipathy, even hatred that some people have towards wolves. Grownups are still afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.

And if the wild wolf is despised, the so-called “War on Terror” has demonised the human “Lone Wolf” among us. These days, it seems that every misfit is automatically suspect and every loner is a de facto terrorist in training. A Lone Wolf is no more a deviant or a devil than a woman in a niqab is a barbarian or a threat to Canadian values.

The Lone Wolf among us is someone who feels the strong need for independence, autonomy and solitude.

Some Things I’ve Learned


For the past few years, I’ve been part of a small group at a church in Jasper National Park.

AA Akela The Lone Wolf - The Two Jungle Books editRunning with such a pack already marks you as “odd.” Jasper’s earthly paradise is a place where people worship the Creation but have little use for the Creator. They may want “spirituality” but not “religion.” Yoga and Sunday brunch have long-since replaced liturgy and Communion.

And if you talk about “Alpha and Omega” here – people won’t immediately make the connection with the God who is “the Beginning and the End.” They will probably think you’re talking about an animated film starring “an unlikely pair of wolves.”

Paradise Lost


Living in a national park, I’ve learned some things about the wild wolves that live “outside the circle.”

All lone wolves were once part of a pack.  The lone wolves in the wilds are usually male, some are older males who been driven out from their pack – ostracized – by the younger males. Some are younger males who challenged for the leadership but failed – and were then cast out.  Some left in search of new territory, new opportunities. Some were part of a pack that disbanded as members moved on or passed away. Many of them long to return to the pack from which they were shunned, excommunicated.

The lone wolves who survive best are those that maintain a relationship with the pack; even if it’s a distant relationship. They follow the pack wherever it roams – sometimes even participating in the pack’s hunts and feeding on the leftovers from the kill. Such relationships benefit both the lone wolf and the pack.

Even a lone wolf needs others. A wolf can survive (for a time) on his own by scavenging and hunting small game. But his best chance for long-term survival is to rejoin the pack – or to find a female lone wolf for a mate and start a new pack.

Every pack needs a leader. Every leader needs a pack. Sometimes the Lone Wolf becomes the leader. And lone wolves can make the best leaders.

The Law of the Wolf Cub Pack

Wolf Cubs Centennial Crest
When I was a boy in Wolf Cubs (what they now call Cub Scouts), an adult leader was called an “Old Wolf.” The Leader of the Pack – just like in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book – was called Akela.  The name means “Solitary; Alone.” That’s right; the leader of the pack was the Lone Wolf.

In Kipling’s stories (and in the re-tellings by scouting’s founder, Lord Baden-Powell) Akela is not only the leader of the pack. His is also the close friend and mentor of Mowgli, the orphaned “man cub” that is adopted into the wolf pack. Even when Mowgli is no longer a “man cub” but a full-grown adult, Akela remains a “Yoda” to Mowgli’s “Young Skywalker.”

Here in the enchanted forests of Alberta, often talked with my “Akela” about people who want “spirituality” but not “religion.” They want to belong, to feel connected – but not if it means someone telling them what to do and how to live.
AA Wolf Cub Handbook boost

My Akela, like Baden-Powell, sees no dichotomy between “spirituality” and “religion.”  For them, God – however you understand Him – is always a fundamental part of life.

Life in the pack means living by the law of the pack: doing your duty, respecting elders, putting others first and helping them – no matter what.

Even as a Lone Wolf (or “the Lone Wolf of the group”), I sometimes think that I learned “everything I needed to know” in Wolf Cubs; from Kipling, Baden-Powell and the elders of the pack:

Be Prepared. Do Your Best!

Always help others… and accept help from others. Mowgli – the Man Cub – was an orphan. He was different from the rest. But he lived and learned with the help of his adoptive parents as well as his teachers and guardians. They always had his back and helped him to find his place.

It’s a jungle out there. There will always be adversaries and foes. But courage, loyalty and love are stronger than any enemy.

You can’t be a cub forever. Eventually, the cub must grow up to be the Old Wolf.  There are even times when the Lone Wolf becomes the leader of the pack. And guess what? Sometimes lone wolves make the best leaders.

A leader gives his or her life to the pack. And the pack gives its life to the leader. They thrive and survive because they are part of each other.

Father Christmas wolf Jody Bergsma

The Christmas season is ended. Another year over. A new one just begun.

For many, now is when the darkness sets in, people may feel the impacts of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and – to quote Canadian musician and songwriter Bruce Cockburn – we’re “trying to keep the latent depression from crystallizing.”

