One day past Christmas

Snowshoeing in Salmon-Challis National Forest near Missoula, Montana, the day after Christmas. I was stopped short by this view.


It had been awhile since I’d spent more than a half-hour outdoors. So, this hike on the perimeter of the cross-country area was hugely welcome. Prior to returning to northwest Iowa, another hike into a Montana mountain canyon reinforced the notion that nothing humans create measures up to the natural world.

Passing along a blog

I stumbled on the site (here) on which Sean Patrick Hughes blogs. I find his thoughts, forged partly by his experience in the military, down to earth, compelling. His writing on the recent election in the U.S. is particularly apropos.

Despite his use of the terms “conservative” and “liberal,” he steers clear of the traps of mislabeling either.

It’s insightful stuff. He understands the roots of our nation, how far we’ve come from its start and how far we have yet to go.

Small-town Santas

Annually, Sinterklaas pays a visit to our berg, Santa Claus, too, each posing with kids from town and chatting with them as parents, grandparents, relatives and press click photo after photo.

The reactions of kids vary from the ones bolting for the door in sheer terror to the ones that would happily spend an hour with the good saint, comparing notes on what it’s like to be a kid and getting or not getting the longed-for gift or wishing that we all could just get along.

Observations on Sinterklaas, the Dutch saint, beloved by my small wanna-be-Dutch community, will wait for another time.

I’ve not experienced the mall Santa or the department-store Santa, but the small-town Santa’s got them beat, by a good stretch, I’m sure. Why,  only today, while getting photos of kids for our local paper, I was struck by a number of things.

Santa and his wife are an actual couple. He’s on the city council. She’s a teacher. They know a majority of the kids that come down the short candy-cane lane for a conversation and a bag of candy, nuts and chocolate, packed by local Chamber of Commerce volunteers.

The legend of Santa knowing who is “naughty and nice” is mightily strengthened by the observations of this year’s Santa Claus, dressed to the nines in red and white, bewigged and bewhiskered by hurt-your-eyes white hair. He comments on one child’s recent performance in the school Christmas program. To another, who wishes for a new basketball, he observes that the lad could use a little practice (Ho! Ho! Ho!); he’s seen him drilling in the driveway. He did refrain from comment, though, when the lad who went a bit wild with a new BB gun the year before, stopped by. After all, that happened a while ago, water under the dam.

Santa’s wife, in the lulls between kids, helps me sort through the photos. “Isn’t digital wonderful?” She reminds Santa that he should be wearing his hat, removed earlier in a moment of irritation, and that he should pitch his voice lower to give it more gravitas. (Did I mention she’s a music teacher?)

Complain all you want about the commercialization of Christmas and the emphasis on getting gifts. What I see each year is a bunch of adults taking time to make the season special for kids, determined to help families of all types find another something to do together. It’s imperfect, sure, but there are jewels in Santa’s beard, too. And, they are easy to spot if I take the time to visit Santa’s workshop.


Melancholy. That’s what I feel when I look at the state of the newspaper industry. There’s a great scramble to move to the technology that folks are using now.

It’s inevitable, I suppose. But it’s also making me sad. It’s really a move towards more individualism, and those who write the words that end up in newsprint have lost their power, as they and their corporations sell their souls to a technology that boasts much and delivers little.

I can think of a post-election simile, but that’s far too depressing.

Oh, I think that good reporters will still be able to enthrall folks with their stories, and those stories will get wide distribution, but the writers will get even less for their efforts than before, far less than they are worth. They’ll still get their accolades, but won’t be able to afford much, unless they sell out to the next tech or write a best-seller.

I’ll be able to move on from my job as a local newspaper editor and retire in the next half-dozen years of so. On the whole, our little weekly isn’t doing too badly, but the same economic pressures are there, and we’re seeing people do the same thing with newspapers that they are doing with the digital realm, heading towards the bullshit of fake news.

It may well be that the distribution of news will be enhanced with the advent of digital journalism, but I wonder of the sheer amount of bullshit that gets circulated will drown out the good stuff.

It may well be that the general public will wise up and recognize bullshit when they see it, but the election makes me doubt, deeply.

So, I’m melancholy.