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Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

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Today is December 21st, and here in the northern hemisphere it’s the shortest day and the longest night of the year. In Minnesota, as we creep toward the end of the year, the shortening days grow more pronounced. The sun sets just after 4, or so it seems, and the sky is so gray that many days it feels like it never really came up to begin with. I know we’re not Norway or Alaska or someplace where the sun actually doesn’t come up, but for those of us with finely tuned SAD spectra, it’s bad enough. I’ve spent most of the last week feeling more than a little overwhelmed, and like maybe I could just stay in bed until the new year. We have people coming over on Monday (and I invited them, so it’s my own fault) – and the house is a mess, none of the presents are wrapped, there are still hand-made gifts to finish that have no hope of being done in time. I have no idea what we’re eating, and I’m pretty sure there’s something developing sentience in the crisper drawer. R is suffering from a mystery skin ailment that periodically just shoots pain through his body, and a trip to urgent care today turned up a “Hmmm. That’s weird. Want some codeine?”

The cares and problems of my friends feel even more overwhelming – a child with cancer, losses of loved ones, a messy separation involving baseless criminal charges, and a couple of scary car accidents. Compared to what they are coping with, my craziness is small – which makes me feel more like a failure when I can’t seem to get my act together. The dark, ooky cold of December doesn’t help.

Today, the Yarn Harlot put it well: this is the darkest night. When the sun rises tomorrow, we will be back on the upswing. It may happen slowly (and in MN, it always does), but tomorrow the day will be one minute longer than it was today, and that makes me happy. Unlike the YH, I don’t have little thoughtful gifts or beautiful food smells to give to those I love today, but when I get home tonight I will light candles in the windows and wash some dishes and fold the laundry. I’ll be one step closer to welcoming our friends on Monday. And you know what? They’re our friends. If they come over and all the snacks are from Costco instead of homemade, they’re not going to mind. And you know what? I’ll be so glad to see them that neither will I.

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Oy! There’s been so much to blog about in the last couple of weeks – an impending home repair project and lots of knitting and spinning developments. Instead of doing that, I’ve been sitting in a dark room for the last week, teching a production of Noel Coward’s Hay Fever.

I feel a bit like Dante from “Clerks”: I’m not even supposed to be here today. This show is in the thrust theater, a venue I don’t normally spend much time in. It’s been good to spend some time re-acquainting myself with the room and how it works, and figuring out all the stuff that’s currently broken and what I’m supposed to do to work around it. I am, however, in tech three weeks earlier than I had originally planned on. Thankfully, if I’m going to do an extra tech this spring, this is the one to do. Last week was the big push week and it was, in the words of one of my co-workers, downright civilized. I think it worked out to about 55 hours, give or take, which is pretty light for tech. We quit early both of the nights we were scheduled until midnight, and none of the daily rehearsals this week have begun before 2 – practically unheard of. My lighting designer is a total sweetheart, and has already bought me coffee a couple of times. Yesterday, a package full of cookies arrived from his Mom. Everyone is pretty relaxed, and I couldn’t have asked for better circumstances. I’ll be back in tech for Time Stands Still in two weeks, and I know that one’s not going to be nearly so easy, so I’m glad this one has been smooth sailing.

Unfortunately, you can’t really tell how easy tech has been by the state of our house. I’m pretty sure the dirty dishes have been spontaneously multiplying when my back is turned, and every flat surface is covered with a thin grey film of cat hair. Adding to the state of things is the fact that the weather has been gorgeous, and so I want to spend every spare moment outside reveling in the fact that it’s March, 60 degrees, and there’s no snow on the ground. Speaking of which…

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Wait, that’s not dancing! It’s Judo!

But it sure feels like dancing. There’s nothing quite like flying through the air and landing with practiced grace, or moving around the room with a partner in a calculated effort to put them where you want them. And when the throw succeeds – it’s a thrill unlike anything else I’ve ever done. When you hit that sweet spot, it’s effortless, and if you’re the one being thrown it’s magical. First you’re on your feet, and then you’re on the floor, and you don’t know how you got from one to the other.

