Magic, Forest, Winter: A Christmas Card

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December 21, 2015 by Julia

 

I gather up art after my work is done for the evening. It’s my current favorite quiet activity, what I do to calm and feed myself. I go on Pinterest and dive down the various rabbit holes of whimsy and wonder. I like deciding if a piece truly speaks to me  – and then which aspect of the art speaks loudest to me. Is it the expression in the face, or the beauty of the brushstrokes?

I'm in love with this woman! Photos capture the outside world, paintings the world inside our minds. Note by Roger Carrier "Wintersonne " 1913 Leo Putz:

“Wintersonne ” 1913 Leo Putz

I categorize them in totally subjective ways, just for myself: Color and Feel, Portraits, Meaningful Images, Magical, Animals, Fun, Homes and Places, Pretty, Nature.

The Secret Garden, Julia Sarda:

The Secret Garden, Julia Sarda

Holidays also compel me to search out poetry – more than any other time of year. (By the way, I found this great resource in my search – The Poetry Foundation.)

December 26

BY KENN NESBITT

A BB gun.
A model plane.
A basketball.
A ’lectric train.
A bicycle.
A cowboy hat.
A comic book.
A baseball bat.
A deck of cards.
A science kit.
A racing car.
A catcher’s mitt.
So that’s my list
of everything
that Santa Claus
forgot to bring.

“December 26.” © 2001 by Kenn Nesbitt. Reprinted from The Aliens Have Landed at Our School! (© 2001, 2005 by Kenn Nesbitt)

 

Some of this collecting is my effort to feel the way I’m supposed to feel on Christmas…which I say with much hesitation, as someone who does not enjoy forced cheer. I don’t think we should scold ourselves when we feel too busy to “savor the moments,” or feel guilty for darkened moods around the holidays. Many of us have good reason to feel these emotions. But maybe it’s okay to also seek out the things about holidays that do make us happy. There’s nothing wrong with reeling the Christmas spirit back into ourselves, the best way we know how.

The things I most enjoy about Christmas have a sacred air: voices joined in old songs, the hush of snow falling in woods, a flickering candle in my hand, the upper reaches of darkened cathedrals, lights in windows, seen from outside. I think of baking, and the sweetness of having a family to share gifts with.

And I keep reaching for some possibly unattainable Christmas Eve where I am not tired.

But you know what? It’s not so bad to be tired on Christmas Eve. I keep forgetting that we can enjoy imperfect things, too. I mean, duh.

Perfection is not the goal. Any artist will tell you perfection is not real, it’s boring, it’s stale.

The dripping wax from the candle in my hand may burn me for a second, but it brings home the warmth. It seals the radiant image of the candle in my memory.

So I do my best to accept the tiredness as just another shadow that lends depth to the light.

And continue to gather up things that make me happy. Because it’s the acceptance of reality alongside the hoping and learning and trying that makes things okay, I think.

I send this post to you like a greeting card, with the belief that whatever brings us comfort or peace or even transcendence during this hectic holiday season is worth our time.

 

stopping by woods (Robert Frost, Susan Jeffers):

Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost, from the  illustrated edition by Susan Jeffers

Gerhard Richter – Two Candles

You Matter to Me from Sara Bareilles’ new album,”What’s Inside: Songs from Waitress.” I’ve been listening to the whole album on repeat – it’s gorgeous and fun and heartfelt. Bareilles wrote the songs for the new musical Waitress, which is based on the lovely movie by the same name (which was released in 2007, starring Keri Russell), a movie I SO adore. I can’t take cheesiness, but I do love down-to-earth romance. The above song has been stuck in my head, and I must say…it’s a good message to hear on repeat.

December 24, 1971

BY JOSEPH BRODSKY

For V.S.

When it’s Christmas we’re all of us magi.
At the grocers’ all slipping and pushing.
Where a tin of halvah, coffee-flavored,
is the cause of a human assault-wave
by a crowd heavy-laden with parcels:
each one his own king, his own camel.
Nylon bags, carrier bags, paper cones,
caps and neckties all twisted up sideways.
Reek of vodka and resin and cod,
orange mandarins, cinnamon, apples.
Floods of faces, no sign of a pathway
toward Bethlehem, shut off by blizzard.
And the bearers of moderate gifts
leap on buses and jam all the doorways,
disappear into courtyards that gape,
though they know that there’s nothing inside there:
not a beast, not a crib, nor yet her,
round whose head gleams a nimbus of gold.
Emptiness. But the mere thought of that
brings forth lights as if out of nowhere.
Herod reigns but the stronger he is,
the more sure, the more certain the wonder.
In the constancy of this relation
is the basic mechanics of Christmas.
That’s what they celebrate everywhere,
for its coming push tables together.
No demand for a star for a while,
but a sort of good will touched with grace
can be seen in all men from afar,
and the shepherds have kindled their fires.
Snow is falling: not smoking but sounding
chimney pots on the roof, every face like a stain.
Herod drinks. Every wife hides her child.
He who comes is a mystery: features
are not known beforehand, men’s hearts may
not be quick to distinguish the stranger.
But when drafts through the doorway disperse
the thick mist of the hours of darkness
and a shape in a shawl stands revealed,
both a newborn and Spirit that’s Holy
in your self you discover; you stare
skyward, and it’s right there:
                                                    a star.

