Deerbank Farm

It is a glorious winter morning in Manitoba. The sun rose far south of where it comes up in summer. The wind is blowing enough to make the tops of pine trees surrounding the yard sway to the sigh of a breeze making its way through the branches. The fields are white. It was warm one day after the first snowfall, then frost at night transformed the soft snow into a glistening sheet of ice crystals shimmering in the brilliant sunshine.

Sundogs sometimes appear in the southern sky.

Becky III, the farm’s third collie, has grown a golden winter coat that keeps her warm. She runs circles around me, yelping happily when I walk the ring dike that protects Deerbank from flooding in spring.

Most members of the Jorgenson clan come home for Christmas. Even though Kathleen’s eight children have families of their own, they still come home to celebrate Christmas Eve in the United Church of Morris. Carole, the oldest, comes from Alberta; Bonnie, Gladys and Lori come from Winnipeg; Debbie comes from British Columbia; Sharon comes from the neighbouring farm two miles north of Deerbank; Brenda comes from Ontario; and Wayne, the youngest, is the son who stayed on the farm. He lives in the big new house off the municipal road.

I will be with my family at Christmas. All of us will be together, just as we have been the last seven years, twice in Mexico, once in Vancouver, once in San Jose, once in Kenya and once before in Winnipeg. Kirsten and Rebecca and their families live in Winnipeg. Lara with her family comes from Vancouver. Christmas Eve we go to a church across Lagimodiere from the cemetery where Diane lies buried beneath the winter snow. She died in February of 2004, so now we gather Christmas Eve beneath the steeple that casts a shadow across her grave at eventide.

Diane liked Christmas. Her holiday menu was always the same: turkey with stuffing, crab casserole, creamed turnips, sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, mashed potatoes and gravy and a few condiments. The girls brought salads and desserts. My job was to get up early Christmas morning to peel vegetables.

I used to make a Christmas cake with my grandson Justin when he was young. He’s graduating from the University of Manitoba in engineering next spring, but when he was a lad, we used to go to the store to buy all the goodies that go into a good dark Christmas cake, then come home to mix the batter. After it was baked we shaved off a few pieces from the end for Diane, Justin and me to taste, then poured rum over the cake, wrapped it in cheesecloth and tinfoil and carefully stored it to cure for Christmas.

I am reading an interesting book called “Powerful Prayers”. CNN’s Larry King interviews famous people about how they pray. The list includes presidents and paupers, actors and actresses, media moguls and money managers. I find it interesting to note that few of them ask for specifics, except diehard Christians like Jimmy Carter, who asked for and got success at a peace summit with Anwar Sadat. Most people, regardless whether they grew up in God-aware households, ask for wisdom, not what they wish would happen – guidance, not things. I am re-shaping my thoughts on what prayer means to me and have resolved to grow out of my negative childhood reaction to prayer.

You read in King’s book about outstanding people, especially world leaders, who pray for world peace.

I have an old-world motif running through my apartment here on the farm. A framed photo of the world as Spanish conquistadors knew it hangs dominant at the end with a loveseat beneath. I also have a treasure chest bound in leather with ancient symbols, picture albums with world covers and a globe resting in its cradle inside an old oak stand.

Yesterday I went to the MCC store in Morris and found a beautiful sculpture of the famous praying hands. It inspired me to think of prayer differently, to pray for world peace and make a photographic symbol of my resolution.

It is mid-afternoon. Shadows are lengthening already as the sun descends. Soon it will disappear – long before supper time – because winter days are at their shortest now until December 21. It will set far south of where it drops behind the horizon in summer. The afternoon breeze has subsided. Soon it will be dark. Clear skies mean it will be very cold tonight.

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