Presence Not Presents

December 22, 2016

Garland of presents, Eagle Harbor Bookstore

Garland of presents Eagle Harbor Bookstore

“Presence not presents.”
— Jonathan Fields, How To Live a Good Life

Presence:  my niece and her daughter on the Winslow waterfront

Presence: my niece and her daughter on the Winslow waterfront

Advertisements

“Give only if you have something you must give; give only if you are someone for whom giving is its own reward.”
— Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

Gratitude garland

Gratitude garland

“When the gift I give to the other is integrated to my own nature, when it comes from a place of organic reality within me, it will renew itself — and me — even as I give it away.”
— Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

I do believe that some of the best gifts are gifts of yourself, your time, your attention, your unique talents and skills.  But I like the added refinement that Palmer offers, namely, to be attuned to whether your giving depletes you or renews you.  Sometimes when you given all you’ve got, to the point of exhaustion, that still feels good because you have the satisfaction of a job well done with no regrets for holding back.  But if you are feeling burned out, then I think it is time to question whether you should keep giving what is depleting you, sometimes to the point of illness.  Maybe there is a healthier way to give or help.

One thing we all can give to each other is our attention.  This is something I need to and want to work on.  I would like to become a better listener.  For me, that means starting from a point of stillness.  Really stopping.  And then listening with absorption, with eye contact, face to face, heart to heart.  Attuned to the feelings behind what is being said, rather than the factual content.  Listening more and talking less.  What a gift that would be!

 

My Trellis Christmas Tree

December 13, 2013

Christmas tree, a rustic wooden trellis

Christmas tree, a rustic wooden trellis

“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!”
— Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers

Trellis tree

Vintage Santa ornament

IMG_6212

Ornament

This year instead of a live tree, I decorated a rustic, weathered wooden trellis.  Strung with lights, a paper star garland, and a few favorite ornaments, its A-shape resembles a real evergreen tree, don’t you think?

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”
— Charles Dickens

Wreath made of colorful ball ornaments

“I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays – let them overtake me unexpectedly – waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself: ‘Why, this is Christmas Day!'”
— David Grayson

I like the idea of parceling out the special treats of the Christmas season over the entire year, but especially during these final days leading up to Christmas Day itself.  I will take each Christmas-y moment as it comes, and try to attend to its unique colors, sounds, and scents.

Here are a few moments I captured with my camera at Swansons Nursery in Seattle, still early in this year’s holiday season.

Young shopper at Swansons Nursery

Amaryllis in bloom

Pine cone and squirrel ornaments for sale

Luminous pear ornaments for sale

One of the reindeer at Swansons Nursery

A garland of bells

Decisions, decisions

Red bows

Radio Flyer shopping “cart”

 

 

Simple garland of money plant seed pods over my dining room door

An assortment of money plant (lunaria) seed pods

I love garlands.  The branch above my dining room doorway is almost a permanent fixture, but I like to hang different things from it to reflect the changing seasons or holidays.  For fall, I sewed together a garland of seed pods from money plants, and then looped it around the branch a few times.  I think it gives a lovely all-natural decorative touch to the room.

Detail of seed pod garland

Seed pod garland

And, of course, I was inspired to do a watercolor painting of the colorful pods.

Watercolor sketch of money plant seed pods

Mobile made from maple keys

An assortment of colorful maple keys

Here’s a super simple fall decorating idea — sew together a garland of maple keys and hang them in a window.  They make a beautiful all-natural mobile.

I love the colors of the maple seed pods.  Here are a couple of watercolor sketches they inspired:

Watercolor sketch of maple keys

Another watercolor sketch of maple keys

Another way to use paper snowflakes

It’s been a few years since I’ve taken scissors to white paper to cut out snowflakes.  I love how each snowflake is unique, just like real ones!  This year I went an extra step and sewed the paper snowflakes into garlands.  I made short garlands, each string with three or four snowflakes.  But you could easily sew them into one long garland for a Christmas tree decoration.

Sewing the snowflakes into garlands

I simply sewed each snowflake down an imaginary center line and left about two inches of thread between snowflakes.

Snowflakes sewn together with thread

I tied a bead to the bottom of each of my garlands so that they would hang down nicely.

Five snowflake garlands hanging in my kitchen window

I used the finished garland to make a snowflake “valance” in my kitchen window.

Dreaming of a white Christmas. . .

I'm not the only one thinking of a white Christmas. Here's the Starbucks sign for this holiday season.