The Yule Log Adventures - Christmas stories for all






Kid Friendly Stories
UHD book reading video TBA
Short stories collection (Weekend read)
Christmas is by many looked upon as a happening of religious meaning, a Christian thing and nothing more according to some. And that is as good a reason to celebrate christmas as any other. But that was never the only Christmas, or even the origin of xmas.

It´s simply your day to enjoy and celebrate as yet another year in the cycle of life completes and starts anew, to enjoy whatever way you enjoy it and no matter who you are,or what you believe in.

So, merry Christmas and a happy xmas to you all, no matter origin, beliefs, culture and language. Christmas is yours to enjoy your way and for your reasons.

So have a good one, without grief, without concern, without bickering and stress. Because you enjoying a pleasant day of giving and recieving. You enjoying life by yourself or with the people you love, that is truly what christmas is about, a celebration of life and the circle of night and day, dark and light. Winter and Summer, solstice, ice and snow and all.

The Yule log Adventures is simply a collection of xmas stories reflecting that myriad of reasons as to why you should and could celebrate christmas.

Some are written by me, while other stories was written by writers that came before me.

Enjoy the read and day.

Photography and web adaptation, and in parts, written by Mike Koontz
2015, a Norse View Imaging and Publishing



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To the daisy that is my sun and inspiration






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swans


[and affairs

Santas snow ]





Count Rostow's affairs were going from bad to worse. He was of a warm, generous nature, with unlimited faith in his servants, and hence was blind to the mismanagement and dishonesty which had sapped his fortune. The possessor of a handsome establishment at the Russian capital, Moscow, the owner of rich provincial estates, and the inheritor of a noble name and wealth, he was nevertheless on the verge of ruin. He had given up his appointment as Maréchal de la Noblesse, which he had gone to his seat of Otradnoë to assume, because it entailed too many expenses; and yet there was no improvement in the state of his finances.

Nicolas and Natacha, his son and daughter, often found their father and mother in anxious consultation, talking in low tones of the sale of their Moscow house or of their property in the neighborhood. Having thus retired into private life, the count now gave neither fêtes nor entertainments. Life at Otradnoë was much less gay than in past years; still, the house and domain were as full of servants as ever, and twenty persons or more sat down to dinner daily. These were dependants, friends, and intimates, who were regarded almost as part of the family, or at any rate seemed unable to tear themselves away from it: among them a musician named Dimmler and his wife, Ioghel the dancing-master and his family, and old Mlle. Bélow, former governess of Natacha and Sonia, the count's niece and adopted child, and now the tutor of Pétia, his younger son; besides others who found it simpler to live at the count's expense than at their own. Thus, though there were no more festivities, life was carried on almost as expensively as of old, and neither the master nor the mistress ever imagined any change possible. Nicolas, again, had added to the hunting establishment; there were still fifty horses in the stables, still fifteen drivers; handsome presents were given on all birthdays and fête days, which invariably wound up as of old with a grand dinner to all the neighborhood; the count still played whist or boston, invariably letting his cards be seen by his friends, who were always ready to make up his table, and relieve him without hesitation of the few hundred roubles which constituted their principal income. The old man marched on blindfold through the tangle of his pecuniary difficulties, trying to conceal them, and only succeeding in augmenting them; having neither the courage nor the patience to untie the knots one by one. The loving heart by his side foresaw their children's ruin, but she could not accuse her husband, who was, alas! too old for amendment; she could only seek some remedy for the disaster. From her woman's point of view there was but one: Nicolas's marriage, namely, with some rich heiress. She clung desperately to this last chance of salvation; but if her son should refuse the wife she should propose to him, every hope of reinstating their fortune would vanish. The young lady whom she had in view was the daughter of people of the highest respectability, whom the Rostows had known from her infancy: Julie Karaguine, who, by the death of her second brother, had suddenly come into great wealth.

The countess herself wrote to Mme. Karaguine to ask her whether she could regard the match with favor, and received a most flattering answer. Indeed, Mme. Karaguine invited Nicolas to her house at Moscow, to give her daughter an opportunity of deciding for herself. Nicolas had often heard his mother say, with tears in her eyes, that her dearest wish was to see him married. The fulfilment of this wish would sweeten her remaining days, she would say, adding covert hints as to a charming girl who would exactly suit him. One day she took the opportunity of speaking plainly to him of Julie's charms and merits, and urged him to spend a short time in Moscow before Christmas. Nicolas, who had no difficulty in guessing what she was aiming at, persuaded her to be explicit on the matter, and she owned frankly that her hope was to see their sinking fortunes restored by his marriage with her dear Julie!


"Then, mother, if I loved a penniless girl, you would desire me to sacrifice my feelings and my honor—to marry solely for money?"




beneath the birch trees and raven filled gray skies



"Nay, nay; you have misunderstood me," she said, not knowing how to excuse her mercenary hopes. "I wish only for your happiness!" And then, conscious that this was not her sole aim, and that she was not perfectly honest, she burst into tears. "Do not cry, mamma; you have only to say that you really and truly desire it, and you know I would give my life to see you happy; that I would sacrifice everything, even my feelings."

But this was not his mother's notion. She asked no sacrifice, she would have none; she would sooner have sacrificed herself, if it had been possible.

"Say no more about it; you do not understand," she said, drying away her tears.
"How could she think of such a marriage?" thought Nicolas. "Does she think that because Sonia is poor I do not love her? And yet I should be a thousand times happier with her than with a doll like Julie."


He stayed in the country, and his mother did not revert to the subject. Still, as she saw the growing intimacy between Nicolas and Sonia, she could not help worrying Sonia about every little thing, and speaking to her with colder formality. Sometimes she reproached herself for these continual pin-pricks of annoyance, and was quite vexed with the poor girl for submitting to them with such wonderful humility and sweetness, for taking every opportunity of showing her devoted gratitude, and for loving Nicolas with a faithful and disinterested affection which commanded her admiration. Just about this time a letter came from Prince André, dated from Rome, whither he had gone to pass the year of probation demanded by his father as a condition to giving consent to his son's marriage with the Countess Natacha. It was the fourth the Prince had written since his departure. He ought long since to have been on his way home, he said, but the heat of the summer had caused the wound he had received at Austerlitz to reopen, and this compelled him to postpone his return till early in January.

Happy dreams are fueled by love

Natacha, though she was so much in love that her very passion for Prince André had made her day-dreams happy, had hitherto been open to all the bright influences of her young life; but now, after nearly four months of parting, she fell into a state of extreme melancholy, and gave way to it completely. She bewailed her hard fate, she bewailed the time that was slipping away and lost to her, while her heart ached with the dull craving to love and be loved. Nicolas, too, had nearly spent his leave from his regiment, and the anticipation of his departure added gloom to the saddened household.

Christmas came; but, excepting the pompous high Mass and the other religious ceremonies, the endless string of neighbors and servants with the regular compliments of the season, and the new gowns which made their first appearance on the occasion, nothing more than usual happened on that day, or more extraordinary than twenty degrees of frost, with brilliant sunshine, a still atmosphere, and at night a glorious starry sky. After dinner, on the third day of Christmas-tide, when every one had settled into his own corner once more, ennui reigned supreme throughout the house. Nicolas, who had been paying a round of visits in the neighborhood, was fast asleep in the drawing-room. The old count had followed his example in his room. Sonia, seated at a table in the sitting-room, was copying a drawing. The countess was playing out a "patience," and Nastacia Ivanovna, the old buffoon, with his peevish face, sitting in a window with two old women, did not say a word. Natacha came into the room, and, after leaning over Sonia for a minute or two to examine her work, went over to her mother and stood still in front of her.

The countess looked up. "Why are you wandering about like a soul in torment? What do you want?" she said.
"Want! I want him!" replied Natacha, shortly, and her eyes glowed. "Now, here—at once!"

Her mother gazed at her anxiously.

"Do not look at me like that; you will make me cry."
"Sit down here."
"Mamma, I want him, I want him! Why must I die of weariness?" Her voice broke and tears started from her eyes. She hastily quitted the drawing-room and went to the housekeeper's room, where an old servant was scolding one of the girls who had just come in breathless from out-of-doors.
"There is a time for all things," growled the old woman. "You have had time enough for play."
"Oh, leave her in peace, Kondratievna," said Natacha. "Run away, Mavroucha—go."

Pursuing her wandering, Natacha went into the hall; an old man-servant was playing cards with two of the boys. Her entrance stopped their game and they rose. "And what am I to say to these?" thought she.

"Nikita, would you please go—what on earth can I ask for?—go and find me a cock; and you, Micha, a handful of corn."
"A handful of corn?" said Micha, laughing.
"Go, go at once," said the old man.
"And you, Fédor, can you give me a piece of chalk?"

