Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Shortbread, mulled wine, and a raccoon

If Christmas had a flavour it would be butter shortbread. The simplest, yet richest cookie you can imagine. An indulgence without excessive flashiness.

If Christmas had a a sound it would be a distant fiddle, carrying on the frozen breeze over snow locked fields.

If Christmas projected a single image it would be this: two children waiting in the pre-dawn darkness for the first rays of light to signal the start of Christmas morning. As the sun slants through the blinds there is a simultaneous intake of excited breath as they are given leave to burst from the warmth of sheets into the glow of the Christmas tree where magic makes the air crackle.

If Christmas had a smell it would be a mixture of mulled wine, cranberries, and pine needles.

If you could touch it there, against your fingers, would be the stickiness of sap and the roughness of tree bark, the slip of one perfect satin ribbon, the bristle of fur on the dog passed out under the table where he has spent the evening licking up crumbs.

And at its core, the light in the winter darkness: being embraced by the people who hold your heart in theirs, a perpetual gift that they carry like a torch all their lives.


This holiday season has brought on a crafting spree. Here is a felted raccoon who found a new home at a recent gift exchange.

Felted Raccoon. Copyright Andrea Paterson. 2013

Felted Raccoon. Copyright Andrea Paterson. 2013.

Felted Raccoon. Copyright Andrea Paterson. 2013.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Soul of the Season

Christmas lights me up. There is a pagan magic that still lingers in the holiday and my whole being orients itself towards the solstice. The Christian nativity story had fallen away from my personal festivities a long time ago, but in a small Christmas miracle I was brought back to the story by theological scholar Tom Harpur, who managed to breathe new life into the tale.

Harpur, in his book the Pagan Christ, traces the mythological figure of Jesus back to his origin in the ancient Egyptian god Horus, born through a virgin birth to the goddess Isis. Harpur asks readers to consider the Christmas story as the powerful allegory that it was meant to be rather than trying, and failing, to force our brains to believe in the physical impossibility of a virgin birth or other unlikely aspects of the story.  Harpur argues that “the story is not the literal account it seems to be on the surface; it is about the birth, in the heart of every human being, of the Christ. It is a supreme telling of the central myth of all religion—the incarnation of the divine into human flesh.” (143). 

On the darkest night of the year at the winter solstice humans in a multitude of times and places celebrated the return of the sun. This celestial event corresponded to mythological events including the birth of the Sun (Son) into the soul of every person. Harpur is a bit vague about what he means by Christ being born into the heart, but I take it to mean coming to the knowledge of our own inner divinity, seeing the spirit that resides in the housing of our flesh, or growing into a relationship with the soul--that ever elusive and undefinable part of our consciousness that makes us search for greater meaning.

I don't think you need to have supernatural beliefs in order to find this myth appealing. Suddenly Christmas can be about finding the divine spark in your own soul, about nurturing that new-born light, and letting it become a fire that guides you through your days. The spark is likely different for everyone, resulting in myriad actions--a tradition that lives on in the custom of New Years' Resolutions. Each year as the light of the sun draws equal to and then surpasses the light of the moon we have a symbolic chance to be reborn.

So at Christmas when you light fires in the hearth, set the mantle with candles, and hang the tree with a million twinkling beacons you can think also of the birth of the Sun in the darknesses you have been harbouring within yourself. We all have wounded places that could use the persistent flicker of a guiding star to bring them back into the light. The pilgrimage is there to be taken and you don't even have to leave your home. 

What rituals are integral to your holiday festivities? I'd love to hear about them!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Murder in the Music Room

In a series of very unfortunate events my harp murdered my violin. I know, it seems unlikely, but I was there to witness the brutality and I can say with certainty that it is true. A motive has yet to be determined, but the string of events that led to the death of my violin are clear.

My violin was sitting on an instrument stand minding his own business. He had, sadly, been evicted from his case due to an infestation of bow mites. Homeless and chilly he was making the best of it on the instrument stand. It's likely that he was lonely too, because he is my old violin, the one I bought in Scotland, and have been attempting to sell as I have acquired a new instrument. I have been trying to sell the violin for months now without any luck finding a buyer and I could see where he might begin to lose his will to live.

Suddenly I am beginning to wonder if this was, in fact, an assisted suicide instead of a murder. Could it be that the harp, being larger and stronger, was somehow compelled to help my violin end his tormented existence? I will never know. What I do know is that my violin was sitting on the stand and I was trying to get something out of the closet and I bumped the harp and it tipped over and it crashed into my violin and cracked it down the middle. Not entirely in half, just a nasty crack down the center of the instrument that renders it completely worthless.

The harp denies culpability. Says it was an accident, but I'm not convinced. The bump was light and the violin too perfectly placed for it to be an accident. Whether the two of them staged the incident or the harp acted alone out of jealousy I can't say. I will generally have to give the harp the benefit of the doubt, because I can't afford to trade it in for a more law abiding model. The harp didn't sustain any injuries, though she is getting old and could really kick the bucket at any moment.

My new violin was safely in a case downstairs and, thankfully, didn't witness the mayhem. I don't intend to mention it lest she feel she's in danger from the harp. My suspicion is that there won't be a repeat offense, but one can never be too careful.

I'm truly a bit broken up by the whole event. I hoped that my Scottish violin would go to a good home and get the years of play he deserved. I was also counting on the income from his sale to fund the purchase of photography gear. But alas, my violin lies cold and dormant in his mite infested case, and awaits a miracle. I will take him in to a music shop to rule out the possibility of a fix, but then he will have to be consigned to the musical scrap heap. I hope that he gets to sing in the afterlife and I'm sorry for my clumsiness which may or may not have contributed to his early demise.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Christmas Fox

If my son were an animal he would, no doubt, be a fox. Sneaky, cunning, and known for playing the character of the trickster, foxes are the kind of creature that might slink into your life and completely turn it upside-down. They are wild and fierce, wise and observant. Playful, hungry, sharp. Witty, and likely to get away with things. My son charms everyone he meets with a quick hello, then immediately starts begging for the treats they have with them. Many an adult has succumbed to my child's wiles--eventually giving up their grapes or strawberries, their candies, even small toys.

At home I find that my little boy has squeezed himself into odd spaces--like behind the toilet--and has begun constructing a den of toys and household objects.

I made this needle felted fox as a portrait of sorts. It is a gift, an ornament for my son's second Christmas. My hope is to make one every year as a record of his growing spirit. This year he has the spirit of a fox, next year he might transform into something entirely different.

Felted Fox. Copyright Andrea Paterson. 2013

Felted Fox. Copyright Andrea Paterson. 2013

Felted Fox. Copyright Andrea Paterson. 2013.