Dec 5, 2012 at 6:00 am

There’s a clearing out by the garden, just beyond the shed, that’s perfect for landing a sleigh, but I didn’t maintain it very well last year, so I spent the day of Christmas Eve working on it, collecting branches, clearing brush, raking leaves, hacking down the tall grass. I chopped some wood for the stove. I wanted to wear myself out so I’d fall asleep early. I get so excited about Santa Claus’ annual visit. I don’t know how many times it has happened that I can’t sleep and he has passed me by; he isn’t fooled when you act like you’re sleeping, even if you don’t move the slightest little bit.

I’m a night person. I don’t usually get started on anything until everybody else goes to sleep, not that I’d ever know if anybody else was awake; my nearest neighbor is almost 2 miles away, and they live a quarter mile off the road. I almost never see them.

I like people. I like to see them going about their business, moving around, talking to each other. Sometimes I make a point to go to the store when I know it’s going to be crowded so I can see an extra lot of them. I think about their pretty homes and the pleasant way that they love one another, encouraging one another in their activities, making their loved ones feel that they can handle the challenges they face when they venture forth into the world. You can see their courage in the way they walk, and you can see the way they love one another in the admiring way they look at each other, even when nobody is looking.

I sometimes think I might like to move into the city, but I don’t think I’d ever fit in with the other people, the way they love each other and all, and I have obligations out here. I have to keep an eye on the monster, for instance.

When I was a kid, and I used to have trouble sleeping, I told my dad it was because there was a monster in my room. He told me that was no big deal and that if monsters come around, I should let them get real close and then make a funny face, cross my eyes and stick out my tongue, and that would make the monster laugh, and then the monster would be my friend. When I was a kid, I used to think my dad was crazy.

The monster came around one night shortly thereafter. I froze perfectly still while I watched him moving through my room. It barely registered a reaction when it noticed I was watching, but then it flew into a murderous rage. I was so scared! I was sure I would die that very instant, and I’m sure I was bawling even as I crossed my eyes pathetically and flopped my tongue out, the last act of my tragically short life, but my dad was right; the monster stopped short, gave me the oddest look of disbelief and exploded with laughter! It sounded more like a bullhorn magnified about a hundred times, and the blast of air from its massive lungs blew me back against the far wall.

The smell of sewage and rotting fish made me gag like I was going to throw up. I never smelled anything as nasty as that. But then, even when I was trying to get my bearings and get upright again so I wouldn’t vomit on myself, I saw out of the corner of my eye the monster cocked its head and mimicked my distress, gagging and choking and wagging its head back and forth, absolutely roaring with laughter!

Over the years, I have often wished the damned thing had just killed me when I was a kid, but it’s been an interesting life. The monster isn’t the best companion, it doesn’t help with chores, and it tends to scare away any visitors I might have, but I hate to think what it might do if I wasn’t around.

For further investigation: The open-minded theology presented in the movie “The Life of Pi” marks something of a cultural epiphany. The character’s willingness to accept the good in all theological systems and resolve them with a unique personal theology based in the psychological power of narrative could have a unifying effect on believers of all stripes.