Then she went on to the servants' hall and ordered the samovar to be got ready, though it was not yet tea-time; she wanted to try her power over Foka, the old butler, the most morose and disobliging of all the servants.

He could not believe his ears, and asked her if she really meant it. "What next will our young lady want?" muttered Foka, affecting to be very cross.
No one gave so many orders as Natacha, no one sent them on so many errands at once. As soon as a servant came in sight she seemed to invent some want or message; she could not help it. It seemed as though she wanted to try her power over them; to see whether, some fine day, one or another would not rebel against her tyranny; but, on the contrary, they always flew to obey her more readily than any one else.

"And now what shall I do, where can I go?" thought she, as she slowly went along the corridor, where she presently met the buffoon.
"Nastacia Ivanovna," said she, "if I ever have children, what will they be?"
"You! Fleas and grasshoppers, you may depend upon it!"
Natacha went on. "Good God! have mercy, have mercy!" she said to herself. "Wherever I go it is always, always the same. I am so weary; what shall I do?"

Skipping lightly from step to step, she went to the upper story and dropped in on the Ioghels. Two governesses were sitting chatting with M. and Mme. Ioghel; dessert, consisting of dried fruit, was on the table, and they were eagerly discussing the cost of living at Moscow and Odessa. Natacha took a seat for a moment, listened with pensive attention, and then jumped up again. "The island of Madagascar!" she murmured, "Ma-da-gas-car!" and she separated the syllables. Then she left the room without answering Mme. Schoss, who was utterly mystified by her strange exclamation.
She next met Pétia and a companion, both very full of some fireworks which were to be let off that evening. "Pétia!" she exclaimed, "carry me down-stairs!" And she sprang upon his back, throwing her arms round his neck; and, laughing and galloping, they thus scrambled along to the head of the stairs.

"Thank you, that will do. Madagascar!" she repeated; and, jumping down, she ran down the flight.

After thus inspecting her dominions, testing her power, and convincing herself that her subjects were docile, and that there was no novelty to be got out of them, Natacha settled herself in the darkest corner of the music-room with her guitar, striking the bass strings, and trying to make an accompaniment to an air from an opera that she and Prince André had once heard together at St. Petersburg. The uncertain chords which her unpractised fingers sketched out would have struck the least experienced ear as wanting in harmony and musical accuracy, while to her excited imagination they brought a whole train of memories. Leaning against the wall and half hidden by a cabinet, with her eyes fixed on a thread of light that came under the door from the rooms beyond, she listened in ecstasy and dreamed of the past. Sonia crossed the room with a glass in her hand. Natacha glanced round at her and again fixed her eyes on the streak of light. She had the strange feeling of having once before gone through the same experience—sat in the same place, surrounded by the same details, and watching Sonia pass carrying a tumbler. "Yes, it was exactly the same," she thought.

"Sonia, what is this tune?" she said, playing a few notes.
"What, are you there?" said Sonia, startled. "I do not know," she said, coming closer to listen, "unless it is from 'La Tempête';" but she spoke doubtfully.
"It was exactly so," thought Natacha. "She started as she came forward, smiling so gently; and I thought then, as I think now, that there is something in her which is quite lacking in me. No," she said aloud, "you are quite out; it is the chorus from the 'Porteur d'Eau'—listen," and she hummed the air. "Where are you going?"
"For some fresh water to finish my drawing."
"You are always busy and I never. Where is Nicolas?"
"Asleep, I think."
"Go and wake him, Sonia. Tell him to come and sing."

Sonia went, and Natacha relapsed into dreaming and wondering how it had all happened. Not being able to solve the puzzle, she drifted into reminiscence once more. She could see him—him—and feel his impassioned eyes fixed on her face. "Oh, make haste back! I am so afraid he will not come yet! Besides, it is all very well, but I am growing old; I shall be quite different from what I am now! Who knows? Perhaps he will come to-day! Perhaps he is here already! Here in the drawing-room. Perhaps he came yesterday and I have forgotten." She rose, laid down the guitar, and went into the next room. All the household party were seated round the tea-table,—the professors, the governesses, the guests; the servants were waiting on one and another—but there was no Prince André.

"Ah, here she is," said her father. "Come and sit down here." But Natacha stopped by her mother without heeding his bidding.
"Oh, mamma, bring him to me, give him to me soon, very soon," she murmured, swallowing down a sob. Then she sat down and listened to the others. "Good God! always the same people! always the same thing! Papa holds his cup as he always does, and blows his tea to cool it as he did yesterday, and as he will to-morrow."

She felt a sort of dull rebellion against them all; she hated them for always being the same.
After tea Sonia, Natacha, and Nicolas huddled together in their favorite, snug corner of the drawing-room; that was where they talked freely to each other.

"Do you ever feel," Natacha asked her brother, "as if there was nothing left to look forward to; as if you had had all your share of happiness, and were not so much weary as utterly dull?"
"Of course I have. Very often I have seen my friends and fellow-officers in the highest spirits and been just as jolly myself, and suddenly have been struck so dull and dismal, have so hated life, that I have wondered whether we were not all to die at once. I remember one day, for instance, when I was with the regiment; the band was playing, and I had such a fit of melancholy that I never even thought of going to the promenade."
"How well I understand that! I recollect once," Natacha went on, "once when I was a little girl, I was punished for having eaten some plums, I think. I had not done it, and you were all dancing, and I was left alone in the school-room. How I cried! cried because I was so sorry for myself, and so vexed with you all for making me so unhappy."
"I remember; and I went to comfort you and did not know how; we were funny children then; I had a toy with bells that jingled, and I made you a present of it."
"Do you remember," said Natacha, "long before that, another Christmas eve, when we were no bigger than my hand, my uncle called us into his room, where it was quite dark, and suddenly we saw——"
"White gleaming teeth and eyes!" interrupted Nicolas, smiling at her recollection.
"To be sure. I can see him now; and to this day I wonder whether it was a dream or a reality, or mere fancy invented afterwards."
"He had white teeth and stared at us with his white santa eyes."

"Do you remember him, Sonia? The long white hair and all."
"Yes, yes—but very dimly. I remember all the gifts he left behind, those I remember vividly"
"But papa and mamma have always declared that no santa ever came to the house that winter. And the eggs; do you remember the eggs we used to roll up at Easter; and one day how two little grinning old women came up through the floor and began to spin round the table?"
"Of course. And how papa used to put on his fur coat and fire off his gun from the balcony. And don t you remember——?" And so they went on recalling, one after the other, not the bitter memories of old age, but the bright pictures of early childhood, which float and fade on a distant horizon of poetic vagueness, midway between reality and dreams.

Sonia remembered being frightened once at the sight of Nicolas in his braided jacket, and her nurse promising her that she should some day have a frock trimmed from top to bottom.
"And they told me you had been found in the garden under a cabbage," said Natacha. "I dared not say it was not true, but it puzzled me tremendously."

A door opened, and a woman put in her head, exclaiming, "Mademoiselle, mademoiselle, they have fetched the cock!"
"I do not want it now; send it away again, Polia." said Natacha.

Dimmler, who had meanwhile come into the room, went up to the harp, which stood in a corner, and in taking off the cover made the strings ring discordantly.

"Edward Karlovitch, play my favorite nocturne—Field's," cried the countess, from the adjoining room.

Dimmler struck a chord. "How quiet you young people are," he said, addressing them.
"Yes, we are studying philosophy," said Natacha, and they went on talking of their dreams.

Dimmler had no sooner begun his nocturne than Natacha, crossing the room on tiptoe, seized the wax-light that was burning on the table and carried it into the next room; then she stole back to her seat, it was now quite dark in the larger room, especially in their corner, but the silvery moonbeams came in at the wide windows and lay in broad sheets on the floor.

"Do you know," whispered Natacha, while Dimmler, after playing the nocturne, let his fingers wander over the strings, uncertain what to play next, "when I go on remembering one thing beyond another, I go back so far, so far, that at last I remember things that happened before I was born, and——"
"That is metempsychosis," interrupted Sonia, with a reminiscence of her early lessons. "The Egyptians believed that our souls had once inhabited the bodies of animals, and would return to animals again after our death."
"I do not believe that," said Natacha, still in a low voice, though the music had ceased. "But I am quite sure that we were angels once, somewhere there beyond, or, perhaps, even here; and that is the reason we remember a previous existence."
"May I join the party?" asked Dimmler, coming towards them.
"If we were once angels, how is it that we have fallen lower?"
"Lower? Who says that it is lower? Who knows what I was?" Natacha retorted with full conviction. "Since the soul is immortal, and I am to live forever in the future, I must have existed in the past, so I have eternity behind me, too."
"Yes; but it is very difficult to conceive of that eternity," said Dimmler, whose ironical smile had died away.
"Why?" asked Natacha. "After to-day comes to-morrow, and then the day after, and so on forever; yesterday has been, to-morrow will be——"
"Natacha, now it is your turn; sing me something," said her mother. "What are you doing in that corner like a party of conspirators?"
"I am not at all in the humor, mamma," said she; nevertheless she rose. Nicolas sat down to the piano; and standing, as usual, in the middle of the room, where the voice sounded best, she sang her mother's favorite ballad.