This is the time of year when we need an Epiphany. Light in the Darkness.  A New Hope.

Long ago, in a land far, far away, there was a teacher who people said it was “The Light of The World.” He, in turn, said that his followers were the light of the world.

See the light.  Be the light.  To the spiritually minded, that Spirit Wolf in the Sky can be our Northern light in the darkness.

To survive, learn from the wolves.  

If you can, stay with the pack.

Even if you can’t live with them all the time, work with them.

If you’re not in a pack, BE the pack. Start your own pack by being with people you want to be with.

If you don’t have an Akela, BE Akela. Be a leader.

Who knows?  You could end up walking on water.

 

Journalist_Traveller_Writer_Photographer_Editor_Public Speaker_Bard_Troubador

Stephen is a freelance writer, public speaker and “lone wolf of the group” living on the edge of wilderness in Jasper National Park. He has worked in media for more than 25 years – including 8 years as an editor, producer and broadcaster in Taiwan. We invited Stephen to share his thoughts about this holiday time and the importance of belongingness and our search for acceptance. (This article first appeared December 31 2015 and updated January 6, 2016).

 

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A Canadian Christmas Eh!

Stephen A. Nelson in JasperOur guest blogger is Stephen A. Nelson, a freelance journalist who grew up in Toronto back when, as he says “they still had a Santa Claus at the Eaton’s and Simpson’s department stores, where magical window displays with expensive moving toys gave joy to many.”  Here Stephen shares a true, right from the  heart, childhood Christmas Story, and  adds some of his  own favourite media Christmas Stories.


The Many Faces of Father Christmas

A Real Christmas Story from the Kid Who Lived It!
Stephen A. Nelson

KettleDriveThe Salvation Army has been in the news this Christmas; especially since it was discovered that a Grinch – masquerading as Santa Claus – stole more than $2 million worth of donated toys that were meant to go to needy kids in the Toronto area. The stolen toys were  recovered and Mean Mr. Grinch has been arrested and charged with stealing Christmas. It’s sad and shocking, but at the same time a reminder that – while Scrooges and Grinches may be real – so is Someone Else.

My Christmas story takes place not in the 1940s, but in the 1960s, shortly after we’d arrived in Canada from England. The Beatles were more popular than Jesus and it was a very good time to be English in Canada. Especially if Canadians thought you sounded “just like The Beatles.”

We moved into a neighbourhood in West Toronto. Our family of six was living in a small two-bedroom flat above a restaurant on Dundas Street West now known as The Junction. We did not have much, in fact, we had very little. But we had the two most valuable things in the world: family and friends.

“Family” included my Uncle Terry, my mother’s beloved brother. The Nelson family had arrived in Canada on the unforgettable night of the Great Northeast Blackout in November of that year — that night everything from Niagara Falls to New York plunged into complete darkness. That was the night Uncle Terry had driven all night to get us from Montreal to our new home in Toronto.

“Family” also included the people at the Salvation Army in West Toronto. That was the great thing about the Sally Ann then. We had travelled to the other side of the world, but the Salvation Army still felt like home. It was more than a church, more than a charity. It was family.

Foremost among that Salvation Army family was a man we called Uncle Harry. He virtually had adopted my dad when my dad first arrived in Canada. And for as long as he lived, Uncle Harry was like a father and a big brother to my Dad. And until his dying day, Uncle Harry was a real uncle and a granddad to us kids.

When we arrived in Toronto, winter was already upon us. More snow than we had ever seen turned Toronto into a Winter Wonderland. And before we knew it, it was Christmas. It was a beautiful glorious Christmas, around which the entire year of being a kid revolved. Christmas, time for Christmas carols and Father Christmas — or as Canadians called him, “Santa Claus.”

I was a true believer in Father Christmas. So although there were many department-store Santas, I knew there was only one true Father Christmas. He was at the North Pole now, making his toys. But I had met him at the Salvation Army Christmas party and I knew he was real. I knew because he knew me and he knew me by name.

Father Christmas

But I was worried: Even though I’d seen Father Christmas, I hadn’t told him what I really wanted. And with all the excitement of moving to a new country, I hadn’t had time to write to him! “How will Father Christmas know where we are? How will he know what I want?” I wondered.

Mum, another true believer, assured me that Father Christmas would know and that he would find us.

“But we don’t have a chimney in our flat! How will Father Christmas get into our house on Christmas Eve?”