Joseph Brodsky, “December 24, 1971” from Collected Poems in English, 1972-1999. Copyright © 2000 by Joseph Brodsky.  Reprinted by permission of The Wylie Agency, Inc.
Source: Collected Poems in English, 1972-1999 (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2000)

Found at The Poetry Foundation.

 

I am loving the warm, folksy vibe of this new Christmas album by Elizabeth Mitchell, who is a favorite among many parents for her non-annoying children’s music.

Joy to the World, by Elizabeth Mitchell from The Sounding Joy: Songs In and Out of the Ruth Crawford Seeger Songbook

 

This is my all time favorite Christmas print!:

Found at Grace(ful) Things on Tumblr

Edmund Dulac - The Snow Queen:

Edmund Dulac – The Snow Queen, found here

illustration, animal, rabbit, hedgehog, mouse, fairy, fruit, lighting, ice skate, snow, winter, tree, night, Omar Rayyan:

Illustration by Omar Rayyan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing by Sufjan Stevens

Christmas Trees

BY ROBERT FROST

(A Christmas Circular Letter)

The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I’d hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine, I said,
“There aren’t enough to be worth while.”
“I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over.”
                                                     “You could look.
But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.”
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.”
I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north. He said, “A thousand.”
“A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?”
He felt some need of softening that to me:
“A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.”
Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter.
I can’t help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.

 

 

Dennis and I had the privilege of seeing the Morgan State University Choir’s Christmas concert last Friday evening. I’d been wanting to see it for years, and finally just bit the bullet and bought tickets. The choir sings a range of musical genres, from classical to spirituals, reggae, jazz and gospel. One of my favorite things in music is when people are really feeling it, which is why gospel is possibly my favorite kind of live music.

We were in the very last row – it was a little dizzying!

This gospel arrangement of the Hallelujah Chorus gave me happy chills on Friday night. This is not a recording of what we saw, but it is recent. I wish the audio were better, and I wish you could’ve been there at the Christmas concert, because like I said – there is no substitute for live gospel music. It was like a party.

Hallelujah Chorus  from Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration, performed by Morgan State University Choir.

Click to enlarge

The Midnight Mass by Edward Timothy Hurley.

Click to enlarge

From The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, of course.

Winter

Winter by firefluff on Etsy

December Substitute

BY KENN NESBITT

Our substitute is strange because
he looks a lot like Santa Claus.
In fact, the moment he walked in
we thought that he was Santa’s twin.
We wouldn’t think it quite so weird,
if it were just his snowy beard.
But also he has big black boots
and wears these fuzzy bright red suits.
He’s got a rather rounded gut
that’s like a bowl of you-know-what.
And when he laughs, it’s deep and low
and sounds a lot like “Ho! Ho! Ho!”
He asks us all if we’ve been good
and sleeping when we know we should.
He talks of reindeers, sleighs, and elves
and tells us to behave ourselves.
And when it’s time for us to go
he dashes out into the snow.
But yesterday we figured out
just what our sub is all about.
We know just why he leaves so quick,
and why he’s dressed like Old Saint Nick
in hat and coat and boots and all:
He’s working evenings at the mall.

“December Substitute.” © 2005 by Kenn Nesbitt. Reprinted from When the Teacher Isn’t Looking (© 2005 by Kenn Nesbitt) with permission from Meadowbrook Press.

Source: When the Teacher Isn’t Looking (2005)

I’ve always enjoyed this carol’s tune, but never thought much about the lyrics. They are beautiful – full of kindness and vivid imagery.

Good King Wenceslas

BY JOHN MASON NEALE

Good King Wenceslas look’d out,
    On the Feast of Stephen;
When the snow lay round about,
    Deep, and crisp, and even:
Brightly shone the moon that night,
    Though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight,
    Gath’ring winter fuel.
“Hither page and stand by me,
    If thou know’st it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he?
    Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence.
    Underneath the mountain;
Right against the forest fence,
    By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”
“Bring me flesh,and bring me wine,
    Bring me pine-logs hither:
Thouand I will see him dine,
    When we bear them thither.”
Page and monarch forth they went,
    Forth they went together;
Through the rudewind’s wild lament,
    And the bitter weather.
“Sire, the night is darker now,
    And the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know now how,
    I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, good my page;
    Tread thou in them boldly;
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
    Freeze thy blood less coldly.”
In his master’s steps he trod,
    Where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod
    Which the Saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
    Wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor,
    Shall yourselves find blessing.

 

Fill up with beauty.:

"Backlight" - Mike Malm, oil on canvas, 2011 {contemporary figurative artist female head glow woman face profile portrait painting #loveart} <3 mikemalm.com:

“Backlight” – Mike Malm, oil on canvas, 2011

Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones!

 

 

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