Though she had said she was not in the humor, it was long since Natacha had sung so well as she did that evening, and long before she sang so well again. Her father, who was talking over business with Mitenka in his room, hurriedly gave him some final instructions as soon as he heard the first note, as a schoolboy scrambles through his tasks to get to his play; but as the steward did not go, he sat in silence, listening, while Mitenka, too, standing in his presence, listened with evident satisfaction. Nicolas did not take his eyes off his sister's face, and only breathed when she took breath. Sonia was under the spell of that exquisite voice and thinking of the gulf of difference that lay between her and her friend, full conscious that she could never exercise such fascination. The old countess had paused in her "patience,"—a sad, fond smile played on her lips, her eyes were full of tears, and she shook her head, remembering her own youth, looking forward to her daughter's future and reflecting on her strange prospects of marriage.
Dimmler, sitting by her side, listened with rapture, his eyes half closed.
"She really has a marvellous gift!" he exclaimed. "She has nothing to learn,—such power, such sweetness, such roundness!"
"And how much I fear for her happiness!" replied the countess, who in her mother's heart could feel the flame that must some day be fatal to her child's peace.
Natacha was still singing when Pétia dashed noisily into the room to announce, in triumphant tones, that a party of mummers had come.

"Idiot!" exclaimed Natacha, stopping short, and, dropping into a chair, she began to sob so violently that it was some time before she could recover herself. "It is nothing, mamma, really nothing at all," she declared, trying to smile. "Only Pétia frightened me; nothing more." And her tears flowed afresh.

All the servants had dressed up, some as bears, Turks, tavern-keepers, or fine ladies; others as mongrel monsters. Bringing with them the chill of the night outside, they did not at first venture any farther than the hall; by degrees, however, they took courage; pushing each other forward for self-protection, they all soon came into the music-room. Once there, their shyness thawed; they became expansively merry, and singing, dancing, and sports were soon the order of the day. The countess, after looking at them and identifying them all, went back into the sitting-room, leaving her husband, whose jovial face encouraged them to enjoy themselves. The young people had all vanished; but half an hour later an old marquise with patches appeared on the scene—none other than Nicolas; Pétia as a Turk; a clown—Dimmler; a hussar—Natacha; and a Circassian—Sonia. Both the girls had blackened their eyebrows and given themselves mustaches with burned cork. After being received with well-feigned surprise, and recognized more or less quickly, the children, who were very proud of their costumes, unanimously declared that they must go and display them elsewhere. Nicolas, who was dying to take them all for a long drive en troïka,[C] proposed that, as the roads were in splendid order, they should go, a party of ten, to the Little Uncle's.

A team of three horses harnessed abreast.

"You will disturb the old man, and that will be all," said the countess. "Why, he has not even room for you all to get into the house! If you must go out, you had better go to the Mélukows'."

Mme. Mélukow was a widow living in the neighborhood; her house, full of children of all ages, with tutors and governesses, was distant only four versts from Otradnoë.

"A capital idea, my dear," cried the count, enchanted. "I will dress up in costume and go, too. I will wake them up, I warrant you!"

But this did not at all meet his wife's views. Perfect madness! For him to go out with his gouty feet in such cold weather was sheer folly! The count gave way, and Mme. Schoss volunteered to chaperon the girls. Sonia's was by far the most successful disguise; her fierce eyebrows and mustache were wonderfully becoming, her pretty features gained expression, and she wore the dress of a man with unexpected swagger and smartness. Something in her inmost soul told her that this evening would seal her fate.




































Horses


[three, a dragon

atop

the tree]





Pélaguéïa Danilovna Mélukow, a stout and commanding personality, in spectacles and a flowing dressing-gown, was sitting in her drawing-room surrounded by her children, whom she was doing her best to amuse by modelling heads in wax and tracing the shadows they cast on the wall, when steps and voices were heard in the ante-room. Hussars, witches, clowns, and bears were rubbing their faces, which were scorched by the cold and covered with rime, or shaking the snow off their clothes. As soon as they had cast off their furs they rushed into the large drawing-room, which was hastily lighted up. Dimmler, the clown, and Nicolas, the marquise, performed a dance, while the others stood close along the wall, the children shouting and jumping about them with glee.

"It is impossible to know who is who—can that really be Natacha? Look at her; does not she remind you of some one? Edward, before Karlovitch, how fine you are! and how beautifully you dance! Oh! and that splendid Circassian—why, it is Sonia! What a kind and delightful surprise; we were so desperately dull. Ha, ha! what a beautiful hussar! A real hussar, or a real monkey of a boy—which is he, I wonder? I cannot look at you without laughing." They all shouted and laughed and talked at once, at the top of their voices.

Natacha, to whom the Mélukows were devoted, soon vanished with them to their own room, where corks and various articles of men's clothing were brought to them, and clutched by bare arms through a half-open door. Ten minutes later all the young people of the house rejoined the company, equally unrecognizable. Pélaguéïa Danilovna, going and coming among them all, with her spectacles on her nose and a quiet smile, had seats arranged and a supper laid out for the visitors, masters and servants alike. She looked straight in the face of each in turn, recognizing no one of the motley crew—neither the Rostows, nor Dimmler, nor even her own children, nor any of the clothes they figured in.

"That one, who is she?" she asked the governess, stopping a Kazan Tartar, who was, in fact, her own daughter. "One of the Rostows, is it not? And you, gallant hussar, what regiment do you belong to?" she went on, addressing Natacha. "Give some pastila to this Turkish lady," she cried to the butler; "it is not forbidden by her religion, I believe."

At the sight of some of the reckless dancing which the mummers performed under the shelter of their disguise, Pélaguéïa Danilovna could not help hiding her face in her handkerchief, while her huge person shook with uncontrollable laughter—the laugh of a kindly matron, frankly jovial and gay. When they had danced all the national dances, ending with the Horovody, she placed every one, both masters and servants, in a large circle, holding a cord with a ring and a rouble, and for a while they played games. An hour after, when the finery was the worse for wear and heat and laughter had removed much of the charcoal, Pélaguéïa Danilovna could recognize them, compliment the girls on the success of their disguise, and thank the whole party for the amusement they had given her. Supper was served for the company in the drawing-room, and for the servants in the large dining-room.


"You should try your fortune in the bathroom over there; that is enough to frighten you!" said an old maid who lived with the Mélukows.
"Why?" said the eldest girl.
"Oh! you would never dare to do it; you must be very brave."
"Well, I will go," said Sonia.
"Tell us what happened to that young girl, you know," said the youngest Mélukow.
"Once a young girl went to the bath, taking with her a cock and two plates with knives and forks, which is what you must do; and she waited. Suddenly she heard horses' bells—some one was coming; he stopped, came up-stairs, and she saw an officer walk into the room; a real live officer—at least so he seemed—who sat down opposite to her where the second cover was laid."
"Oh! how horrible!" exclaimed Natacha, wide-eyed. "And he spoke to her—really spoke?"
"Yes, just as if he had really been a man. He begged and prayed her to listen to him, and all she had to do was to refuse him and hold out till the cock crowed; but she was too much frightened. She covered her face with her hands, and he clasped her in his arms; luckily some girls who were on the watch rushed in when she screamed."
"Why do you terrify them with such nonsense?" said Pélaguéïa Danilovna.
"But, mamma, you know you wanted to try your fortune too."
"And if you try your fortune in a barn, what do you do?" asked Sonia.
"That is quite simple. You must go to the barn—now, for instance—and listen. If you hear thrashing, it is for ill-luck; if you hear grain dropping, that is good."
"Tell us, mother, what happened to you in the barn."
"It is so long ago," said the mother, with a smile, "that I have quite forgotten; besides, not one of you is brave enough to try it."
"Yes, I will go," said Sonia. "Let me go."
"Go by all means if you are not afraid."
"May I, Madame Schoss?" said Sonia to the governess.

Now, whether playing games or sitting quietly and chatting, Nicolas had not left Sonia's side the whole evening; he felt as if he had seen her for the first time, and only just now appreciated all her merits. Bright, bewitchingly pretty in her quaint costume, and excited as she very rarely was, she had completely fascinated him.

"What a simpleton I must have been!" thought he, responding in thought to those sparkling eyes and that triumphant smile which had revealed to him a little dimple at the tip of her mustache that he had never observed before.
"I am afraid of nothing," she declared. She rose, asked her way, precisely, to the barn, and every detail as to what she was to expect, waiting there in total silence; then she threw a fur cloak over her shoulders, glanced at Nicolas, and went on.