Mum assured me that Father Christmas had a magic chimney he could use to get into houses that had no chimney.

Well if Mum says so, it’s got to be true.

But I was still worried.

I was like Ralphie from the  character who played in A Christmas Story.  A movie favorite of mine that centres around a young, nine-year-old, blue-eyed, blond-haired boy name Ralph “Ralphie” Parker (Peter Billingsley). The first time I saw the film, I immediately turned to my friend, pointed at the kid on the screen with big glasses and said, “That’s me!”

But Ralphie is an Everyman, and the film is the tale of his quest to realize his heart’s desire and secure his holy grail of Christmas presents — a Daisy, Red Ryder, Carbine-Action , 200-shot Range Model BB Rifle.  He was trying to relay the message to the world that there was one thing I wanted more than anything else in the world. This was my heart’s desire. This was my holy grail.

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It wasn’t a Red Ryder BB Gun. No, in 1965 it was a Johnny Seven O.M.A. (One Man Army) — a toy gun that was seven guns in one.

In these cyber-days of Halo, WarCraft and Assassin, such toy weapons are either politically incorrect or passé.  Forbidden or forgotten.  But in 1965, the Johnny Seven was “the bomb.”

It was a Red Ryder BB Rifle on steroids.  Ralphie’s Red Ryder was a steel-blue beauty that fired BBs and had “a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time.” It was everything cowboy hero Red Ryder would need to fend off the evil Black Bart, rustlers, and other Bad Guys.  But a Johnny Seven One Man Army was a plastic mini-arsenal that fired an anti-tank rocket; shot an armour-piercing shell; launched an anti-bunker missile; shot 10 bullets as a rifle; made a rat-a-tat-tat sound as a Tommy gun; and had a pistol that detached and worked as a cap gun with a very loud  “bang!”  In short, it was everything that G. I. Joe would ever need to fight the Viet Cong.  And since it was three-feet long, it was literally the yardstick against which all other boys’ toys were measured. It was the talking Malibu Barbie of boys’ toys. It was the perfect present.

JohnnySeven7inOneLike Ralphie, I knew exactly what I wanted. And like Ralphie, I was worried that I wasn’t going to get it. After all, if Father Christmas couldn’t find me, how could he give one to me? And if Father Christmas couldn’t deliver, who could?

On Christmas Eve, there were no signs of any Christmas presents in our small flat. I don’t even remember seeing a Christmas tree.

Still, milk and cookies were placed out in a dish with care, in hopes that Father Christmas soon would be there. There were no visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. I was dreaming of a Johnny Seven. I went to bed hoping and praying that Father Christmas would indeed find us. But I feared he would not.

On Christmas morning, I woke up to find a sign of hope. A red Christmas stocking had been hung up with care, a sign Father Christmas had really been there.

When out from the living room there was such a clatter, I sprang down hallway and said “What’s the matter?”

I turned into the living room and beheld a sight more wonderful than anything I had ever seen before or since. Where there had been darkness before, there was now the most wondrous light. Where there had been emptiness, there was now a cornucopia of Christmas presence. An Aladdin’s cave of magical things that I had never seen before in my life, including something called a “toboggan.” I had no idea what it was for, but I thought it was amazing.

In a room full of children’s treasures, I almost missed the Holy Grail itself. But there it was, in the middle of the living room floor, set like a jewel in the crown: my Johnny Seven. It was perfect.

I promptly fired off all seven guns in rapid order and managed to do it without shooting anybody’s eye out!

I was overwhelmed with joy at getting my Johnny Seven. But I was even more happy that Father Christmas had found us and he had delivered. For years to come, this was proof to me that Father Christmas was real. And later, when my non-believing school friends said, “There’s no such thing as Santa; it’s just your parents,” I knew they were wrong.

Over the years in Canada, we would spend many Christmases at my Uncle Terry’s and we would learn many things about Father Christmas. We learned that, here in Canada, Father Christmas went by many other names: Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Sinter Klaas, Santa Claus, Santa, Kris Kringle, or even Père Noël.

Years later, I found out that, in our home, Father Christmas had two other names: Sometimes we called him “Dad”: other times we called him “Uncle Terry.”

But at our other home, the Salvation Army, we learned that the most important person at Christmas was not Father Christmas, but that other person who also comes at Christmas and who is also known by many names.

And at the Salvation Army, we learned that the real Father Christmas had yet another name. There we called him “Uncle Harry.”

