Winter Solstice and Gifting

141219 DawnThis is my favorite day of the year.  It’s the end of the seasons for me and the beginning of new.  Today is the shortest day and the end of darkness with each day becoming a few minutes longer until June.  It may not seem like minutes of daylight are increasing but I know that we are back on that swing and just knowing that makes the shorter days more tolerable.

Christmas is this week and I have 4 days to finish up all projects for the holiday.  I think I made everyone’s gift this year except one. Most gifts will be delivered today maintaining the lifelong tradition of homemade goodies for neighbors and friends.  The holiday wouldn’t be special for me if baking was taken out of the equation.  The recipes are dusted off – these cookies are only made for the holidays.  The smells and tastes bringing childhood back to me as they are molded and baked (and eaten with the numerous cups of coffee needed to pull this off).  The last things made yesterday were the dog biscuits for Chester’s friends.

The gift giving for family has been dialed back.  I’ve had to purchase some raw material but for the most part none of it remotely resembled the finished product.  I’ve given each individual a lot of thought and put the spirit of that into each piece made.  I’m hoping they feel the love because that’s was the gift is really all about, a token.

I’m fortunate to have the ability to do this.  I sometimes think that everyone is capable of making their gifts. I honestly think they should try, the gift is so much more meaningful for the gifted and the giver.  I also realize that telling my loved ones to make me something instead of buying it can put on a lot of pressure.  For those that aren’t confident in their ability to create this can be a serious burden.  I also think I say that to push them into the mindset of crafting and art.  Doing so is a gift in itself – you will never know the satisfaction of creating something with your hands until you try.

I’m putting everyone on notice now for next year.  Create your gifts, start thinking about them now.  Do a little search on the internet, you can find a tutorial for everything.  Learn a new skill, even if it’s just a new recipe. Cook a good meal, share with those you love.  For me it’s never the finished product but what went into the creation of it.  What did you learn?  How peaceful did you become while doing it (that may take time).  Put your love into the finished product and the recipient will see it – honest.

 

 

 

 

First Snow

141114 First Snow

I woke up this morning to the first snow of the season.  I thought once the sun came up it would go but it’s mid afternoon and it’s still on the ground.

The fact that it snowed was somehow a signal to me to finish up a few projects in need of just a couple of hours of my time.  My rug is a row of twisted fringe away from lying on the floor.  Skeins of yarn were wound in anticipation of a new warp.  Drafts were reviewed with the planning for Christmas in full swing.

Twisting fringe gives you a lot of time for meditation and today I was thinking about what allows a person to do seemingly mundane, repetitive tasks that build into the finer crafts that I have been playing with lately.  I used to tell my husband that there was absolutely no way to bore me as long as I had something to do with my hands.  I think it comes from seeing multiple generations of my family always busy with their hands.  From knitting and quilting to mechanics and wood working everyone was always doing something.  I’m fortunate that they also thought it was important to pass on the knowledge and interest in one way or another.

My interest in the things I learned when I was younger has grown as I age.  When I was cleaning out the attic I came across the first piece of crewel embroidery I made with my grandmother. I think I was 8 or 9 years old.  She bought some little kit and showed me the stitches.  I would work them while she did some sort of handwork of her own I’m sure.  If she wasn’t there my mother would show me what I needed to know.  I learned many, many things from those women.  I think the most important is the work of your hands can be a form of meditation.

Doing the same small thing over and over allows your mind to work out the problems of the day (or week or month).  Almost all crafts allow you to do this.  There’s a learning curve to everything but there always comes point where the work becomes known and it’s only in the beginning stages that it requires concentration.

Every new craft that I have learned to do I have always worked to perfection over whatever time it takes to do so.  I will make one thing after another, honing my skill until I’ve worked it to death.  For a number of years I made teddy bears, not ordinary bears but beautiful, jointed stuffed animals.  The reason I did it?  I needed to perfect the embroidery of their noses.  Once I got to the point of knowing they could meet the expectations of even the harshest critic I taught others to make them.  It finally ran its course.  I know that if I decided someone needed a bear of their own I could make one with little effort and it would meet my exacting standards without the frustration of the first 10 or 20 bears that I originally made.  Also, in making that bear now, I would be able to meditate my way through the entire process, think about its recipient and put more of my good thoughts into the gift.

So it would appear to an outsider that I have craft ADD – and I do in some respect but it’s also a sick pursuit of perfection that drives what to others looks like a crazy, boring craft project.  I will work a skill a little at a time until I master it and continue to learn the possibilities within the craft.

That may be the appeal of weaving, I know there are so many aspects to it that it will take the rest of my life just to explore them all but there are little pieces of it that I can work until it’s perfected, then move on.

I think that’s the way life is, you have to break it down into little pieces, perfecting or finishing it one bit at a time.  Not everything allows meditation but with patience and practice it can all feed your soul.  For me it’s all about finding that sweet spot in everything I do.  Now the season has shifted once again and I bring out the things that have been waiting for months for my attention.  In a few more months all I’ll want to do is dig in the dirt but for now I’ll be doing those cold weather projects.

Minor Miracle

140908 Clivia Sprouts

These tiny little sprouts are the beginning of a few Clivia plants.  The miracle part is that I have been trying to get them to sprout since last March.

It started early last spring when the Clivia I have blossomed profusely.  I bought the plant from White Flower Farm about 10 years ago.  It was just a mere shoot that came in a pot in the mail.  It is now huge, completely pot bound and grows a new shoot about every other year.  It’s the most common variety with orange blossoms with a yellow throat.  I really thought this was the perfect plant – it really thrives on neglect as long as it likes the window it’s in.  This one is sitting in front of a window that faces northeast.

I decided to search for a new variety but found that an established plant was really cost prohibitive.  In my search I found seeds for different varieties on eBay.  They were only $6 plus shipping so I figured there wasn’t much to lose so I bought two different varieties.  The kicker – they come from China.

A month or more later I received two packages in the mail, each with 6 and 8 seeds respectively.  The seeds of the Clivia are really tiny little bulbs.  They are related to the Amaryllis, so unless they are dried to a brown little husk they are viable.   These were beautiful little bulbs and I figured I was golden.

I did a lot of research on the web about how to start them – there are issues with fungus, everything needs to be sterile, start in damp perlite, blah, blah, blah.  Yup, I did all that.  Soaked them in a solution of peroxide, planted them in a sterile medium, covered to prevent bad things from happening and to keep them moist.  I waited – and waited and waited.

After about a month I noticed there was some mold around the nubs on the end of the bulbs.  I soaked them, changed the medium, started over again.  This I did in April, May, June . . . what the heck?  The bulbs still looked viable and I decided that at this point I had nothing to lose so I filled a large pot with regular potting soil and planted them around the edge.  I hadn’t covered it and honestly neglected it as I do all of my houseplants when the gardens are in full force during the summer.  Last week I figured I’d better water it and give them another shot.  I didn’t even poke around to see if they were doing anything.

Yesterday I watered again and saw one little green shoot – woohoo!  Today there’s a second.  Apparently all that coddling that the websites professed I needed really lead me astray on this one.  The plants start out thriving on neglect right from the beginning.  Now this is my kind of houseplant!