She went along the corridor and down the back-stairs; while Nicolas, saying that the heat of the room was too much for him, slipped out by the front entrance. It was as cold as ever, and the moon seemed to be shining even more brightly than before. The snow at her feet was strewn with stars, while their sisters overhead twinkled in the deep gloom of the sky, and she soon looked away from them, back to the gleaming earth in its radiant mantle of ermine. Nicolas hurried across the hall, turned the corner of the house, and went past the side door where Sonia was to come out. Half-way to the barn stacks of wood, in the full moonlight, threw their shadows on the path, and beyond, an alley of lime-trees traced a tangled pattern on the snow with the fine crossed lines of their leafless twigs. The beams of the house and its snow-laden roof looked as if they had been hewn out of a block of opal, with iridescent lights where the facets caught the silvery moonlight. Suddenly a bough fell crashing off a tree in the garden; then all was still again. Sonia's heart beat high with gladness; as if she were drinking in not common air, but some life-giving elixir of eternal youth and joy.

"Straight on, if you please, miss, and on no account look behind you."
"I am not afraid," said Sonia, her little shoes tapping the stone steps and then crunching the carpet of snow as she ran to meet Nicolas, who was within a couple of yards of her. And yet not the Nicolas of every-day life. What had transfigured him so completely? Was it his woman's costume with frizzed-out hair, or was it that radiant smile which he so rarely wore, and which at this moment illumined his face?
"But Sonia is quite unlike herself, and yet she is herself," thought Nicolas on his side, looking down at the sweet little face in the moonlight. He slipped his arms under the fur cloak that wrapped her, and drew her to him, and he kissed her lips, which still tasted of the burned cork that had blackened her mustache.
"Nicolas—Sonia," they whispered; and Sonia put her little hands round his face. Then, hand in hand, they ran to the barn and back, and each went in by the different doors they had come out of.

Natacha, who had noted everything, managed so that she, Mme. Schoss, and Dimmler should return in one sleigh, while the maids went with Nicolas and Sonia in another. Nicolas was in no hurry to get home; he could not help looking at Sonia and trying to find under her disguise the true Sonia—his Sonia, from whom nothing now could ever part him. The magical effects of moonlight, the remembrance of that kiss on her sweet lips, the dizzy flight of the snow-clad ground under the horses' hoofs, the black sky, studded with diamonds, that bent over their heads, the icy air that seemed to give vigor to his lungs—all was enough to make him fancy that they were transported to a land of magic.




Beneath the wintry sun, the Oaken trees of your forest



"Sonia, are you not cold?"
"No; and you?"

Nicolas pulled up, and giving the reins to a man to drive, he ran back to the sleigh in which Natacha was sitting.
"Listen," he said, in a whisper and in French; "I have made up my mind to tell Sonia."
"And you have spoken to her?" exclaimed Natacha, radiant with joy.
"Oh, Natacha, how queer that mustache makes you look! Are you glad?"
"Glad! I am delighted. I did not say anything, you know, but I have been so vexed with you. She is a jewel, a heart of gold. I—I am often naughty, and I have no right to have all the happiness to myself now. Go, go back to her."
"No. Wait one minute. Mercy, how funny you look!" he repeated, examining her closely and discovering in her face, too, an unwonted tenderness and emotion that struck him deeply. "Natacha, is there not some magic at the bottom of it all, heh?"
"You have acted very wisely. Go."
"If I had ever seen Natacha look as she does at this moment I should have asked her advice and have obeyed her, whatever she had bid me do; and all would have gone well. So you are glad?" he said, aloud. "I have done right?"
"Yes, yes, of course you have! I was quite angry with mamma the other day about you two. Mamma would have it that Sonia was running after you. I will not allow any one to say—no, nor even to think—any evil of her, for she is sweetness and truth itself."
"So much the better." Nicolas jumped down and in a few long strides overtook his own sleigh, where the little Circassian received him with a smile from under the fur hood; and the Circassian was Sonia, and Sonia beyond a doubt would be his beloved little wife!
When they got home the two girls went into the countess's room and gave her an account of their expedition; then they went to bed. Without stopping to wipe off their mustaches they stood chattering as they undressed; they had so much to say of their happiness, their future prospects, the friendship between their husbands:

"But, oh! when will it all be? I am so afraid it will never come to pass," said Natacha, as she went toward a table on which two looking-glasses stood.
"Sit down," said Sonia, "and look in the glass; perhaps you will see something about it." Natacha lighted two pairs of candles and seated herself. "I certainly see a pair of mustaches," she said, laughing.
"You should not laugh," said the maid, very gravely.

Natacha settled herself to gaze without blinking into the mirror; she put on a solemn face and sat in silence for some time, wondering what she should see. Would a coffin rise before her, or would Prince André presently stand revealed against the confused background in the shining glass? Her eyes were weary and could hardly distinguish even the flickering light of the candles. But with the best will in the world she could see nothing; not a spot to suggest the image either of a coffin or of a human form. She rose.

"Why do other people see things and I never see anything at all? Take my place, Sonia; you must look for yourself and for me, too. I am so frightened; if I could but know!"
Sonia sat down and fixed her eyes on the mirror.

"Sofia Alexandrovna will be sure to see something," whispered Douniacha; "but you always are laughing at such things." Sonia heard the remark and Natacha's whispered reply: "Yes, she is sure to see something; she did last year." Three minutes they waited in total silence. "She is sure to see something," Natacha repeated, trembling.

Sonia started back, covered her face with one hand, and cried out:
"Natacha!"
"You saw something? What did you see?" And Natacha rushed forward to hold up the glass.

But Sonia had seen nothing; her eyes were getting dim, and she was on the point of giving it up when Natacha's exclamation had stopped her; she did not want to disappoint them; but there is nothing so tiring as sitting motionless.

She did not know why she had called out and hidden her face.
"Did you see him?" asked Natacha.
"Yes; stop a minute. I saw him," said Sonia, not quite sure who "him" was to mean.
"Why not make them believe that I saw something?" she thought.
"A great many people have done so before, and no one can prove the contrary. Yes, I saw him," she repeated.
"How? standing up or lying down?"
"I saw him—at first there was nothing; then suddenly I saw him laying down a big sack."
"André, lying down? Then he is ill!" And Natacha gazed horror-stricken at her companion.
"Not at all; it was not André, it was Santa, you remember those gleeming white teeth? He seemed quite cheerful, on the contrary not menacing at all," said she, beginning to believe in her own inventions.
"And then—Sonia, what then?"
"Then I saw only confusion—red and blue and in a whirl of colors he was gone, leaving not a trace behind."
"And when will he come back, Sonia? When shall I see him again? O God! I am so afraid of him — afraid of everything."
And, without listening to Sonia's muttering, Natacha slipped into bed, and, long after the lights were out, she lay motionless but awake, her eyes fixed on the moonshine that came dimly through the frost-embroidered windows, wondering and waiting for the day the real santa would come back.




































winter


[had

arrived]





These are a random few moments, lived by us and brought to you by the winds and the stars from the place where we live together with a little mouse that lives inside of our walls. Here, where we wander, at this solemn place, sometimes we play for a while, in the snow that falls under the shooting stars.

This is my story, true to life and told to you, as I once told, a mind and girly soul, so beautiful.

Inside the walls of our homes and lives, there are undraped windows through which we all see both in and out, and at night I find myself looking both out and up together with you. Tonight, a shooting star stirs and moves the northern lights. Like a spoon through water, it moves before our eyes through the sea of the dancing greens. The star is clear as day yet slightly obfuscated through the sheets of the old and ever changing glass that is our windows, outside the world is silent and it could be a dream as we witness the star cut through the puffy clouds, not a sound is heard but the crackling of frost and falling snow.

And at night.
Some other times, there we are, walking through life's small moments and we are holding hands as a leafy flake of snow grace like falls between the barren branches. It floats without a sound towards the ground from the clouds high up above, and with a smile on our faces, it comes to a halt, right at the tip of your nose, just as another flake lands upon your eyelashes.

I kiss it away.


Crunching snow
birds, their muted song

Together, we stand outside having walked amongst the falling leafs and the subtle snow. Rain or sunshine matters not for us. Sometimes the sun will rise, lifting the world with its light, the essence of life that filters so sensually through the evergreens.

But today, it is night. Night and winter and the warmth of spring is so far away.
The squirrels are fat and warm tonight, tucked up inside their pine-tree home.

We walk together not far from their own happy home.

Looking in, through the of night, all chilly frosty glass, the burning lamps, and the pleasant light. The warmth that moves and lives inside those walls. Behind the frosty windows and chick curtains. Is it empty we ask out loud, or is there someone looking out? Back at us. Do they hear our silent minds, can they feel our burning soul and warming hands. Did they see me kissing the snowflake away from the tip of your gorgeous nose?

