We have come to the end of the year, and my season of making is over, at least temporarily. I wanted to give myself time for this Christmas. I needed the space of two months to prepare and revel and savor, and in the end I managed to make gifts for both of my children and all of my nieces and nephews. There was a whiff of insanity about it all, perhaps. I do, after all, have a five month old baby and usually people look at you strangely when you say you’re combining an infant with a slew of ambitious craft projects. But the crafting was the antidote to insanity, not its catalyst and, for the most part, I enjoyed the time I spent wrestling with my sewing machine and doing the meditative work of crochet. And I was happy with each final project, which represented care and focused attention. One niece and one nephew currently live in Australia, so I wanted to give them something that might last. Christmas can be so disposable. This year I wanted to give something I created, crafted, and poured effort into to give myself the opportunity to push back a bit against the latest plastic toys. There’s a time and a place for those (and I certainly gave my son plenty of plastic this Christmas too!) but my new mother soul needed the slow work of crafting to make it through the challenges and grief that can sometimes darken the holidays, throwing a pall over the twinkle of candlelight and firelight.
Christmas is hard on the spirit sometimes. There are the people who are not there who suddenly feel painfully close over the holidays. I thought often of my grandparents who have departed and my Uncle Gerry who left us right before Christmas last year. I thought also of all my family in Ontario celebrating without me, and I felt the hole keenly. This year I didn’t have any of my own family of origin present for Christmas, and that felt heavy. But my husband had family in town and we had time for lots of visits and a lovely trip up to Mount Seymour to go tobogganing.
We also had the gift of snow this year. Even in Steveston, where it so rarely snows due to the low elevation, we got huge flakes that came and went over the course of weeks. We had an ice rink at Garry Point, and a brief glimpse of the winter wonderland the rest of Canada takes for granted and begins to wish away as soon as the holidays come to a close. My son built a snow man with his grandfather and he made snow angels in the parks. He climbed the hill at Mount Seymour countless times and both of us laughed and shouted as we plummeted down the slope on our flimsy toboggan. There was stress and anxiety too–the kids became overwhelmed with visits and sugar and were at the end of their ropes by Christmas day. My son showed a disappointing lack of interest in his presents this year, and the sparkle in my heart that was strong in November had waned significantly by December 25. But I can be proud of the fact that I didn’t let myself get completely lost in the hustle and bustle of the season. I only set foot in a mall once this year and aside from making gifts, bought almost everything else locally. I kept the chaos at arms length and gave myself the gift of time. The holiday season is coming to a close. I’ll celebrate New Year and then Ukrainian Orthodox Christmas the week after because that’s when my brother will be able to make it to Vancouver for a visit. I’ll make borsht and maybe perogies and pie and possibly Kolach and we’ll celebrate all over again in the light of the season’s remaining embers.
It may be that I’ll start the making season in January this year. I wonder what it would be like to give myself an entire year to craft gifts for the people I love. I fall flat in a lot of ways. There are a thousand places that I feel like a failure, but in my crafting I feel whole.
This year I took part in an exercise called Holiday Council that guides you through preparation for the coming year. It helped me to define a a theme and ways of being for 2017. The theme (of course!) is CRAFT. My ways of being are these:
GENEROUS—you will find when you’re an obsessive craftswoman that you are overrun with things you’ve made. It makes sense to give them away—I want to share the things I’ve made in all aspects of my life and be generous with my skills and talents.
ENGAGED—crafting involves deep engagement with the project at hand, whether that’s making a scarf, completing a workout, or playing with my kids.
CURIOUS—becoming skilled as a craftswoman means being curious about the world around me so I can gain inspiration and be open to new opportunities. My art and my life will be enriched by curiosity.
LIGHT—I want to be light in my energy, my mood, and my body. A lightness of being leads to greater ease and productivity. And after five very heavy years (and now after my pregnancy being at my highest weight in 10 years) I am seeking emotional and physical lightness. I plan to work hard to let go of emotional burdens and focus on fitness and nutrition to get my body back to a healthy, comfortable place.
KALI—while I’m striving for lightness I also want to honour the dark. This is deeply important to me. I want to be Kali the dark mother goddess who is wild and strong and powerful. When inevitable moments of darkness and destruction come into my life I want to be able to embrace them with ferocity. Kali is associated with the fires of the cremation grounds. She who brings forth life is also present when that life turns to ash. I want to be present and wise in the moments when things in my life have run their course and must be committed to the earth. Kali was with me when I went through my first postpartum depression. She sent me on a journey to the underworld. I continue to honour her now in my second postpartum journey and embody her energy.
As an artist and craftswoman I want to deepen my commitment to my crafts—the literal ones like photography, writing, and fiber arts, and the more metaphorical ones like motherhood, and being in my body, and feeding myself. I will be the weaver of tales, the keeper of creative fires, the one who stitches together the darkness and the light in my life.
Here is the collection of things I made for Christmas this year: