Although I still have a second Bhutan installment to add, we had to drive into the frozen tundra of northern Wisconsin, here is our Christmas "letter" to everyone
Christmas letters are like children. They take a while to nurture, grow, and evolve into something…something that hopefully benefit society or at least amuse the reader. Whether one went everywhere and did everything OR went no where and did nothing, a good letter is on the presentation and not the substance. Letters are also all about the annual rite, the tradition and expectation of getting the latter in the mail and the process of doing them. I, for one, have been neglectful in recent years as life has tended to make me busy. For this I do apologize.
I always start the gathering of material for my Christmas letters slowly. First, we plan a trip shortly after Christmas the previous year which if it ends in a fiasco, can be conveniently excluded for the next Christmas letter. Take last year for example, we planned a trip to Tucson, a computer glitch occurred, and our flights were cancelled. We split up the next day in a second attempt to make it to warmer confines. Some of us made it and well, some of us did NOT. Then it rained in Tucson and some of us got COVID, but one thing good did come out of that trip. Being stranded in Chicago brought a welcome bonus. Silja found her missing binoculars lost from the post-Christmas trip the year before in Tyko’s car. Unfortunately, I had bought her a replacement pair for a Christmas gift.
Another tip to a good Christmas letter is to keep it light. Avoid illness and other maladies that may have plagued you during the year. We went to two funerals, but no one wants to hear that. Luckily, in 2022, was generally healthy for the five of us. I also think it is prudent if one has spent the bulk of the winter in the south to not brag about it. Most of our friends and family live up north where it is cold and snowy, especially when they will see this letter. Reminding them that we spent the winter in Florida is just bad form and possibly causing them discomfort.
The adolescence of 2022 began for us in April, we drove north, and went to Scotland and returned in May with just enough time to get to Lauren’s College graduation from Hamline University in St Paul. There were smiles and shouts all around when she crossed the stage to get her diploma. Sadly, after three and a half years at Hamline, her cat, Annie did not get her diploma. Apparently, she was a whisker away, having failed her class on mousing. Lauren started Dental School at the University of Minnesota this fall. At one point we had to transport pulled South Dakota teeth to her for practice. The things one has to do for children.
It was a glorious summer—long, and filled with family and visiting friends, even Camilla from Sweden. We went to Canada three times. Silja caught the largest fish, 40 ¾ inch northern pike. Allwin painted the most on our house. Tyko drove the farthest to visit from Chicago. Lauren made the largest sculpture, a ten-foot green dinosaur/ Pokémon now in the front yard of the cabin. There was a lot of creativity during the year. I wrote books and magazine articles, Silja weaved, and Lauren sculpted. Allwin made novel enzymes at his PhD program and Tyko, in his 3/4th year medical school in Chicago made diagnoses for many of the patients he was seeing with illness he’d never seen before.
It was a big year for Allwin, too, he graduated from University of Wisconsin with his PhD in Chemistry. Just because he could, Allwin took a post-doctoral fellowship at the Max Planck Institute in Jena Germany. He started this fall and will be overseas for two years. Possibly his inspiration was to avoid painting any more of the house.
It is not like Tyko has not been doing crazy things in the style that seems to be us. Medical School is a busy time not conducive to whims and fancies (autocorrect wanted for me to write “shims and pansies” but don’t let me get started on autocorrect nor pansies). His life is like ours was back in the day, lack of sleep, overwhelming material, and a feeling of being so low on the totem pole, you were superfluous, except he is in Chicago.
It is a vicious rumor that we plan adventures just to have things to be included in our Christmas letters. These “mock ordeals” of spending a year of “living biblically” by the Jewish rules, dressing up as a dog for the entire year, or eating just McDonald’s food are for others. Why would someone do a “big year” birding, or go to someplace like Bhutan to see as many phallic paintings and sculptures as they could? Well, we went to Bhutan last month and never saw anyone doing that.
The year matured into old age for us in Thailand and Bhutan in November. It was an epic four-week trip. It was the best of times, and the worst of times, but what was best or worst depended on how you looked at it and when. It was a trip of learning Buddhist culture, Thai and Bhutanese culture, spicy food, seeing cool birds, and having a nice idyl at a resort in Thailand. This compared to a near plane crash (well it seemed near at the time), salmonella, a suicide hike to a mountain temple, and 21,000 miles in the air. The memories of salmonella will always be there. Luckily, the suspicious package we were sitting next to in Tokyo did not do anything but remain suspicious. I saw a sign at the Calcutta airport along the way that said, “travel like you mean it.” Why would you travel like you did NOT mean it? I did not mean to get salmonella, but well, I ate the eggs, and stuff happens.
We came back to Florida, fought jetlag and then, possibly somewhat full of impulsivity, or maybe an illness, we had an offer accepted on a house last week. The house is a mile from our campsite in Florida, both are north of Tampa in a rather interesting community not unlike the RV park we are in. NO, we are not selling the RV, nor the lot. Everyone asks. We are still going to Big Bend this spring and parking it north of Minneapolis for the summer. We will also need to build a shed at Enemy Swim Lake this summer, and maybe eventually work on selling our Milbank house. Tyko graduates from medical school this spring in Chicago as well. There are many things to do next year hopefully providing much to write about next year.
We are driving north this week. I’m chasing a bird in Iowa if it is still around (it wasn't). I have books to pick up in Indiana, and we are going to South Dakota before the great family Christmas shuffle. Enjoying the holidays is always a process in logistics, weather forecasting, and sleeping in strange beds and cold rooms. We left the cats behind with Lauren this fall, and we need to get them back to the RV. It may make a story for a country song…a Volvo full of beef, cats, Christmas presents, and stuff we forgot to take with the RV—title: “Lost in Louisville” or maybe “Crazy in Chattanooga.” “Vomiting in Vidalia” is the most likely song title as the trip will be full of vomit and gnashing of teeth, hopefully mostly Tiger the cat’s.
I might add, Allwin dedicated his PhD thesis to his great grandmother Lucille Danielson, and this will be the fourth Christmas we are having without her. We have her meatballs but not her, and it just does not feel right.....a toast to her from me as well with a tear in my eye.
So, there it is, another Christmas letter. Merry Christmas from the Clan of Daniel, Olaf, Silja (Sarah), Allwin, Tyko (Seth), and Lauren.