In between these two sides. Neither looking in or out. Or perhaps, they really do those two things all the time. There live a gnarly little furry mouse that move about with his love and all their friends.

At night, you can hear them talk and hug it out. They move, play and dart around with a pace and speed that takes my breath away, they move and live inside, and outside the walls that we people build. Sometimes they walk our floors, sitting near, our sleeping faces. Yes, when the cat is away, that is what they do, our furry friends.

We kiss and make a cute little snowy angel. Your arms whips around and I kiss your pretty lips, yet again, right there in the falling snow.


Winter is here, but it is warm and pleasantly cozy with the most elusive kind of beautiful, pastel painted morning skies as the sun slowly climbs above the mountains to the east, greetings us all good morning in ways it never seems capable of outside of winters realm.




Santa slowly approached over the morning mist and frozen lake - Photography by Mike Koontz



And right there. In the corner of my eye. I swear the little mouse sits right nearby. He is looking out at us as we hug and kiss it out right there in the snowy warmth. And perhaps he too thinks the very same.

Looking out and about, at the intertwined us and all the shooting stars.

Winter is warm and spring is so very far away, but it does not matter. Life is beautiful as we look outside in our frozen windows. You make me happy, I make you happy, our mouse is happy skirting around, inside our walls, the snow, our bedroom floors. Spring is far away, but we make each other happy, and that is really all that matters no matter who can see us in this void of snow and blackest night.
I kiss you yet again and plant a snowy ball of love in your auburn colored hair.
Around us all the northern light and frozen lakes now slowly sing their softly spoken song, the melody they weave is natures sounds of life's tardigradous conversation that sighs so soft inside the night, and there we are, a little mouse and the two of us in a sea of white and dancing greens.

Life is beautiful, and I smile.





































It was


[snowing

and together,

they smiled]





The day changed before their searching eyes as the humidity kept building up, and before you knew it drops of water was hurling down toward them from the clouds, thick and utterly gorgeous drops of water splashed across the leafs and branches that was scattered above them with near silent, yet if you truly listened, it was like a carpet of thundering clashes that played a wayward march of a million drums.

The little aphid cow right next to the ant looked startled at the sea of thickening tears that came hurling down all around them.

"My very first winter rain, my gosh, just look at those drops, how big and thick they are"

Yes, the soldier ant Said, they are close to becoming hale and snow by now. I can already feel it in the air. Come, let us go back inside before winter catches us. We are in northern lands now, and the freeze can happen instantly here. And if it do, it is strong and powerful enough to hurt us

"The freeze?" The Young aphid sounded as frightened and hesitant as he looked now.

Yes, wait here, I have to close the hatchet too. Our Norse tribe would not be too happy with us if I forgot to close this entrance for the winter. You see, up here with the fairies and trolls, those white and brown Bears and Santa Claus. Things turn to real ice and snow up here for month at a time. It is impossible to survive outside for little ones like us. Everything, even the rain becomes hard as metal and stones against your skin.


"but, it was sunny and warm yesterday?"


Yes, winter has come.
But no need to worry about that, we usually spend our summer and autumn up here, we are a migrant tribe after all, and once Santa has dropped off his bag of presents next week it is time for us to take the southern tunnel down back to Africa, and from there, we might hitch a hike with the Spider ballon trail, and in return for us helping them stay safe, they will carry us all the way out to the ocean trading route.

From the trading route, ocean currents, winds and our own ladybugs will take us all the rest of the way to Brazil, it´s lovely during this time of the year. So, no worries, in a month or so we will once again see summer and you can graze as much as you want in our southern hemisphere capital, until we head back north for the arctic summer of course.

Perhaps, next year, we will go and visit the eastern outpost, Japan has such a beautiful blossoming tree and the clan chief has sent words that next year will be an extraordinary display of wonders, the trees and bugs have been producing an extraordinary amount of milk for us.




before the wild and the snow, there is your autumn



"Who is Santa Claus?" the little aphid said.


Well, Santa is, you know. Think of Santa as more of a magical being than a person. He lives up in the wild north, somewhere far away and deep in the snowy mountains of the ancient places only known to vikings and frost giants.
He walks amongst the humans, the ants and every little critter and animal. Almost like Odén, the old viking king of all the norse gods.

He has many names and shapes, but once a year Santa lets the world see him almost the same way no matter who you are. He walks this planet, an old and very bearded man, slightly puffy and quite over weight, but perhaps that is just the shape he wants you to see that very day.

Come xmas eve, when you close your eyes and the ferries take you to the world of dreams, Santa somehow finds his way inside your house, leaving presents behind, and behind him he sprinkles a crunchy trace and scent of ginger bread and a most delicate lingering feeling of wonders.

The point is, no one really know´s who Santa is, or how he can change his shape like that, to grow as tall as the tallest of giants, or as small as an ant. No one knows how he actually look like, or how he can travel the entire world and be at millions of places almost all at once. Is there a hundred thousand different Santa beings? An unknown species that only shows itself to the rest of us during Christmas. Or is it just one Santa that some how manages to find himself in hundreds of millions of places each and every second.

I do not know.

It´s magical like that. Like nothing else in life.

He shows up, and he vanishes, like he almost never was there to begin with, and behind him, the scent of magic and the physical gifts which he has left behind is all that remains.

Well, that and gratitude i hope, because you should be grateful.

For life itself, each person that truly cares about you, and for all the wonders in the world. For the kindness that somehow gave you that gift.

Grateful for the cycle of life, light and dark. Snow and warmth, it´s all an wondrous part of life.

And yeah, it´s magical, Santa and the reality of the yule log traditions.

Just remember to not lay awake. Because Santa never ever shows up before each and everyone inside the house have soundly entered the dreamy lands that is guarded by the moon and the stars. Some how he always knows if you are silently laying awake trying to catch a glimps or sound of him, and if you stay up for too long, all that you will have accomplished is that he will not show up at all. And if that happens, well tough luck kiddo - you are officially down and out with Santa and you better hope that someone in your life is kind enough to buy you gifts of their own.

So you see, you have to fall asleep little one if you really want santa to come around, so nn and dont let the bed bugs bite. Because I want him to leave some gifts behind him, I have waited all year long for that.

..... "but,tell me about the lady bug trail!."

Hush now little cow,
I do not want us to chase away Santa this year too, I will tell you all about our lady bug trail tomorrow, and soon you will get to see it with your very own eyes as we leave the new fallen snow behind. But for now, please let´s close our eyes and visit the sandy ant mans shores.
I have heard that he is having a barbeque tonight together with a bunch of hybernating vikings that just woke up, and I doubt you would want to miss that.

.... "Oh wow, the sandy ant and vikings, I cant wait to see that"


....."What are they barbequing?"


..... "Oh I can hear him, did you hear that! Santa is here, I can hear him"

......"How did he get inside, we dont have a chimney!!"

Shhhhhh....





































my sister


[searched

in

the closet]





'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In the hope that Santa so old soon would be there. The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads. And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap, Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap;




through the wild and snow, help the helpless



When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow Gave the lustre of midday to objects below— When what to my wondering eyes should appear But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.


With a little old driver so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick. More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, And he whistled and shouted and called them by name— "Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer! Now, Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Dunder and Blixen! To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall! Now, dash away! Dash away! Dash away! All!"


As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly, When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky, So up to the house-top the coursers they flew With the sleigh full of toys, and Santa, too. And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof The prancing and pawing of each tiny hoof. As I drew in my head, and was turning around, Down the chimney dear old Santa came with a bound.





































Down


[the chimney

Santa came

with gifts]





He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot, And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, And he looked like a pedlar just opening his pack. His eyes—how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry; His droll little mouth was drawn up in a bow, And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.


The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath. He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself. A wink of his eye, and a twist of his head, Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.


He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, And filled all the stockings—then turned with a jerk, And laying his finger aside of his nose, And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose. He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle; But I heard him softly speak ere he drove out of sight, "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight and a happy winter solstice!"







From the sky, black eyes and white light



Come the morning sun, there it was, with a sunshine sparkle. Our room, filled with gifts and gingerbread. Not yet a trace of last nights dear old Santa.





































through dark


[and cold

to

brightest day]





Bertie was a very good boy. He was kind, obedient, truthful, and unselfish. He had, however, one great fault,—he always forgot. No matter how important the errand, his answer always was, "I forgot." When he was sent with a note to the dress-maker his mother would find the note in his pocket at night. If he was sent to the store in a great hurry, to get something for tea, he would return late, without the article, but with his usual answer. His father and mother talked the matter over, and decided that something must be done to make the little boy remember. Christmas was near, and Bertie was busy making out a list of things which Santa Claus was to bring him. "Santa Claus may forget some of those things," said his mother.


