Monday, August 31, 2009

You know you're going about things the wrong way when the holiday anxiety starts before the holidays themselves. For a number of years now I've been frustrated at the difference between what I want the winter holiday season to focus on and feel like and what it really ends up becoming. I want it to be a warm, loving time when we celebrate the circle round to the birth of a new year, a time to enjoy the still moment between seasons, a time to enjoy the company of friends and family.

Somehow all that shines through, but a lot of it is overshadowed by the harried, commercial, stressful nature of ridiculously unrealistic expectations and busy schedules.

One of the traditions that is difficult to keep in control is gift giving.

Throwing in a completely random but adorable photo of Rosie as a gift stocking from last year's family photos. Just because I can.

Gifts - the giving and the getting, the buying and/or the making. The wrapping and the sending. I get exhausted just thinking about it.

I've tried to find a balance between the pleasure it brings me to make, buy, wrap, give, and receive gifts and the stress and time that it generates well before (making things, figuring out what to give those hard-to-give people on the list.... etc.) and well after (credit card bills come due, gifts might need exchanging or a place for them in ones home needs to be established).

I've tried different approaches, with some successes, some not so much. Making gifts seems the way to go and it always makes me feel good and get in the mood when I'm in the midst of being a holiday elf. But sometimes making gifts, especially once you factor in any shipping costs, ends up costing as much as buying something. And it's time consuming. I enjoy giving my time and energy in this way but sometimes there just isn't ENOUGH time, especially as our family isn't what you'd call a teensy crowd.

I've tried convincing people to focus more on the fun of gifting in small quantities and it's hard to get everyone on the same page. This year, with the added stress of the economy and limited budgets, I think I finally have everyone ready to listen. And I've announced that, regardless of what everyone else does, this year I will be doing a NO BUY holiday season. Several family members have already agreed this sounds like a fabulous idea.

This doesn't mean we won't be exchanging gifts. We like exchanging gifts. But we're going to be continuing our Yule tradition of creative gift giving and dropping completely the residual Christmas gift buying frenzy of years past. So, gifts, if one gives them, will be handmade, or foraged, grown, found, or perhaps even purchased second hand (or purchased handmade by someone elses hands).

Last year I gifted a couple people with donations made in their name and it brought great pleasure to everyone on all ends of the interaction. I hope to do more of the same this year.

Mainly, I hope to make or gather gifts for everyone. I've got some ideas, more ideas are percolating. Teens and the men in the family are the most challenging. The women and kids are pretty easy to please.

IMG_3367 by you.

Another random photo from last year thrown in because it makes me smile. This package was obviously not wrapped by Martha Stewart. One of the "boys" wrapped it actually.

Trying to get the balance just right, I'm not planning on being militant about participation, even for myself. It's a goal, not a hard and fast rule. If someone in the family has more money than time, knock yourself out doing the shopping-frenzy-at-the-mall routine. If I stumble upon a few bits and bobs that I think will add to the fun, I'm gonna buy them. And if I run out of time or inspiration, I'll be kind to myself and purchase a few things. The idea is to turn DOWN the commercialism, minimize the financial drain, make things easier and more fun. As much as we can without turning off the spigot and drying up the celebration entirely.

So, that's the plan. And this is my "public announcement" to firm it up in my mind. There are a lot of changes happening this year in our traditions. It will be one of those bridge years, holding on to or storing for future years those traditions we still love and hold dear, and walking away from some that no longer fit our evolving tribe of family and friends.

One more point - every year I find I've started too late for these homemade holiday ideas to come to complete fruition. That's why I'm posting this so early, well before I've even jumped into my first and favorite holidays of the dark half of the year - Halloween, Samhain, and Dia de Los Muertos. (ooooh, I'm starting to get in the mood - more on that soon! Anyone up for a swap!?) I'm hoping this starting early in planning will help take the stress out of the "last minute and too much to finish" phenomenon. But on the other hand, I've got plans to get back in the studio and work on non-holiday related projects as well. The real question this year will be - is there time and room for both of these paths?

Feedback - what's everyone else up to these days? What plans (if you've even started thinking about it yet) do you have for this year's holidays, and has the economic down turns of this last year influenced your plans?

Last comment - I'm finally getting posts up about Faerieworlds over on Beach Treasure. Mundane and magical, studio life and day-to-day activities all blur together inseparably during this time of year. So don't miss out on all the creative fashion and costuming (I hate using the word costume but it's a useful description here) going on over there. Lots of great photos and links to some wonderful artists in the last couple posts and more posts to come. Keep checking in there.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

There's a word for it - pareidolia. It means seeing meaning, faces, in random scenes. Science tells us we do this because the right combination of shapes and shadows triggers the hardwired need for face recognition that helps infants bond with their caregivers. Okay, sure, that makes sense.

But sometimes, doesn't it feel like more than just shapes and patterns. Doesn't it feel like there is a presence, a sense of spirit? Particularly in nature. Maybe we're catching a glimpse of the otherworld, the fae, the wild elementals that hide from us mere mortals.

On a trip to Burney Falls this summer, there certainly seemed like there were more than just rocks, more than water, more than plants and sky. What do you think? What do you see in the photos below? Did I capture anything or anyone that you can see?

IMG_7150 by you.

IMG_7160 by you.

IMG_7163 by you.

IMG_7164 by you.

IMG_7165 by you.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I can't really think of anything to add to the viewing - just watch the beauty.

Monday, August 24, 2009

For more Peter Donnelly - his website.