On Saturday mornings before work I teach Wu Chien Pai to a class of little girls aged 6-12. Today, I had 19 students! It was controlled chaos, but we started our Judo unit with gusto and a lot of giggling and rolling around on the floor. Judo with kids is great because most of them haven’t learned to be afraid of the ground yet. They’re short to start with, so it’s not as far to go, and they don’t know that it can hurt them because they’re down there all the time – playing games, looking at stuff, sitting at storytime or in front of the tv… the list of why kids sit on the floor is endless. With adults, you have to get over wariness and years of ingrained bad habits to teach them to fall in a safe way, but with kids it’s relatively easy.

I can’t post photos of my class because I don’t have permission from the parents, so I’ll leave you with an image from my belt test last summer:

Like magic!

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She walks in beauty, like the night

   Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
   Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
   Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
   Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
   Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
   How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
   So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
   But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
   A heart whose love is innocent!
George Gordon, Lord Byron

This poem, dredged from old days as an English major, has been playing through my head for the last couple of days. The celebration of these two are always the most problematic for me, because I think they’re the least straightforward. Flowers, jewelry, dancing, even luxury are open to a certain amount of interpretation, but in the end pretty concrete. Love and beauty, however, are notoriously difficult to pin down. Every year these two lead to a great deal of introspection and a certain amount of navel gazing, and in the end I do them a little differently each time.

Today I thought about beauty all day long. It ranged from the simple – putting on a favorite shirt and my moonstone earrings – to complex thoughts about the nature of art (or Art) and finding beauty in the most mundane parts of our days. I set aside the never-ending parade of chores for a few hours (work that produces its own kind of beauty) and concentrated on some projects that often get neglected but are the essence of the person I think I am. That person is a Maker, a crafter of beautiful objects and ideas, a sculptor of light, and a fashioner of grace from old, unwanted, and broken things. My workroom has been piled under a combination of junk and treasures for the last few months and essentially unusable; I’ve been working hard to get it clean for the last few weeks and I’ve finally reached a point where it’s not clean, but it’s livable. Today I played with yarn, washing and blocking the swatch for the green sweater, winding off some skeins for my next project, and putting things away. I opened up one of the boxes of my Great-Grandmother’s linens and washed a few things, and looked at how to clean and use a lovely piece of woven wool tapestry that is damaged and fragile. And I read some Byron, and thought about the ideals of beauty that people have had and changed for the last umpteen thousand years.

Yesterday was my day of Love. In Vodou, there are many Erzuli and each has her own complicated relationship with the idea of love. Erzulie Freda wears three wedding rings, one for each of her husbands. Erzulie Dantor embodies mother love, and is a protector of women and children – and often associated with lesbians. Other Erzuli deal with hiding secrets, revenging wrongs, or helping women though childbirth. Some are fierce and some coquettish, some dangerous and some nurturing. All of them love passionately, though, and all of them weep tears of pain and sorrow for the heartbroken, the wronged, and the downtrodden. I think that for all the celebration, the central image of Erzulie is of a lover with a complicated relationship to the things she loves. The practitioners of Vodou recognize with their Spirits the realities of love that are sometimes overlooked in other religious or philosophical contexts.

Love can also be controversial. All we have to do is open a newspaper, turn on the radio or tv, or do a little web surfing to find people from all ideological camps arguing about who may love whom, and how, and whether or not it is up to God, society, or individuals to even make those decisions. I certainly have strong opinions on the subject, and I’m not shy about them.  R and I are planning a September wedding, and we think it is a travesty that many of our friends and family who will be in attendance cannot enjoy the same privilege in most of our country. The entire point of the American Dream is that we strive to be more free, not less – and we certainly shouldn’t try to make others less free. Yet in the US we have a long lineage of “moral” tyranny including slavery, indentured servitude, Jim Crow, miscegenation laws, disenfranchisement of the poor, the indigent, and the different… the list goes on and on. The United States isn’t alone in this history by any stretch of the imagination, but we may be the biggest hypocrites, since our nation was founded on the preservation of individual freedoms. In Minnesota, there is an amendment to the state constitution on the ballot in November that would codify institutional homophobia here. These so-called “Marriage Amendments” have been cropping up in states all over the country, and in every state to this point the people have decided to ban same-sex marriage. It’s hard to guess what will happen here. The Twin Cities are two of the most gay-friendly in the US, and yet they’re ringed by the suburbs that elected Michelle “Pray-The-Gay-Away” Bachmann to the US Senate. People in the Upper Midwest are conservative by nature, if not by politics; I fear that those are the people who will take their uncertainty and distrust to the polls with them this fall.