"He cannot," replied Bertie; "for I shall write sled, and skates, and drum, and violin, and all the things on this paper. Then when Santa Claus goes to my stocking he will find the list. He can see it and put the things in as fast as he reads."

Bertie

Christmas morning came, and Bertie was up at dawn to see what was in his stocking. His mother kept away from him as long as she could, for she knew what Santa Claus had done. Finally she heard him coming with slow steps to her room. Slowly he opened the door and came towards her. He held in his hand a list very much longer than the one he had made out. He put it in his mother's hand, while tears of disappointment fell from his eyes. "See what Santa Claus left for me; but I think he might have given me one thing besides." His mother opened the roll. It was a list of all the errands Bertie had been asked to do for six months. At the end of all was written, in staring capitals, "I FORGOT." Bertie wept for an hour. Then his mother told him they were all going to grandpa's. For the first time he would see a Christmas-tree. Perhaps something might be growing there for him. It was very strange to Bertie, but on grandpa's tree he found everything he had written on his list. Was he cured of his bad habit? Not all at once; but when his mother saw that he was particularly heedless she would say,




there are no sorrows but joy and warmth and Santas magic at winters time



"Remember, Santa Claus does not forget."

By M. A. HALEY





































a fish


[that our

fire

now holds]





It was Christmas Day, and Toddy and Tita were alone. Papa and mamma had gone out West to see their big boy who was ill. They had promised to be home for Christmas, but a big snow had blocked the railroad track, and nurse was afraid the train would be delayed until the day after Christmas. What a dull Christmas for two little girls, all alone in the great city house, with only the servants! They felt so lonely that nurse let them play in the big drawing-room instead of in the nursery, so they arranged all the chairs in a row, and pretended it was a snowed-up train. Tita was the conductor, and Toddy was the passengers. Just as they were in the midst of it, they heard music in the street, and, running to the window, they saw a little boy outside, singing and beating a tambourine.


"Why," said Tita, "his feet are all bare!" "Dess he hanged up bofe stockin's an' his shoes, too," said Toddy. "Let's open the window and ask him." But the great window was too high to reach, so they took papa's cane and pushed it tip. The little boy smiled, but they could not hear what he said, so they told him to come in, and ran to open the big front door. He was a little frightened at first, but the carpet felt warm to his poor bare feet.


He told them that his name was Guido, and that he had come from Italy, which is a much warmer country than ours, and that he was very poor, so poor that he had no shoes, and had to go singing from house to house for a few pennies to get some dinner. And he was so hungry. "Poor little boy!" said Tita. "Our mamma is away, and we're having a pretty sad Christmas, but we'll try to make it nice for you." So they played games, and Guido sang to them. Then the folding doors rolled back, and there was the dining-room and the table all set, and Thomas, the black waiter, smiling, just as if it had been a big dinner party instead of two very little girls. Nurse said: "Well, I never!" when she saw Guido, but she felt so sorry for the lonely little girls that she let him come to the table. And such a dinner as he ate! He had never had one like it before. "It is a fairy tale," he said. Just as dessert came on, the door opened and in rushed mamma and papa; the train had gotten in, after all. They were so glad to see their darlings happy instead of moping that they gave them each some extra kisses. You may be sure little Guido never went hungry and barefoot after that. Long afterward he would say: "That was a fairy Christmas!"




to catch the fish that holds our fire



That night, after Tita had said her prayers, she said: "Mamma, I know something. Whenever you feel sad and lonely, if you will just find somebody sadder and lonelier than yourself and cheer them up, it will make you all right." And I think that that was the very best kind of a Christmas lesson of love. Don't you?

By ETHELDRED B. BARRY.





































Laughter


[across

the river

And mountain

walls

and playgrounds]





It was the week before Christmas, and the dolls In the toy-shop played together all night. The biggest one was from Paris. One night she said, "We ought to have a party before Santa Claus carries us away to the little girls. I can dance, and I will show you how." "I can dance myself if you will pull the string," said a "Jim Crow" doll. "What shall we have for supper?" piped a little boy-doll in a Jersey suit. He was always thinking about eating. "Oh, dear," cried the French lady, "I don't know what we shall do for supper!" "I can get the supper," added a big rag doll. The other dolls had never liked her very well, but they thanked her now. She had taken lessons at a cooking-school, and knew how to make cake and candy. She gave French names to everything she made, and this made it taste better. Old Mother Hubbard was there, and she said the rag doll did not know how to cook anything.

They danced in one of the great shop-windows. They opened a toy piano, and a singing-doll played "Comin' through the Rye," The dolls did not find that a good tune to dance by; but the lady did not know any other, although she was the most costly doll in the shop. Then they wound up a music-box, and danced by that. This did very well for some tunes; but they had to walk around when it played "Hail Columbia," and wait for something else. dolls flying The "Jim Crow" doll had to dance by himself, for he could do nothing but a "break-down." He would not dance at all unless some one pulled his string. A toy monkey did this; but he would not stop when the dancer was tired. They had supper on one of the counters. The rag doll placed some boxes for tables. The supper was of candy, for there was nothing in the shop to eat but sugar hearts and eggs. The dolls like candy better than anything else, and the supper was splendid.

Patsy McQuirk said he could not eat candy. He wanted to know what kind of a supper it was without any potatoes. He got very angry, put his hands into his pockets, and smoked his pipe. It was very selfish and badly mannered for him to do so in the company of others. The smoke made all the others very sick, and they soon tried to climb into a "horn of plenty" to get out of the way of his pollution.


You are just like those nasty coal plants they shouted loud.




fire had returned to the northern lands



Mother Hubbard and the two black waiters tried to sing "I love my kitten;" but the tall one in a brigand hat opened his mouth wide, that the small dollies were afraid they might fall into it. The clown raised both arms in wonder, and Jack in the Box sprang up as high as me could to look down into the fellow's throat. All the baby-dolls in caps and long dresses had been put to bed. They woke up when the others were at supper, and began to cry. The big doll brought them some candy, and that kept them quiet for some time. The next morning a little girl found the toy piano open. She was sure the dolls had been playing on it and still she could see little traces of magic around the store. The grown-up people thought it had been left open by mistake, the night before; but they of course never did understand tiny toys and magic as well as little people always do.

By VIOLA ROSEBOROUGH, minor writing by Mike Koontz.





















Yule log adventures

by

Mike Koontz



Author(s), web adaptation and photography

Mike Koontz
And others


To the daisy that is my sun and inspiration

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    But what about the makeup of our upper legs?
    We have the backside of our legs, which we call the hamstrings, and on the front, there´s the thing most people simply call the quads.
    But let us dig deeper down into those mighty looking quadriceps and the rest of the anterior side of our legs.
    Here is my question:
    Can you specify which muscles make up the bulk of what we call our quadriceps and anterior leg muscles?.

  • We are standing at the crossroads of the Anthropocene. Earth hour and the essential stuff that lies beyond.

    Quality time needed: 5 minutes


    At the crossroads of the Anthropocene.
    Earth Hour.
    Is by now, our essential every day reality.



    On one hand, we are now living in the day and age of butterflies and endangered white rhinos hopefully being multiplied and preserved through soon to be commercial cloning facilities. finally making sure we will never have to lose another species to extinction.
    Putting an end to the way we lost the last surviving male Great Northern Rhino just the other day.


    And that lingering, hopeful road is walking hand in hand with this growing worldwide awareness that eating healthy, and being healthy is not just good for that one person, but transformative and good for everybody else too.
    Be it from a financial perspective or healthwise speaking.

  • Fitness School, Question 32, Can fitness reduce dementia risk with as much as 90% for a 50 year old female?

    Quality time needed: 5 minutes


    Fitness School
    Do you know the right answer?.



    Question number 32 in our School of Fitness.
    We all know that physical activity and healthy food is just that, life and body improving yum for muscles and mind alike.
    Some might claim they hate it, and others truly love keeping fit and healthy, enriching their daily life in endless supply.
    And you know it greatly reduces the risk of getting a long range of cancer forms, it helps arthritis patients, lower back pain, keeps you lean and hearty healthy.
    It fights off bad sleep and osteoporosis. Slow the roll of biological aging and on and on, and all this is proven over and over by science.
    And so, my simple question this time around is as follows:
    Do you also know if healthy fit women in their 50s have been shown to greatly reduce the risk of getting dementia compared to less fit women?.

  • Fitness School, Do you know the right answer?. Question 31, What´s up with that biceps, give us the lowdown.

    Quality time needed: 4 minutes


    Fitness School
    Do you know the right answer?.



