When this season rolls around, we know it's time to be busy--I'm reminded of my third grade grammar lesson in superlatives: busy, busier, busiest. All this hustle and bustle comes at just the time when the light and temperature (in the Northern hemisphere) beckon us to to slow down, bundle up, and brew pots of tea and tureens of soup.
Each year I'm challenged to find a way to keep my balance-not to get so busy that I neglect the beauty in gorgeous orange globes of pomegranates, the migrating birds, and the friendly faces of my family. This year, I noticed that if I just did what was in front of me, I was OK.
Of course that had me doing everything at the last minute: buying Hanukkah candles the final day the synagogue gift shop was open, wrapping my families' gifts the day I gave them, and waiting until the holidays were over to begin my cards.
I love getting holiday cards--the sense of that person's warmth from across state, elsewhere in the country, around the world, never ceases to move me. They take time to think about me and my family, to sustain our connection in spite of the urge to let go, because in these days of e-mail, facebook etc., it's all too much.
So I argue with myself--do I make the cards this year? Do I use Shutterfly to get one of those composite photographic documents of my family life? (Hmmm...kids grown, still won't sit still.) I want to go be in the studio--so making the cards wins. I moan. Why can't I just keep it simple like most of the people I know who send cards? Then I realize that it's through their making that I feel connected.
After a while, a rhythm and logic develop and a flotilla of delicate rice paper snowflakes emerges; carefully glued on top of pieces of script. I love pulling random pages from old books, foraged from library sales (an act which distresses my husband), and discovering some synchronistic pattern like Charles Dicken's ode to his Christmas tree from a 1920's book on elocution.
I discover that in cutting and unfolding, the shape of a Jewish star emerges in the center of the flake, surrounded by a circle of tiny people reaching out towards each other.
The star reminds me of my Jewish grandmother's Christmas cards. These were cards that she sent out in the twenties and thirties to her non-Jewish friends and although they were sent as part of an attempt to assimilate into mainstream culture, I like to see them as a bridge between cultures, a way of creating and maintaining a connection.
All of which takes me back the beginning; maintaining connection--and what better way to do this than through art?