I’ll wrap up this already-too-long post with a lighter note: a Litany of What I Love. These are the things that were circulating around in my head yesterday as I mulled all this stuff over.

  • R, the idea of getting married, and the joy of having a partner in life
  • The Kitties, who are still trying to kill each other but getting better
  • My family who keep me honest and my friends who enable me
  • God, in the complicated way that you come to after many years of disagreement
  • Having a job where they pay me to play
  • Having space of my own and time in which to work
  • And last, myself, my journey, and the gratitude I have for life

Thanks for hanging through this whole thing with me. See you tomorrow for DANCING!

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R decided that today is flowers day all on his own, and came home from the store with this:

He’s so awesome. Plus, roses are WAY cheaper the day AFTER Valentine’s.

Now that the January FOAMs are out of the way, I’ve been plugging away at a couple of small projects, just to tide me over until I dive into this sweater full-time. Today I’ll show you the first of what will hopefully be nearly identical socks.

I hand painted this yarn in a sock blank at Shepherd’s Harvest last spring. I’ve been really compelled to keep knitting these, even though it’s a completely plain-jane sock — I can’t wait to see how the colors will play out! I’m almost done with the first, and if I can book it through the second these could be my February FOAM.

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From Wikipedia:  “Erzulie Fréda Dahomey, the Rada aspect of Erzulie, is the spirit of love, beauty, jewelry, dancing, luxury, and flowers. She wears three wedding rings, one for each husband – Damballa, Agwe and Ogoun. Her symbol is a heart, her colours are pink, blue, white and gold, and her favourite sacrifices include jewellery, perfume, sweet cakes and liqueurs. Coquettish and very fond of beauty and finery, Erzulie Freda is femininity and compassion embodied, yet she also has a darker side; she is seen as jealous and spoiled and within some vodoun circles is considered to be lazy.”

The Black Madonna

So, what is Erzulia? It’s a made-up holiday that celebrates the six aspects of Erzulie Freda: love, beauty, dancing, jewelry, luxury, and flowers. It begins on the second Monday in February, and continues for six days  – one for each aspect. This all began several years ago, when a friend of mine, in a fit of pique, decided that Valentine’s Day was for suckers and she was going to celebrate something she could really get behind. Hallmark hasn’t picked up on this one yet, so we’re spreading the word one blog post at a time.

The best part of Erzulia is that it doesn’t matter which day you celebrate which aspect, so you can let things fall organically. Yesterday was a very long work day – twelve hours in all, most of it done at top speed. Honestly, I didn’t even think about Erzulia until I got home last night and R greeted me with gifts. I love how excited he gets about gift-giving! We exchanged presents last night (his wasn’t really finished, but I was able to give him an idea of what I was going for). He gave me this beautiful pewter necklace:

So yesterday was Jewelry day by default. Yay! I’m wearing it today, and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Today we’re celebrating Luxury in a number of ways. First of all, we managed to juggle our busy work schedules this week so that we could spend the whole day together (even tonight, as we’re running the same show). We had lunch at Psycho Suzi’s, our favorite tiki bar and the place we had our first date. Tonight when we get home, we’re planning on watching the last episode of season six of Dr. Who — we’ve been saving it, and we’re both way more excited than we should be. Ryan got pie and Izzy’s ice cream, and we’re going to enjoy a quiet evening at home with each other and the kitties.

Stay tuned for the rest of the week. I’ll keep listing our little celebrations and more fun facts about Erzulie. Feel free to join in – the more the merrier! Leave me a comment telling me which aspect you’re celebrating each day, and how.

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