    Question number 31 in our School of Fitness.
    When we are talking and thinking about muscles and keeping fit, Biceps is not just one of the more iconic names in the world of fitness and the human anatomy, it is also a very visible muscle that truly pops on people that keep healthy fit. But where on your body can you actually locate your biceps muscle and more importantly is the name biceps only referring to one muscle or do we have more than one biceps on our body?
    And so, my question for you is as follows:
    Can you tell us if the human anatomy have one or more muscles with the name biceps, and where are they/it located?.

  • A life of health & fitness. Life is a wondrous journey and this is a rough view of this years fitness journey ( the way I do it ).

    Quality time needed: 14 minutes


    Complete the circle of health & fitness.
    Every single day.
    Fitness, Food & Health is nothing but the science of a healthy, fun life :).



    The following is a rudimentary overview of my health & fitness life from Jan 1, 2018, to Jan 1, 2019. Some fitness folks think the world of planning ahead, and some absolutely do need a firm plan for the months and even year ahead.
    Short term goals firmly lined up and long-term goal posts holding their own further out make a world of difference for some. And your own goals can be about certain PB´s, they can involve reaching a certain body fat % or strength goal. Other common goals have to do with cardiovascular performance and might be focused on improving your lactate levels, running speed, zone levels or maximum heart rate. And for competitive pro athletes, those goals usually involve specific competitions and championships.

    So yes, setting up a rough schedule in advance of your fitness year can make a lot of sense.
    Just as how a lot of people count daily steps and calories.

  • Fitness School. Question 30, Let us talk about biological aging and our T cells and that beautiful little Thymus.

    Quality time needed: 6 minutes


    Fitness School
    Do you know the right answer?.



    Question number 30 in our School of Fitness.
    You all know that I have been a vocal proponent of how we do not simply grow old like some archaic fairy tale myth where people are doomed to live fat and unhealthy and frail once they leave their 20´s behind them.
    No instead, my science-backed message has for years been that we simply create and manage our own aging process according to our own choices in food, life, and fitness.
    Be it lean muscle mass, body fat, bone health, even our brain and plenty of natural hormones. Our daily choices carry such incredible weight when it comes down to all these aspects of our own wellbeing and health, much more so than the number of years we have lived or the genes we inherit. And Science proves me right on all these things, over and over, and over again.

    But, how about our immune system? In sedentary people, our thymus slowly becomes less capable as we mature beyond our 20´s. That is a simple fact.
    And so, my question for you:
    Will regular fitness stomp aging in the face or is the thymus and the stuff it does for us destined to go wry as we age no matter our fitness and food choices?.

  • Fitness School, Do you know the right answer?. Question 29, How prevalent is plastic litter amongst deep sea fish.

    Quality time needed: 6 minutes


    Fitness School
    Do you know the right answer?.



    Question number 29 in our School of Fitness.
    We have previously talked about getting enough natural amounts of omega 3 in our food. So let us cast our net a bit wider and deeper as we go hunting for natural Omega 3 sources in the deep sea.
    Yes, we are what we eat kiddos.
    And so, the time has come to talk about one of the better Omega 3 sources out there, which is fish ( like cows, fish love munching away on plant-based food such as Algae and so they end up with a ton of Omega 3, and so can you. ), and outside of Omega 3 fish also used to be a sustainable source of proteins and omega 3 amongst other things.
    The key word is used to be. But like us, and the cows, fish are what they eat.
    And today, outside of depleted fish stocks, fish swim in bodies of waters, polluted, and depleted of oxygen and ruined by us, the human species. And as health & fitness loving professionals and human beings, we always have to consider the world we live in, because we are all what we eat and the way we live becomes the state of our body & mind, life, and health. And if the fish you eat is full of toxins, plastic, and other unhealthy things, that is what you too will consume and thus, become.
    So, here is my question:
    How prevalent is plastic pollution in deep sea fish right now?.

  • Fitness School, Do you know the right answer?. Question 28, Let us get healthy and dirty with Omega 3 and milk.

    Quality time needed: 6 minutes


    Fitness School
    Do you know the right answer?.



    Question number 28 in our School of Fitness.
    As far as health & fitness goes, eating healthy food on a daily basis is the ever-present and perfectly fitted glove that wraps the fit hand that is regular and challenging workouts in the gym.
    And one of those nutritious, and essential for our health, nutrient staples are Omega 3´s. We get it in all sorts of seafood. And we can get it from omega 3 fortified foods such as eggs.
    Another wonderful omega 3 source are plant-based foods such as chia seeds. But, meat and dairy products from grass-fed cattle can also contain natural amounts of omega 3.
    So, here is my question:
    How much Omega 3 do you actually get from one L ( 1L ) of milk produced from grass fed cattle?.

  • Fitness School, Do you know the right answer?. Question 27, How big do you need your daily calorie deficit to be, in order to roughly drop 250g of bodyfat per week.

    Quality time needed: 7 minutes


    Fitness School
    Do you know the right answer?.



    Question number 27 in our School of Fitness.
    From a healthy fit perspective, both short & long term, what we need to sculpt is a life of daily physical activity in the right amount and the right intensity coupled with healthy food choices and the proper amount of nutrients.
    And those healthy choices include making sure that we get enough of those healthy nutrients in order to perform, in the gym and daily life, and we need enough of them in order for our body and mind to stay healthy, happy, capable and fit.
    Eat too little protein and you will start losing lean muscle mass, and your health will start to decline too since proteins are not just the major building blocks of our muscles, they are in fact the mud and water, wood and concrete that builds our entire body, be it your internal organs, your skin, hair, muscles, cells, or our brain.
    And the total amount of daily calories we consume is, of course, pretty much the same thing, eat too little in total, and you will start noticing how your health and fitness level slowly deteriorate. And if you do the opposite and stuff your tummy full with too many daily calories you will start gaining pure body fat in excessive amounts and it will continue to build unless you change your daily choices.
    So, here is my question:
    How big do you need to make your daily calorie deficit in order to lose 250g of body fat per week ( roughly ) while eating enough protein to preserve your lean muscle mass?.

  • Fitness School, Do you know the right answer?. Question 26, Black coffee, is it a natural diuretic that causes dehydration or a health improving rehydrating drink?

    Quality time needed: 4 minutes


    Fitness School
    Do you know the right answer?.



    Question number 26 in our School of Fitness.
    Black coffee, the mere words are capable of sending hundreds of millions of people into a state of Nirvana filled with transcending bliss and harmony :).
    But black coffee is also a cup of rejuvenating health for our entire system. It calms the mind with its slowly rising aroma, helps us keep cancer and diabetes at bay, harnesses our creative focus like an arrow in flight, and in enough quantities, it can even boost peoples gym going efforts.
    But is there all there is to it?. Well, here is my question:
    Is the old saying true that your daily coffee drives so much fluid out of your body that you need to supplement your coffee intake with equal measures water too in order to stay hydrated?.

  • Fitness School, Do you know the right answer?. Question 25, Tell us the major muscles in your back.

    Quality time needed: 3 minutes


    Fitness School
    Do you know the right answer?.



    Question number 25 in our School of Fitness.
    Outside of our legs and ass, there is no other muscle group that comes close to sheer size, strength, health impact and lean muscle mass potential than our back. So as exhausting as a proper back workout is, this is one big and essential muscle group you should never skimp out on, no matter if your own goals are all in on health and wellness, sports or just sheer looks, or all of the above.
    Here is my question:
    Tell me the major muscles that makes up our back. Straight and simple folks.

  • Fitness School, Do you know the right answer?. Question 24, Can Maintained Fitness prevent the negative health impact of chemotherapy?.

    Quality time needed: 4 minutes


    Fitness School
    Do you know the right answer?.



    Question number 24 in our School of Fitness.
    Chemotherapy is one of those crucial things that no one ever hoped to one day experience. But when the going gets real tough in life, its a life saver.
    However, undergoing Chemotherapy is no walk in the park and while it can save your life and defeat cancer, it will also take its toll on your body. So much so that a recent study from Australia revealed that just 13 weeks of chemotherapy caused the heart to age by an equivalent of six years.
    Here is my question:
    Can maintained fitness exercise during chemotherapy prevent the now established cardiovascular aging associated with chemotherapy?.

  • Fitness School, Do you know the right answer?. Question 23, How much will my daily fitness activity reduce the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease?.

    Quality time needed: 4 minutes


    Fitness School
    Do you know the right answer?.



    Question number 23 in our School of Fitness.
    How are you enjoying 2018 so far?. I am having a blast, in the gym and outside it, workouts are wondrously good and that is because I stay at it, week in and week out. Stay persistent with food and fitness people and reap the benefits in body & mind. Keeping to a daily fitness schedule is just a choice, after all, and a very healthy choice at that.

