Early this morning from our living room window, over the rooftops, I spied mist covered fields beneath a clear blue sky.
I pulled boots and a warm gilet over my pj’s and went out for a walk beyond my village and out into the countryside.
The only people out and about were the posties, some shop keepers, a few dog walkers and their charges. I said to the greengrocer ‘Isn’t it quiet . . . . but busy day today?’ He shook his head and said ‘Calm before the storm.’
Steve and I are all set for the holidays. We have a pretty relaxed and mellow time over Christmas. We exchange heartfelt gifts and enjoy cooking and eating even more fabulous food than usual. We did some final food and gift shopping yesterday in Exeter. It was somewhat manic and I was glad to return home after a couple of hours in town.
While I was walking down the lane I thought about Christmas. The seasonal films we’ve been watching – A Christmas Carol, A Charlie Brown Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life – are about finding the ‘true meaning’ of the Yuletide, usually the importance of friends, family and love for our fellows. I also observe how so many people are focused on the materialism of the Christmas holiday and stressed out about needing to create the ‘perfect’ day.
I wondered about what it would be like to completely strip back the gifts, cards and feasting. What would remain? Would there even be a holiday?
My thoughts went back to the time long before the legend about Jesus being the son of God was peddled and before the Bible was written. What there always has been is the return of the light, the days drawing out and the turning of the year to fruition. We have always and still do depend upon this for our survival. Not just humans, but all life.
This holiday, this Holy Day, celebrates the life force which animates every living thing. We gather together with our loved ones to remember that we are not alone. We feast on rich foods to nourish and sustain us through the darkest and leanest time of the year. And we light a candle to mark the returning of the light.
Some friends gave us a few branches of bay leaves for Christmas. I strip the leaves off and put them between the pages of a heavy book to flatten them out.
Because they don’t dry curly it makes them tidier to store and just in case I make Hasselback potatoes, they slip neatly between the potato slices.
I use a hefty book such as Larousse Gastronomique.
Beyond frosted rooftops,
beneath a snow filled sky,
I have a pretty big collection of books by and about Native Americans. They’ve been distributed between my studio and some of our bookcases in the living room.
In November 2015, I got them all together and made a stack of 70 books.
For Christmas that year, I asked for a Sapiens bookshelf which I put in my studio to hold all of my Native American library in one place.
I have an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of this library. 23,040 pages just in case you were wondering. To date I have 28 books about the Muscogee ranging from our language, spirituality, creation stories and folktales, history from the 1500’s through the Civil War and genealogy. My latest book is The Politics of Indian Removal: Creek Government and Society in Crisis by Michael D Green. This excellent book is is distinguished for its Creek perspective. I’m finding it fascinating to immerse my self in while I am working on Road to Oklahoma.
Just one little problem is that it is book number 86 in my library and I have no room for it!
So to paraphrase Roy Scheider, I’m going to need a bigger bookcase.
I’d made some paper clay gorgets for my Road to Oklahoma a few months ago and have decided that I’d rather they be made from fibre.
So far I’ve tried needle-felted fleece, collaged ultrasuede and either back-stitch or trapunto onto cotton, satin or felt.
None of them are quite right and I am so frustrated. My husband reminds me that I will work it out. He has seen me in this place many times before!
I love drawing and meditating on these images. I find the symmetry of the designs within the circles very balanced and harmonious.
Harmony, graphite, 2017
An amusing thing happened when I had drawn a design onto the back of a piece of felt forgetting to reverse it, so that when I finished stitching it, it was a mirror image. Steve queried if it matters and I said. ‘Yes, it will disturb the harmony of the Universe’.
The movement in many of the designs is counterclockwise. The Muscogee stomp dance is counterclockwise. This is because our ancestors knew that the earth and the sun spin on their axes counterclockwise and the planets rotate around the sun counterclockwise. The Muscogee Way is about finding balance and restoring harmony to the world.
Yesterday I watched a series of short videos about textile artist Sue Stone.
Her mantra is: ‘Be brave, push boundaries, make mistakes’. She advocates going deep into just a very few techniques, making way for exploration and discovery. This makes sense, but I am still figuring out which materials to use. I think that this is the time to step back and focus on another part of the piece where I know exactly what I need to be doing.