Thursday, November 18, 2010

Beasts on Earth

Now that the temperatures have plummeted to near freezing, and my down coat and gloves have been awakened from their slumber and put back to work, the appearance of Christmas decor in shops and windows feels a bit more appropriate, especially with Thanksgiving just a week away.

I did my best to ignore the Santas, sleighs, and stockings that shoved their way into stores before Halloween had even shouted its first "boo," but now I have released myself from this holiday restriction and can ease into enjoying the season.

(I really do like the Christmas season--the lead-up to the holiday is the best part, actually. It's terribly easy to escape the commercialism and onslaught of ads--just don't listen to the radio or watch too much TV, or spend any time at the mall. Presto: holidays at your own pace, in their right season.)

The first festive footsteps on our stroll into the holidays take us to Swanson's Nursery, a beautiful place just a hop, skip, and a jump northwest of us. Not only do they offer splendid, old-fashioned decor and a lovely cafe in which to meet a friend for coffee, they also set up spacious, hay-filled lodging for a miniature donkey, a camel, and a pair of reindeer.

I love to make this my first Christmastime stop. Over the years, I brought my daughter here many times on an uncrowded weekday afternoon to gaze at the animals before enjoying a cup of cocoa and a cookie in the cafe.

Now that she's in middle school and not available for such afternoon puttering, I visit the animals by myself. Makes me feel a bit wistful. Sometimes the days felt so very long when I was tending a toddler. Now I wonder where they've gone.

Donner and Blitzen, who are always rattling their antlers together as they fussily 
grumble at each other over hay rights. They're both does--the males shed
their antlers earlier than the girls, which means Santa's sleigh is really pulled by
female reindeer. These two always put me in mind of two elderly women
sharing an apartment, constantly rearranging doilies that the other one has mussed.
Curley the Camel, who like all of his kind has beautiful, soft eyes. When he drinks
out of his water bucket, he makes as much noise as a little kid slurping up the
last bit of milkshake at the bottom of a cup in a restaurant.
This little guy is Moe, the miniature donkey. He lives quite companionably with
his taller buddy, Curley. They're quite the Mutt-and-Jeff pair.