Welcome Christmas, while we stand
heart to heart and hand in hand…
Christmas Day will always be
Just as long as we have we

My Favourite Media Christmas Stories
Stephen A. Nelson

Everybody has a favourite TV holiday special at this time of the year.

For me, there are two classic Christmas programs that are especially powerful, even after more than 40 years of repeated viewing.

Merry ChristmasThe first and still the best is A Charlie Brown Christmas, featuring the Peanuts gangand the coolest of all Christmas soundtracks by Vince Guaraldi. A very close second is How the Grinch Stole Christmas starring Boris (The Grinch) Karloff and the coolest of all Christmas songs, You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch .

And when it comes to Christmas movies on TV, you still can’t beat the 1951 black-and-white classic A Christmas Carolstarring Alistair (Scrooge) Sim and three very spooky Christmas spirits. Mind you, Jim Carrey. The Muppets, and even Doctor Who have all done a great job of bringing this story to life.

What these all have in common is the theme of redemption. That and the radical, almost heretical message expressed by the Grinch: the idea that “Maybe Christmas… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!

So maybe it’s odd that my other holiday favourite is the 1983 movie A Christmas Story. Odd because, at first glance, the movie seems to say that Christmas does come from a store — and that happiness is a new gun.

A Christmas Story starring Darren (Kolchalk: The Night Stalker) McGavin is a classic based on the book In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd. A sleeper hit when it was first released, the film has become a perennial favourite on TV. One American cable station shows it all day on Christmas Day.

The film, narrated by the author himself, takes place in a mythical mid-western US town. But a lot of it was shot in Toronto. In fact, in a part of Toronto that looks a lot like the Toronto I grew up in. It even has the classic red-and-yellow TTC streetcars that Mike Filey loves.

It also has all the elements of my first Christmas in Canada: the Salvation Army band playing Christmas carols in the frosty air; the Santa Claus parades, the department store Santas. And most magical of all, the Christmas windows displays at stores like downtown Toronto’s Eaton’s and Simpson’s, where half-frozen kids press their noses up against the frosty glass to get a closer look of at the electronic panoramas of mechanized magic.

Perhaps that’s why this film stays with me, because it feels like my city and my childhood. I feel I could have easily run into the characters in this film. In fact, I think I did.

But more than that, I think it stays with me because — in many ways — A Christmas Story is my story: “except for the name and a few other changes, when you talk about me, the story’s the same one.”

A Christmas Story

Ralphie, for most of the film,  is scheming to get his mitts on one of these beautiful, steel-blue pieces of pre-adolescent weaponry- a Daisy, Red Ryder, Carbine-Action , 200-shot Range Model BB Rifle… For him, it is not only the Holy Grail; in his hands it will become Excalibur.

So our hero does everything he can to persuade every adult he knows — his teacher, his parents, even Santa — that a firearm is the perfect present. The response is always discouraging and always the same: “You’ll shoot your eye out!” And once even Santa Claus rains on his parade, Ralphie knows the game is over and he’ll probably end up with a football (“not a very good present”) for Christmas.

Needless to say, our hero is more than a little discouraged come Christmas Eve. By Christmas morning, when all the presents have already been opened, he has despaired of ever achieving the Holy Grail.

But wait! Somehow Santa delivers a last-minute Christmas miracle and Ralphie gets his BB gun — his faith in Santa and in Christmas is fully restored. That night he goes to sleep with his holy grail in his hands and all is right with the world. It is a very merry Christmas.

Holy Grail

stephen nelsonStephen A. Nelson has  a master’s degree in Theological Studies from Lutheran Theological Seminary at the University of Saskatchewan. In his spare time, he plays old rock ‘n’ roll at the local jam nights, sings in church, and enjoys his Jasper mountain paradise.  Write Stephen Nelson at  http://ca.linkedin.com/in/stephenanelson  or stephena.nelson@gmail.com or
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…No Such Thing as Santa?

by Stephen A. Nelson

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You May Say There’s No Such Thing as Santa, but…

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child, I understood as a child. But whenI became a man, I put away these childish things.

 

Call me skeptical if you like. But even as a young child I couldn’t understand how Father Christmas (that would be “Santa Claus” to most of you) could be in two places at once. This was particularly disturbing to a true believer such as I.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child, I understood as a child. But whenI became a man, I put away these childish things.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child, I understood as a child. But whenI became a man, I put away these childish things.

