Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What's It All About?

Christmas Week has begun. Or Solstice Week. Or whatever it is for me. I am never sure, exactly. I have never really placed a religious significance on Christmas. It has never been about the birth of a baby, though it's kind of a nice story. It is not about celebrating the return of the light, because I don't celebrate it. I dread the coming of spring and summer. I get depressed in the spring and I have to grit my teeth and get through summer. I hate it. I love winter. So maybe it's a celebration of winter for me, then. I don't know really what it is. But I do know that this is the best couple of weeks of the year. The air feels different. Everything seems more quiet. I realize that if I was caught up in the consumer christmas culture, I would experience things very differently, but I left that behind long ago. For me it is all about being quiet and just being with my family.
Yesterday we went grocery shopping for the last time in 2009. I was thrilled when we got home! It was done. And I was home. And I plan to be home for the next several days. I will be listening to Christmas music as I bake mocha muffins, oatmeal rolls, cinnamon rolls, and cookies (muffins today and the rest Thursday). I will listen to various audio versions of A Christmas Carol while I knit and crochet hats and scarves for our tree at UU. I will read when I feel like it. I will drink many cups of coffee and tea, sitting here with Bill. I will not have to watch a clock and schedule certain things for certain times so I can be somewhere. I can get up in the morning and just exist. And I can create. I think that is the real essence of this time of the year for me. I can create for other people. I do that all year anyway, when I make a shawl for someone or bake cookies and share them. But it feels different at this time of the year. Maybe that's the meaning of the season for me. It is a time when the reason for my creativity changes a bit from creating because an idea won't leave me alone, or because I want dessert, or I want to feel the yarn and my wooden crochet hooks in my hands, to creating because I want to share my creations with specific people. Maybe there is also a bit of honoring all of the women in countless generations who came before me, because my creative life is very much tied to women's history—I work with thread, yarn, and food. I crochet. I knit. I cook. I bake. I know that once the latter three got mechanized and commercialized, women no longer did them. But I am not working on that scale. I am working on a domestic scale as women have done through the centuries. Part of what I am saying, I think, when I give someone something that I have made is, “Look at this. It did not come from a store or as a result of someone's slave labor. I made this. I made this for you. And throughout history, women have been creating things for the people they love. Women have done this. Honor this work—not because I have done it, but because without it, none of us would be here.” The truth is, whether women have done this work out of necessity or because they needed it done but also loved doing it, it is necessary work. It is not just art for art's sake. It is creativity with a practical purpose. I am not against art for art's sake, but I find it amusing that we have privileged that world in the way that we have. It is, of course, primarily male, though that is changing. There's nothing wrong with thinking great thoughts and then chipping away at stone or throwing paint on a canvas or whatever else you need to do to express those thoughts. It's important. We need that. But we also need the kind of creativity that women have been quietly doing in homes everywhere for all of these generations. We need that kind of creativity at a very basic level. Without it, we don't survive. Without women expressing themselves in the kitchen, for example, by creating healthy meals, how would we live? We can see today when that task has been largely outsourced to food processors and fast food chains that we are not surviving well at all. We are eating ourselves to death. We need more people—men and women—to get back into the kitchen and start creating food again. Real, nourishing, life-giving food, not pseudofood. Not chemicals and cardboard dressed up to look like food. But we have devalued this work and so no one wants to do it. It is seen as unimportant. Our society is increasingly not set up to accommodate such activities. If we honored this work, if we understood that our very survival depends on it, maybe we would organize things differently. So maybe that is what Christmas is to me—a way to say that we can choose again. None of this is working. Our gluttony, our imprisonment in a consumer culture that is out of control, our unconsciousness about who we are and how we want to live are all highlighted at this time of year. And yet we are invited by the story of the birth of this baby and by the pagan celebrations that we can do things differently. We can recognize that there is a simpler way to live. We can accept that we need the dark time for contemplation and growth. We can use it to prepare for the work that is ahead. We can discover who we are—who we really are and not who we are told we should be—and we can build a life on that. When I bake and crochet, I am being true to who I am and what I value. And maybe that is a little easier at this time of year. Maybe that's why it all feels different to me somehow. By dropping out of the consumer culture christmas and dropping in to the creative culture christmas, I have discovered more of myself and a way to share that with other people. Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice, Festive Holidays.

1 comment:

Karen O. said...

That is beautiful, Shari. I realized in a way that I never have, that I am doing those creative womanly things now, where I never did before. I used to say about meals "if it can't be made in 5 minutes, it doesn't get made." But this morning, I spent close to an hour preparing vegetables for soup that will be totally created by me. Nothing you could buy from a store comes close to the comfort of my peanut soup. Nor the joy of wearing a hat or scarf you crochet yourself, or the joy of giving something made with your hands. Thanks for reminding me of why I do these things.