So it seemed to me that if I were not working this past few months - which I wasn't - and if I wanted to do some lovely and meaningful things for Christmas this year - which I did, I would need to be creative. I thought about my limited creative abilities and since one of my best outlets is the garden, I looked there for some ideas. I have also occasionally refinished some old, or even not-so-old pieces of furniture and last fall the two combined in this little bathroom cabinet. I used leaves from some of our trees and some from neighbors' to give it some texture and personality.
Greg kept an eye on the changing leaves on the beautiful City County building grounds in Salt Lake City, and filled his backpack several days, so I began pressing them in October. Fortunately we have a nearly limitless supply of heavy books around here so I had stacks of them weighing down oak, maple, pear and other varieties of drying foliage. Wasn't sure what I would do with them, but each time I took a peek they were more beautiful, so I let ideas swirl in my head. And I knew that for Katie in her very first solo apartment, I wanted to refinish some piece of furniture, so I was also keeping an eye on the thrift stores for something with possibilities.
The lavender grown in my garden and, as I noticed on walks, in yards all over the neighborhood, I did have some ideas for. I had already made little sachets for a few years - I love the scent of lavender and I sometimes even put one in my pillow to sleep. But the good old www. opened a world of waxes and potions, which I finally narrowed down to candles and lotion. I avoided some first timer mistakes by absorbing vicarious experience shared by many candle makers and natural cosmetic sites - but I also experienced plenty of trial and error of my own! After learning more than one might care to, I can tell you about wicks and waxes, containers and molds, bases and additives, preservatives and scents. I made infused oils with my dried lavender and then set to concocting.After Greg had walked through many a DI wondering "what are we looking for?", we found a perfect little maple mid century modern coffee table (which I discovered from its stamp, was made by an Ethan Allen-owned wood furniture company, in Vermont circa about 1952). Stripping, sanding and hand rubbed staining later, it looked really great. I also added one maple leaf in honor of its wood and to give it a little signature. One of the collages for Eliz is also in this photo.The other pressed leaves I took inspiration (copied) from some pieces I saw at an art show and framed for some of the kids who have homes. I learned in my years of custom framing that any vegetation, pressed or otherwise preserved has a limited life when captured in a frame - but isn't that just how life is anyway?Elizabeth and I had shared a conversation which inspired a piece of collage art for her, and the grandboys each got quilts oh so lovingly stitched by someone everyone is calling grandma. I made one side satiny for rubbing on little cheeks, and one flannel for snuggling and quilted their names in the pattern. Garrett's is brown with cowboy flannel and Morgan's Blue with football flannel.All said and done, the children and friends were gracious interested in their gifts, and some reactions were absolutely etched into my heart forever. But it was I who will be changed in my view of what giving means. For hours and days as I researched and experimented, glued and sanded, and stitched and framed, I thought of all of them. I remembered my children from babies to their wonderful grown up selves. I thought of my friends and what they have meant in my life and what theirs have taught me. I imagined what this or that person might think when they caught a whiff of a lavender scented hand or wrapped in a snuggly blanket for comfort. I didn't care what new thing was in stores, because I was busy wanting to be home working on my projects. As always, I wished I were able to do more - pay some tuition or take everyone on a great trip. But this year I felt less of that. My garden, my eye for design, mostly my slow but willing hands, gave me the opportunity to really show the people I love, one tiny fraction of what I feel for them.
I may never be able to do anything like this again. Time, ideas, energy and the need to work may make it a one time opportunity. But for me it was a magical few months. As I watched my children in our two day sleep-over after Christmas quilting on a big bedspread for Tasha and Christopher, and talking of knitting or crocheting or photograph projects, movies, art and music and of plans with and for friends, grandparents, cousins and each other, I realized that what I know about love I learned from them.