Every year at Christmastide, I would join the faithful in the annual pilgrimage to see the Old Man with the white beard and god-like powers. But I was confused: as soon as I left Father Christmas in one shop, I would encounter another, different Santa in the next shop.

Mum and Dad explained – as all good parents should – that I needn’t be upset. These jolly old men in red were helping the real Father Christmas while he was busy getting ready for Christmas Eve.

I accepted this – and it did not for one minute diminish my absolute faith in Father Christmas. It did not dim the awe and reverence that I felt when I approached the king of Christmas on his throne.

Nor did it stop us in our Christmas rituals: every Christmas Eve, my brother and sisters left milk and cookies for Santa and his reindeer. And every year, he left a note thanking us.

I never saw the real Father Christmas.

I didn’t need to.

I believed in him and he never let me down. He knew much more than whether we’d been bad or good. He knew who we were and where we were. He was even able to find us when we moved to a new city.

For us, this was the kind of miracle that only Father Christmas could do.

Lessons learned

Close-up of Gold Star

When I first came to Canada, I learned a lot of new things about Father Christmas. I learned that he was known by many names – Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, Père Noël– and that he answered to all of them. I learned that he knew what we wanted even before we asked. He knew even if we never had the chance to tell him.

But the most important lesson – which I’ve never forgotten – I learned when I was about 10 years old.

A few weeks before Christmas, my Grade 5/6 class was given an assignment: We read a letter to a newspaper editor written by a nine-year-old boy.

The boy said he knew there was no such thing as Santa Claus. He knew and it was really his parents who left gifts in his stocking on Christmas Eve. The trouble was that his younger, less mature brother still believed in this silly idea of Santa.

So, the elder brother asked the newspaper editor, should he tell his younger brother that there’s no such thing as Santa?

Our teacher sent us into discussion groups to come up with an answer. For me, the future of the universe hung in the balance. Why would anyone tell anyone else that there’s no such thing as Santa?! It seemed the older brother just wanted to spoil things for the younger brother just because he didn’t believe any more.

So I asked my teacher the all-important question: “Before we decide if he should tell his little brother there’s no Santa Claus, don’t you think we should decide whether or not there is a Santa Claus?”

Mr. Carter was a good teacher who had the Wisdom of Solomon as well as the Patience of Job. He didn’t dismiss me or say my question was a silly one. Instead, he said, “That’s a good point. Maybe you should bring it up in your group.”

So while the rest of the class debated the fate of the two brothers, our group discussed the nature of the universe.

I argued fervently. Of course, I was ridiculed for even suggesting that Santa might really exist.

“Santa is really your parents,” they argued. “Everyone knows there’s no such thing as Santa!”

But if everyone knows, why didn’t the younger brother know? Why didn’t I know?

What the argument came down to was that no one had ever seen Santa Claus, therefore he didn’t exist. And even if he did exist, it was impossible for one man to travel over the whole world in one night.

My friends were products of our time.

They couldn’t believe what they couldn’t see. Yet they believed in the electrons and protons and neutrons we’d learned about in science class that year. They believed in people they’d never met, only heard about; people like Copernicus and Galileo; Michael Faraday and Albert Einstein.

They couldn’t believe in the impossible. Yet that very summer we had seen NASA put two men on the moon and bring them back – a 500,000 mile journey through space where even a small mistake could have doomed the Apollo astronauts to drift forever in outer space. A decade earlier, such a feat was “impossible.” Pure science fiction. But now it had happened.

My group never did get around to deciding how the newspaper editor should answer the elder brother’s question.

But that Christmas I learned about another, more famous letter to a newspaper editor dealing with skeptics and junior atheists who questioned the existence of Sinter Klaas.

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus? – Virginia O’Hanlon

I may have been living in the Space Age, the Age of Science, but I could relate to eight-year-old Virginia’s question.

And even now, in the Information Age, I can relate to the truthful reply by New York Sun editor Francis Church:

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical world, they do not believe unless they see. The think nothing can be which is not comprehended by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s are little…

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy…

Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world…

Editor Francis Church was the son of a Baptist minister. But he was also former war correspondent; he had seen what a lack of faith and hope could do to a society.

At this time of year, I think of my friends wonder what they did with their fervent unbelief. I wonder what they told their children and grandchildren about Saint Nick. I wonder if they still think that Saint Nicholas is a humbug.

I wonder if they discovered for themselves the three stages of faith: i) You believe in Santa Claus ii) You  don’t believe in Santa Claus iii) You believe in Santa Claus because you’ve become Santa Claus.

