A Season for Creating

A Season for Creating

Happy holidays to all!  The holiday season is often a mix of emotions for many people, myself included.  This particular holiday season has been a challenge, including a lot of loss and transitions.  Sometimes I think we have to "remodel" our definitions of home - and thus create for ourselves new homes, and choose where we belong. 

One of my most resonant childhood memories of Christmas is lying in my bed looking up at my ceiling, colored by the outdoor colored lights on the little pine tree by the front porch.  Overlapping fields of color blinked softly on and off, covering my ceiling in their own little dance.  Even as a little girl, the beauty of it would bring tears to my eyes, and I wanted so much to hang on to that beauty forever - even though somehow, my young heart knew that all things of this world are fleeting, and perhaps this is why the tears always came with such displays of beauty. 

It was not on my mind to celebrate the holidays this year.  Of course, my six year old son would have it no other way. . . and ultimately, I too have found joy in choosing to celebrate. I think back to when I was a girl, without all the added baggage that the holidays now have for me (to which I know so many people can relate), and I remember the simple joys of the season.  The smell of the tree when we first brought it home.  Unwrapping my favorite ornaments - best of all, the ornament our dear friend Gina made for us, a lace and bead wreath that I learned how to recreate, having loved it so much.  Building snowmen and igloos with my brother in the yard, then coming inside for popcorn and hot chocolate.  Then there were the decorations, the ones I would lovingly take out from the boxes covered in dust underneath the bed.  Invariably, the most loved decorations were the ones someone had given to us - even if it was a person I did not know.  The love put into these handmade stockings and wall hangings and ornaments showed, and as a child, I relished hanging them around the house.  And I added my own to the mix: endless paper snowflakes in every intricate design imaginable, tinfoil "stained glass" paintings, handmade ornaments.  It is very likely that art projects my brother and I made in elementary school are still in those cardboard storage boxes.

And then there are the more recent memories.  Playing with my son outside in the snow for the first time, when he was just a toddler.  Bringing home the Christmas tree with him when he was three.  Making paper snowflakes together.  Gingerbread houses both intricate and wild explosions of candy.  My son never tires of decorating and celebrating, no matter the season or holiday. In that way, he is very much like me - or at least, like the me that once was.

One of the reasons I love to create, is in the act of making something, we become new.  In a sense, we create ourselves.  Whatever we make with our hands, we take into our hearts.  Even if the holidays don't seem particularly bright, we can light up our own lives. When my son and I make our gingerbread houses and snowflakes together, we're most importantly making memories in his mind, hopefully as precious as my holiday memories from childhood. 

I honestly had no desire to celebrate this holiday season.  There has been too much loss in my life in recent times to be able to assimilate it all, and decorating and celebrating seemed like just one more thing to do.  Staring at a pile of supplies with pretty paper, or the ornament supplies I had stored away from last year, I did not feel inspired.  I felt sad, and empty.  How can one celebrate in the midst of losing so many things - and such important people - that matter?  What good is decorating a tree, or making a card, when there are real losses to contend with? 

I kept up a staring contest with those supplies for several weeks.  I almost won.  But then I picked up my paper cutter.  Maybe I can't feel creative, but surely, surely I can cut some paper.  The swish of the blade and the neat stacks of card panels was rather satisfying - kind of like meditating, I have to admit.  Before I knew it, I had a pile of cardstock that seemed to be asking to be made into cards.  And so out came the heat gun, and the ink, and the stamps, and the embossing powder and glitter.

Best of all, out came the crayons.  As a teacher years ago, I treated my students to some fun creative classes before the holidays - paper snowflakes and holiday cards.  So often nowadays kids don't get the opportunity to play in a real way - not in the watching YouTube kind of way - but in the sense of self-expression and creativity.  I had to really be on my toes to run around the classroom to all thirty something kids who wanted help drawing something special on their cards for their family members.  Did I mention this was middle school?  These middle schoolers were certainly not too cool for crayons, and neither am I.  I remembered some of the designs I had made with my students, and recreated some of them for my cardmaking classes: bells, pine boughs, lights, stained glass windows.  Whether it was the act of drawing, or the waxy familiar smell of childhood in a stick of crayon, something made me feel better.  And I knew I had found some healing. 

People want the holidays to have meaning.  We all like beautiful things, but sometimes the best things don't come from a store.  With each greeting card I've made, or painted pillow I've made for my own couch, or for a client, I feel like I've created a little bit of joy, and left a part of me in the world.  In creating these simple things, I remember some of the things most worth living for - family, friends, community, and comfort.  Christmas lights dancing on the ceiling, and the smell of a tree.  Even though some of my family is not here anymore, I must remember them in my heart.  Making beautiful things the way I did in childhood is my testimony to the people that I love, and to making the life that I want, in which people love and celebrate and have fun together, and together we make the world a bit more beautiful.  And eat cookies.  Cookies are always a good thing.

-Dedicated to everyone who is suffering loss this holiday season.


Christmas Tree.jpg

-Some of my past holiday memories.

Rachel Blackmon

Rachel Blackmon is an artist, writer, and teacher in New York City.