Christmas in Val Marie, Saskatchewan

Christmas has a kind of holiness around it, to me, because I give it so much emotional significance. All my love of life seems to get encapsulated in Christmas. The carols – I find the melodies rich and not trite; the story of Christmas -more and more, as I get older, the religious aspect of it bothers me less and I enjoy imagining God’s birth, even though I don’t really believe in all of it. I can understand why the writers of all of these carols are so happy. I love the decorations, and love how the snow freezes over the world and makes it kind of crystalline and ethereal, and uniform.

I’ve always loved these things, but as I’ve gotten older and come to appreciate my family more and more, I’ve realized that in a way I owe my love of Christmas to the many happy Christmases I’ve had with my family.

This fall I moved to Regina for my first permanent job. I was ready to pay whatever the plane ticket might have cost in order to get home for the holidays. The thought of being here during my favourite time of the year seemed unbearably depressing. Needless to say, I didn’t get the time off and I was stuck in Saskatchewan.

My friend Caitlin Mroz invited me down to her house in Val Marie, Saskatchewan to spend Christmas with her.

I worried that it would still be difficult not to think about the good time I was missing in Ottawa, but it wasn’t.

Christmas with a good friend wasn’t less meaningful than Christmas with my family, as I thought it would be. I was thinking of my folks back home. I called them. But I didn’t spend the day being sad about missing them.

Caitlin showed me around the town, we drove around Grasslands National Park, we went for a hike up a big hill called a butte in the park, we fed her chickens who live in a coop in her backyard, we fed the cows on her boyfriend’s farm. Caitlin cooked a delicious Christmas meal of ham and scalloped potatoes. We played board games, Caitlin filled a stocking for me with little gifts, we ate more chocolates and other treats than I’ve eaten in a long while, and we actually did all of this at quite a relaxed pace. We sat around and watched TV. Caitlin and her boyfriend have an adorable puppy, three parts Labrador and one part border collie I think he is, and he was so much fun to play with. His name is Trapper.

It was almost a weird discovery that I could have a really great Christmas away from home. The pictures of perfection that I have in my mind aren’t necessarily accurate.

Caitlin opened a restaurant in Val Marie, the Harvest Moon Cafe. This is her, in front of it.

Caitlin opened a restaurant in Val Marie, the Harvest Moon Cafe. This is her, in front of it.

These apartments in Val Marie (population 98) are called the "Highrises"! Most houses in Val Marie seemed to be bungalows...

These apartments in Val Marie (population 98) are called the “Highrises”! Most houses in Val Marie seemed to be bungalows…

We first forayed into Grasslands National Park on Christmas Day for a drive. I saw my first herd of mule deer.

We first forayed into Grasslands National Park on Christmas Day for a drive. I saw my first herd of mule deer.

Caitlin and Jonathan. On the way to feed the cows.

Caitlin and Jonathan. On the way to feed the cows.

Here you can see the mechanism that rolls out the hay bale from the back of the pick up truck. Hay is the food for the cows in the winter.

Here you can see the mechanism that rolls out the hay bale from the back of the pick up truck. Hay is the food for the cows in the winter.

here they come!

here they come!

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On Boxing Day we went for a 5k hike in the park. We climbed what is called a butte. The dog, Tracker, kept pushing Caitlin down the hill!

On Boxing Day we went for a 5k hike in the park. We climbed what is called a butte. The dog, Tracker, kept pushing Caitlin down the hill!

Meanwhile, a few feet above, I was taking artsy photographs.

Meanwhile, a few feet above, I was taking artsy photographs.

we made it to the top.

we made it to the top.

gorgeous views all around from the top of the butte.

gorgeous views all around from the top of the butte.

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2 thoughts on “Christmas in Val Marie, Saskatchewan

  1. Hello William! Thank you for posting your story about Val Marie SK. I am giving a concert tomorrow and behind the music will be images taken in and around the Prairies and I wondered if I have your permission to use one of your photos in the concert – the artsy one. It is a lovely photo! Please write me back and let me know. Sincerely, Melissa

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