One thing we know about the Spirit of Christmas is that no one is beyond redemption – not even those Scrooges who don’t believe in spirits.

Perhaps, this year they’ll find the Spirit of Christmas as they hear the familiar story of someone else who came at Christmas: Someone else who is also known by many names; someone who knows them by their names.

A while ago, as one friend reminded me that, “Faith is the evidence of things unseen; the substance of things hope for.”

But the impossible Spirit of Santa isn’t completely invisible… you can see it in the eyes of the children.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS.

Stephen A. Nelson in Jasper

Stephen A. Nelson is our guest writer and writes from the heart and gives us his take on the universal phenomena – Santa! Stephen is a highly spirited journalist with a master’s degree in Theological Studies from Lutheran Theological Seminary at the University of Saskatchewan. In his spare time, he plays old rock ‘n’ roll at the local jam nights, sings in church, and enjoys his Jasper mountain paradise. Write Stephen Nelson at  http://ca.linkedin.com/in/stephenanelson  or stephena.nelson@gmail.com

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‘It’s Coming on Christmas’

by Catherine DeAngelis

 

“I never wanted to be a star. I didn’t like entering a room with all eyes on me. I still don’t like the attention of a birthday party. I prefer Christmas, which is everybody’s holiday.”            Joni Mitchell

A  favorite time of year is when we have radio play that gives us the elegant, melodic and familiar voice of Canada’s Joni Mitchell as she sings us “River” over the air waves.  This song, written and originally performed by Joni Mitchell, captivates listeners to hear the song and even spoil us as we get to hear it sung by other various brilliant performances by Sarah McLachlan  and Robert Downey Jr.

The song beckons sentiments of being at home in the heart.

The lyrics can be interpreted in many different ways. It begs us to question, “is the song about Christmas, lost love or someone’s need for belongingness at a time of year when we are expected to give of ourselves, and to love unconditionally and forgivingly?”

SongsofaPrairieGirlCoverRiver comes from Mitchell’s famous Blue album recording, released June 1971, and added  to the  Songs of a Prairie Girl known as her last series of compilations.

In a special Canada CBC TV documentary about Joni Mitchell, we learn about her life and her music and her artwork.  A Woman of Heart and Mind: The Life and Times of Joni Mitchell   written and directed by Susan Lacy. Canadian-Born Joni Mitchell is one of the foremost singer/songwriters and poets of our time.  Her eclectic and unique body of work still touches us today as much as it did more than three decades ago. She has also led an equally fascinating and inspiring personal life.

Mitchell has come full circle from the days back when the Mariposa Folk Festival evolved Mitchell to a magnificent songwriter with a creative career that stemmed from her earlier childhood interests in painting, poetry, and music. She performed in Toronto’s downtown Yorkville coffeehouses such as the Penny Farthing and up to this day her songs and lyrics resonate with the same precision as ever before. Some of her very first songs like ‘Day After Day‘ are as inviting today as they were back then – Canadian Encyclopedia of Music.

Quotes by Joni Mitchell

“At the point where I’m trying to force something and it’s not happening, and I’m getting frustrated with, say, writing a poem, I can go and pick up the brushes and start painting. At the point where the painting seems to not be going anywhere, I go and pick up the guitar.

Back then, I didn’t have a big organization around me. I was just a kid with a guitar, traveling around. My responsibility basically was to the art, and I had extra time on my hands. There is no extra time now. There isn’t enough time.

  • I can’t remember anything I ever wrote.
  • I learned a woman is never an old woman.
  • No one likes to have less than they had before. That’s the nature of the human animal.
  • Not to dismiss Gershwin, but Gershwin is the chip; Ellington was the block.
  • Sorrow is so easy to express and yet so hard to tell.”  

For any Joni Mitchell fan of beautiful melodies, we’ve posted lyrics and a video below – browse and explore your response to the song and lyrics.

River

by Joni Mitchell   

It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on

But it don’t snow here
It stays pretty green
I’m going to make a lot of money
Then I’m going to quit this crazy scene
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on

I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
I wish I had a river I could skate away on
I made my baby cry

He tried hard to help me
You know, he put me at ease
And he loved me so naughty
Made me weak in the knees
Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on

I’m so hard to handle
I’m selfish and I’m sad
Now I’ve gone and lost the best baby
That I ever had
I wish I had a river I could skate away on

Oh, I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
I made my baby say goodbye

It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
I wish I had a river I could skate away on

© 1970; Joni Mitchell

 
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