a piece of panettone.
all of the people are gone
and i am finally left alone
with my book.
i feel like i could sleep for days and days.
but the book is too good
so i read instead.
into the depths of winter on the coast of newfoundland i go.
make sure you bring your mittens.
the book is finished.
aside from a few minor changes. and i am starting to feel as if i am being released from it’s grasp. winded. stretched. needing some time to just be. there is much to tell about it later, it was written two years ago this january, rejected six times until it found the right publisher. then two of my manuscripts were accepted basically in the same month. I revised them both over the summer, and since september I have done over 400 illustrations (on top of moving accross the country and not moving into a home for two months). i can’t believe it myself.
the wolf and i go for a walk this morning and it is almost as if i am feeling the wind on my skin for the first time in months. we traipse through the neighborhood and the grounds at the castle, picking up pine boughs that broke off during a recent storm. the first breath of christmas enters my lungs, and i throw the branches over my shoulder. they bounce behind us as we make the journey home. the wolf being a work dog keeps looking up at me and the branches to make sure everything is in line, it is his job to oversee any work that occurs. and i feel like we are a team. partners in harvesting the christmas spirit, in the form of ‘found’ decorations.
i have become accustomed to having this white being at my side on my travels. we are alone for the weekend and I plan for the two of us to decorate the house, listen to x-mas music (lucky for the wolf that he is deaf so he won’t have to hear me sing along at the top of my lungs), read some good books, and bake a little.
we place the boughs on the porch and go inside to warm up some lunch. i have been listening to CBC Newfoundland lately broadcast on the internet. today is a phone in show about people reminiscing about the x-mas wishbook (catalogues), in canada it was the Simpsons/Sears catalogue whose three inch thick x-mas edition was coveted and fought over by children nationwide. while listening to the thick newfie accent of some of the callers, I am overcome with such a strong feeling of missing my mom and nana at this time of year. the tears fall uncontrollably. they were always busy knitting, sewing and baking. x-mas was always homemade for us and had little to do with stores and shopping.
i cannot recall a x-mas as a child that I wasn’t surrounded by fabric scraps and wool for months before. i’ve written before about the handmade socks in the stocking, and slippers and the thick flannel p.j.’s. and the food. all cooked on a big black woodstove. a steamed carrot pudding with a white rum sauce. just thinking about it makes me teary.
no matter how much i try, i cannot get into a christmas that is about going to stores and having to buy things that people don’t really want or need. just give me my crochet hook and some paper scraps.
this project was created for some friends and I thought I would make it available to you. it’s completely free! (or if you wish you can make a donation to the Stephen Lewis Foundation via a donation page I set up through Canada Helps.) See an excerpt of him speaking here, (he’s truly amazing.) Donations not necessary, but it feels good.
oh yes, and don’t forget the portable tree, from the archives. or the ever popular instant snow, (for those in warm climates. Penelope, this is for you).
today i would rather be submersing myself in the poems of mary oliver, wandering with her through the woods and wetlands. noticing the subtle palette of colors at this time of year, all shades of browns and faded rust with some yellow thrown in. the absence of green.
but instead I work on final art for a book. often not feeling like I know what i am doing. but i suppose that is par for the course. i always feel like this with every big project. it’s a lot harder though when you know this thing will be in print for several years and you will have to live with whatever mistakes there are for the duration. still i am in love with the work, even through these rough patches. the kettle seems to be going all day in this house. i measure my days with cups of tea.
and dog bones.
my life has been hijacked recently by a deaf australian shepherd named alex. i call him my white wolf. for many big reasons he has come into my life (our lives), most of which we are learning as we go. i am learning mostly about myself, (that I can be rather selfish and protective of my time/space, and learning to relinquish this was a bit of a shock to the system). it may seem strange to some, but this is one of the hardest things i have ever done. i have a new found respect for every parent and every dog owner on the planet, (now humbled and awed by you all.) and yet for all the ups and downs, i find myself drawn to several images of white wolves i find out in the world, a sign that this creature has forever wormed his way into my heart and body despite the daily challenges. more and more i am craving the feeling of rubbing my face into his incredibly soft white ears. and that wonderful nightly occurence we have dubbed, “sleepy puppy”, dozy loving eyes. i am adjusting to being woken up by a warm tongue on my face. and i am learning that some of his acting out comes from the fact that he is scared.
just like a lot of humans i know.
research: in native Haida culture the wolf represents intelligence, leadership and a strong sense of family.
p.s. this photo was the best i could get. he does not like the lights on the camera at all, and runs away terrified.