    And, for the next fitness school question, let us dig deep down on that word "persistent" and uncover just how much weekly fitness will scientifically aid your health on low, moderate and intense fitness levels.
    And as such, here is my question for you:
    Can as little as 30 minutes of daily low-level physical fitness activity reduce the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by as much as 24% compared to not doing that daily activity?.

  • Fitness School, Do you know the right answer?. Question 22, is there any difference at all in recovery capacity after a hard leg workout in the gym depending on your biological age?.

    Quality time needed: 9 minutes


    Fitness School
    Do you know the right answer?.



    Question number 22 in our School of Fitness.
    2017 came and went in a glorious display of Northern lights. But now that we are all one year older. Let us take a look at that age-old saying that we recover worse and slower after a hard workout in the gym as we grow beyond our 30´s.
    Is there any truth to this at all? Or is this just one more thing that people got wrong in the name of lacking insight, age-related fears, and youth-obsessed peer pressure?.
    To put it simply.
    Will the 22-year-old you recover better after a kick-ass weight lifting workout in the gym doing intense deadlifts than the 50 year old you will be able to do, or can you safely go at it just as hard knowing that you will recover and improve just as good?.

  • Fitness & Health: Going plant-based with your food choices is one of the better food choices you can do.

    Quality time needed: 2 minutes


    Complete the circle.
    Every single day.
    Fitness, Food & Health, its just science baby, smiles, sweat and science :).



    Eating healthy is an essential part of every human beings healthy fit lifestyle.
    And like keeping active and healthy at the gym and in daily life it's a daily choice.
    Going plant-based with your food choices is one of the better food choices you can do. As long as you keep on top of your protein, your fat ( Omega 3 mainly ), iron, B12, Iodine and creatine going plant-based is very easy to do and super beneficial for health & fitness ( and the planet ).

  • The first day of 2018. A tiny micro-short story and the best fitness & health advice you will ever get in life. Let us kickstart 2018 and lay nothing but healthy fit days on the road ahead.

    Quality time needed: 6 minutes


    The arrival of 2018
    And the best health & fitness advice you will ever get.
    Life in the Anthropocene, its just science baby, smiles, sweat and science :).



    Enjoy a healthy fit, and happy 2018 people, but before I start our shiny new year by giving you the single best health & fitness advice you´ll ever get in life, a tiny little micro-short story to welcome you to the rest of your life.
    "the dragon that climbed the world of ice"
    'I watched it climb
    the world of ice that towered us both
    its mighty tail stung the icy cavern beneath us, like a spear it was thrust into the chest of the icy mountain, sending splatter of man-sized ice blocks and snow that bled into the bottomless pit, while it drove its left and right limbs into the frosty mountain above us

    and slowly
    over the endless void of time

    the dragon climbed its way upward
    through a world of ice that tried to hold us captive

    we climbed
    endless step by endless step towards the moon and the stars to hunt them one by one'.

  • Life in the Anthropocene & saving the endangered Rhino. Kenyan ultra marathon providing the adventure of a lifetime and a world improving good cause.

    Quality time needed: 5 minutes


    Health & Fitness
    And the ultra marathon to save the Rhino.
    Life in the Anthropocene is all about our global and individual responsibility.



    And in some ways, I can not think about a much better and more current way to emphasize our individual and globally shared responsibility than the Kenyan Ultra Marathon taking place in 2018.
    It's like all the other sports competitions ever done about the individual responsibility to shape and form your ongoing life and fitness journey so that you can endure and conquer that particular challenge.
    But it is equally much a team effort, to better our planet and to save the Rhino.
    As such it serves as a proxy for our own health, and our modern day pollution, the local and global poverty, the gender and class-based inequality, the competition itself, and the endangered wildlife and all the species rapidly going extinct across the entire world.
    We are all responsible. Individually and globally.
    And in that spirit, this ultramarathon is not just about bringing together runners from all around the world, it is also a marathon to save the endangered Rhino from going extinct, and to better the entire world.

  • Naughty xmas poetry "There are secrets hiding, in the xmas tree" and a merry winter solstice to you guys.

    Quality time needed: 4 minutes


    Winter solstice poetry
    a quality xmas
    and happy new year.



    Enjoy the rest of December people and make sure to allow yourselves and others the only gift truly worth something this xmas. And that is to breathe and exhale, relax and enjoy each and every moment.
    Do not suffocate each other or stress yourself out as you try in vain to achieve the perfect holiday, there is no such thing when it comes to the way we celebrate new years eve, winter solstice, xmas or whatever you call it.
    Chasing perfection and meaningless details are what kills that perfect day even before it starts. So just enjoy your day, yourself and each other the way you are.
    Have a good one and now, here is my perfect xmas in the shape of a naughty winter solstice poem ( and moment ) I am calling "There are secrets hiding, in the xmas tree", enjoy the read and the days ahead :).

  • Fitness School, Do you know the right answer?. Question 18, will obesity increase my risk of developing Alzheimer?.

    Quality time needed: 3 minutes


    Fitness School
    Do you know the right answer?.



    Question number 18 in our School of Fitness.
    Obesity is no friend of any individuals longterm health. We all know that.
    But is cheering each other into obesity and being overweight also scientifically speaking, causing an increase in the risk of developing Alzheimer?.

  • Anthropocene: We have real global progress but also life diminishing quality for hundreds of million of people. Official UNICEF study.

    Quality time needed: 4 minutes


    Global progress.
    And diminishing lives.
    Life in the Anthropocene.



    In a world of global progress in a lot of important aspects, we can never close our eyes to the simple fact that hundreds of millions of people around this beautiful world are witnessing how their lives are becoming increasingly worse.
    quote:
    “In a time of rapid technological change leading to huge gains in living standards, it is perverse that hundreds of millions are seeing living standards actually decline, creating a sense of injustice among them and failure among those entrusted with their care,” “No wonder they feel their voices are unheard and their futures uncertain.”
    - Laurence Chandy, UNICEF Director of Data, Research, and Policy.

  • Black Friday 20% off: fine art for the living room walls by yours truly.

    Quality time needed: 3 minutes


    The art of living.
    Fine art for the living room walls by yours truly.
    Black Friday discount.



    You pick the size, the framing and whether you prefer the white margin or zero margins on your print and there you go, parcel on the way.
    Printing & shipping is handled by the Swedish fine art gallery Printler and they ship to all of Europe.
    And for Black Friday you´ll even get a 20% discount, valid until Monday 27 Nov.

  • 'At the bridge to Asgard, sprouts and roots grow the ever tree'. Here we live in the age of the Anthropocene.

    Quality time needed: 6 minutes


    sprouts and roots
    A healthy you, is a healthy world.
    Life in the Anthropocene.



    'At the bridge to Asgard, sprouts and roots grow the ever tree' through the gates of life and death, and the turning of the Midgard snake.
    We walk beneath a starry sky, weaved by light and dark and obscured shades our eyes can not see.

    We melt and turn the tides of time, as we spill the soil between our fingers.
    It drips back down to where it came from, all while the ants and worms grow unseen layers of brand new soil.

  • Fitness & Health: 'Health at a Glance' is a European health report covering obesity around Europe in 2017.

    Quality time needed: 7 minutes


    Health at a Glance
    A European health report 2017
    Fitness & Health.



    Health at a Glance is a European health report for 2017. And in it the United Kingdom is revealed to be Western Europes most obese nation.
    So, perhaps, fish and chips and beer just isnt the best of national food obsessions.
    Another important highlight that bounces right back at you is how obesity in the UK has increased by 92% since the 1990s ( it´s been increasing in every nation btw, but good ol England is leading the pack ).

    And since we also know by now that obesity & overweight is not just about a individual increase in body fat %, which would have been perfectly fine and all down to personal preferences in body composition and aesthetics, but instead is directly tied to a huge increase in several health issues, such as diabetes & cancer and severely decreased quality of life and longevity.

  • Anthropocene & the annual 'good country index' is back for its worldwide summary with the year 2017. And Scandinavia once again dominates.

    Quality time needed: 3 minutes


    Anthropocene
    the good country index 2017
    Life beyond 2028.



    Sweden once again dominates the good country index, sort of making it an annual business as usual reveal in other words.
    Sweden is followed closely by another Scandinavian country, namely Denmark, which, is no real surprise, the Nordic nations can be found at the top of the world, year after year, after year in a long range of beneficial, quality of life metrics and studies.

  • 9 million annual deaths due to worldwide pollution in air, soil, water. Life in the Anthropocene.

    Quality time needed: 4 minutes


    9 million
    annual deaths due to worldwide pollution
    The art of living.



    Every year the number of people that die prematurely due to worldwide pollution keep on increasing. And right now that pollution in water, soil, air, chemical or work-related pollution is already taking the life of 9 million people around the world.

    Let us think about that for one more second, every single year 9 million people end up dying prematurely due to the modern day pollution we all contribute to.

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