Hello from Site 11, Meadow Campground, Keji Park, on Boxing Day. We've got the whole park to ourselves, the temperature just crossed over, and the pitter-patter of rain on the roof is punctuated by chunks of ice falling off the trees.

Last fall, Gabe and I started planning Christmas, and he suggested camping, and I suggested Keji. We got here on the 22nd; yesterday we visited Mills Falls where Heddy's ashes are and said hi to her, and we'll be heading home tomorrow.

Since my Dad passed away on March 5th, Gabe and I have been more orphans than previously. (You would think that that is a binary or an absolute, but Gabe's family is so complicated that it isn't at all.) 2011 started out sadly with Earl's increasing health problems. I thank Gabe, Eileen, my cousins and friends for helping us all through this sad and confusing time, and also Aunt Mayme who so consistently reminded us that death is as much a part of life as birth and growth are. We celebrated Earl's life with a "repass" at home with dozens of friends and family members, including my brother Michael from Vancouver.

Earl and Heddy developed my love of camping before I could walk, and it's something that Gabe and I share. The Christmas Keji trip was made possible by our big purchase of the year, a tiny camper trailer. "Audra" is fine British technology, made by Cygnet in New Brunswick in 1976. She came with a fridge, stove, sink, water tank, very capable furnace, and now has an electric water pump, toilet, LED interior lighting, a magnificent stereo, an outside stove and oven perfect for all kinds of baking.

Since we got her, we've been on some spectacular camping trips, including The Mermaid And The Cow near Pictou and the Pig Roast week off-grid in Blomidon Provincial Park (as I write this, the gold polish from that has just about grown out) for a total of 25 days. The 80 watt, $700 solar panel for the trailer didn't work out; ask me about that some time.

Gabe moved in to Union St in the spring and the process of merging his two houses and my one began, and it was slow, but we got through it. My scruffy, cheap toilet plunger? Gabe's new toilet plunger? Gabe's mother's mother's mother's toilet plunger? Ditto with potato masher; ditto with everything from bean crock to buffet and hutch. Thanks to kijiji and the Salvation Army, there's now only one of almost everything, except possibly more cordless electric drills than a normal househould would have, but to paraphrase my friend Moose, "You can never have too many cordless electric drills." Also, there are a few new things including a complete woodworking shop.

There were lots of other transitions. In July, Doug, Kaitie, Oliver and Tippy moved into Doug's own place after almost three years, and I missed them a lot. In November, Jane moved in and will be with us for a few more months, we hope. It turned out that two cars, a motorcycle, and two (nominally anyway) Winnebagos were too much, so we scrapped one Winnie and sold my old Volvo 740. Norval has moved off the Peninsula but isn't far away at the top of Clayton Park. A succession of tiny and mostly unfortunate pets, all named Goldie, have lived on the kitchen counter.

We finally got some treatment for Gabe's sleep apnea: a CPAP machine. I'm hoping for numerous good outcomes from this, but the most important is me not stabbing people in a sleep-deprived rage. If you sleep with someone with apnea or bad snoring, for your sake, get them on one of these pronto. Oh, and for their own health too, of course.

Our year was as usual packed with other stuff; highlights for me were helping with a gay and lesbian native conference during the Labour Day Weekend (sadly, our longtime activity for that time, the GNG Camping Weekend, is done, there will be no more.)

The musical highlights for the year were the Paul Cram orchestra's accompanyment of the 1927 silent movie, Metropolis, and our friend Cliff LeJeune in Jaques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In Paris in Chester, and Les Mis & Rent at the new Spatz Theatre.

At Easter time, I fulfilled a long time plan to go to the very devout community of Eskasoni with my friend Victor, and walked the Stations Of The Cross which are positioned up a steep and rocky path up the mountain. We stayed at the Highland Heights Inn owned by the delightful raconteur and bon vivant Susan Samways, and Gabe's been staying there for work trips ever since. He was as usual working all over Atlantic Canada in 2011, and I hope to join him in Labrador for a future trip.

With Doug's encouragement, I got out my old 10-speed again and have been participating irregularly in the Halifax Critical Mass, and in October I spent a delightful morning in pounding rain "Riding The Riding" with Megan Leslie.

My enjoyable mainstay activities continued: publishing Wayves, on the board of a new community organization for LGBT elders, the Elderberries; publishing a cookbook for them, and spending lots of time on my motorcycle - it got a brake job (that's me in the brake caliper rebuild shop, aka goldfish funeral home) and new windscreen last year, and next will get a new muffler, its third in fifteen years.

It should come as no surprise that we're planning lots more camping in 2012 including the Maritimes "pow wow trail:" gatherings almost every weekend at Mi'kmag reserves with a feast, drumming, dancing, and great company.

In early December I was delighted to hear that I'd won a Lifetime Achievement Award from ISCANS. The ceremony is on January 20th, so now Gabe and I have an excuse to go out shopping for some really fabulous clothes.

Norval's again spending December & January at his condo in Costa Rica. If you need a place to stay there, his is available for rent; drop me a line or visit CondominiumMana.ca.

Once again Gabe and I eschewed Christmas gifts and instead helped out a few less fortunate people we know. But, it's a little odd for me to write the phrase "less fortunate." I can't imagine being any luckier. My wish for you is to feel the same way in 2012.

All the best to you and yours for 2012

Top photo: Audra The Trailer in Keji Park on Christmas Day, photo by Dan.