Our memories here begin with our first Christmas in the valley, which was bitterly cold with mountains of snow that piled up on the ground until spring. The temperature dropped to 22 degrees below zero several nights that December, but our young family chained up the truck and headed to the mountains in search of the perfect Christmas tree. We would usually go to a tree farm when we lived in California and pick out and cut our own manicured tree, but that experience was not quite the same as going up to the forest in waist-deep snow and selecting one in the wild with its natural imperfections. In recent years, we no longer brave the elements on the mountain for a tree but erect and decorate an artificial evergreen instead.
For several years in the early 1980s a Castle Valley couple would cut a huge tree to be placed in the spacious living room of their home that is now owned by Ed Derderian and Ann Goodenough. One year, the tree was so large that is appeared to consume the pickup truck that was carrying it down off the mountain. After setting it up, they would invite the community over for a potluck dinner and decorating party with homemade decorations furnished by the participants. Everyone enjoyed the evening and it created fond memories for our family.
Like years past, the Castle Valley LDS Church hosted their annual Christmas dinner last week. The traditional event was well-attended by members of the community. The LDS Church members, the Day Star Academy students, as well as other families and groups usually organize troupes of carolers to spread the joy of the season to their friends and neighbors across the valley.
And speaking of the Day Star Academy, their gifted choir and musicians have traditionally hosted a Christmas concert for the members of the community. The first time was probably around 1969, when the concert was staged in the basement of the chapel while it was still under construction. They spread straw on the dirt floor to help stem the bitter cold, but those humble beginnings provided a beautiful and sacred event much like the humble birth of the Savior in more ancient times. That tradition continues this week when they presented the program Wednesday, December 19 beginning at 7 p.m., followed with refreshments.
One year, Pat and I made a nativity scene cut from plywood and fashioned like the Precious Moments characters, and we displayed that outside for several years. But because of our remoteness, very few people actually saw it, so the nativity scene now resides on our daughter and son-in-law’s front lawn in Moab. Other years, our house has been decorated with enough Christmas lights that it could be seen from the next county, but lately, I choose to not risk life and limb by climbing all over the house stringing the lights.
The recent storms would have normally dumped a lot of snow in the valley in years past. In fact, we’ve had only a skiff of snow as of Dec. 18, which indicates the warming trend that we are experiencing. Normally, our delivery people would have an extra load of packages and slick roads to contend with at this time of year. Damian Bollermann and I were reminiscing the other day of the year he was apparently overcome with the spirit of the season and volunteered to deliver packages to the steep hillside homes for the FedEx driver. He also pulled the propane guy out of the ditch one year because of snow and slick roads. We owe these people who brave our roads, weather, and sometime lack of a visible addresses a big debt of gratitude for the service they render to us here in the valley.
More people used to send Christmas cards in past years than they do now. As a printer, I used to create custom cards or a Christmas newspaper to send out to friends and relatives at this time of year, but now people prefer to send emails or e-cards instead. Our part-time neighbor, Ric Fornelius, is an avid watercolor artist who sends out a custom Christmas card every year. This year’s creation was painted from the window of his Castle Valley home and captures his decorated outdoor Christmas tree with Castle Rock in the background. We appreciate receiving them and look forward to them every year.
Another tradition that has been going on in the valley for a while is the National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. Since the Christmas Bird Count began nationally over a century ago, it has relied on the dedication and commitment of volunteer citizen scientists. It provides critical data on population trends of birds. Nationally, the count runs from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5 and locally the count will be Jan. 5. Alice Drogin is seeking volunteers to accompany her in the count in this area. Contact her at 259-8274 to sign up for this important service.
My hope and wish is that your Christmas will be filled with memories this week and the sacred season will fill your heart with love and compassion.