I love having a craft activity in my life. Simple, repetitive, meditative hand work. Knitting or hand-sewing or embroidery, whittling or sanding or carving, painting or potting or mosaic. You hear so much of how healthy it is to do daily meditation, but I don’t have the self discipline for it. Life beckons from too many places. And I don’t have the time, or maybe it’s the patience for colouring in books. I like mowing meditation but in these winter days there’s too little mowing to be done. I like walking meditation but these days the sun is up so late and the day half gone by breakfast time.
It is one of the (many) reasons I so love our Yule. Every year in my community we draw a name from a hat at the beginning of May and then have six weeks till the winter solstice to hand make a gift. 1st of May in the southern hemisphere is Halloween, the old traditional European festival that marked the mid-point between the equinox and the solstice when the days start shortening fast and we begin the descent into the long dark. Long evenings in front of the fire, cold indoor days when immersing in creative craft feels just right for the day. It is very easy to see where the practice of giving gifts at the winter solstice originated, and how far it has warped. At Yule it feels pure – mindfulness practice that ends up with a thing, and that little motivating push to make a place for it in a busy life that a date with gift giving gives.
Most years I find that within the first few days of drawing a name, I have a gift in mind and it won’t let go. Sometimes (ok, quite often) it is a craft I’ve never tried before. One year a willow creel for the fisherman I drew just stuck in my mind till I learned how to weave with willow. One year the idea of a Japanese lacquered paper mache tray for someone who often made Nori rolls to bring to parties got stuck in my mind till I learned how to do paper mache. One year I had to learn how to knit socks. Last year I had to (had to!) learn how to Shibori dye. But this early fixation means it is never a stress. Always a long slow process of learning how, gathering ingredients, practicing and doing some trial ones, making and then waiting like a child waiting for Christmas for the giving.
And every year, somehow, I completely forget that someone has drawn my name till I am standing in the circle round the bonfire as the gifts start being given. We start with the youngest gift-giver, this year a five year old, so I have a wait. I have been gifted some treasured treasures over the years. A handmade book, a painting from a three-year old, my bedside table, a knitted rug, my bellows, Henry. This year, Brett carved a fruit bowl from a burl of hardwood. The most beautiful thing.