Impending holidays are busting out all over. I had a meeting the other day that caused me to wander through the Eaton Centre and confront some very unnerving enormous reindeer.
I also wandered into Indigo and spent a pack of money on books and sciencey geegaws for my niecelings.
I haven’t had a full weekend off, at home, in about 9 weeks — working or traveling — and yesterday was Day 2 of Session 2 of the program I teach in. There were moments yesterday when I could sit there knitting and listening, but mostly I find the whole thing quite draining. I love working with the participants, and the collaboration with my co-faculty is always more challenging than it should be. Ironic given that the topic of our program is collaborative change leadership, but it’s part of the paradox and mystery of life.
I was restless today. Part of me wanted to sit on the couch and knit and rewatch the whole season of Downton Abbey, or try to plow through a lot of Anna Karenina because I want to see the film, but I was mentally making list after list of what I have to do before going away for the holidays in just over two weeks, and I found myself marching purposefully for the One of a Kind Craft Show.
B and I used to go every year together, and get all excited about red pepper jelly and interesting medieval inspired clothing from Quebec. She bought a pair of weird little trousers there with leather bits and ties that she wore for years, once. I’ve only gone once since we parted, a year that I ended up buying a lot of clothing and my red coat and probably no xmas gifts at all, and I realized that I don’t really DO Christmas anymore. When we were together, we found the family machinations exhausting, a marathon of racing back and forth across our home city, carving out a little tradition of our own space in a particular hotel, hosting friends for breakfast downstairs, clearing out just as the hockey teams showed up on the 27th or 28th, later adding the impossibly far away Ottawa into the mix. We didn’t enjoy it, particularly, and usually griped about never being home on Christmas day, had our tradition of a tree-trimming party earlier in December, where we served roasted veggie and 5 cheese lasagne, and all of our friends brought an ornament. We’d have the lights on when everyone came, and the decorations would accumulate through the party, through the years.
I always took the tree down on New Year’s Day, vacuuming up the needles and scrubbing the house fresh. The ornaments are one of the only things we never talked about dividing when we split up, and I suspect they’re still where I put them away on January 1, 2005. B’s traditions have changed too, and I don’t think she’s had a tree either, though I might be wrong.
When I wandered through the craft show today, I couldn’t find a single thing that intrigued me, even though I hadn’t been there for 7 years. I felt unanchored, and didn’t even really have much of a mental list. Thought I might find something for a friend’s birthday, maybe for one of my sisters, maybe for B, who I owe a bday present. Finch’s daughter. I ran into a client who was really excited about having bought herself a bag made of recycled seat belts. It looked pretty nifty, but all I could think was that it was pretty heavy even withOUT stuff in it.
I had this strange, layered sense of disorientation, like I’d lived a lot of lives and not enough lives and right now am living somewhere but it’s unanchored. Last Christmas Finch and I were in Indonesia, and I’d managed to smuggle a small bottle of wine, and I had a stocking for him. But there was nothing festive, except for the gut-bangingly loud music from the 8 foot speakers the proud villagers a kilometre away had somehow acquired, which they never turned off during the entire holiday.
There was something about feeling tilted about the holidays, about really appreciating everything in my life that gives me the world and things I’ve never imagined before — and also wondering how the hell I ended up in a moment where, from living with someone from the same place I grew up in for nearly 15 years, I’m in a relationship with someone who lives on a whole ‘nother continent — and is right now, completely inaccessible on a boat on the most remote ocean in the world. Liking the small pleasures of airports and travel and the large pleasures of discovery and missing the continuity of the griping annual trek to our families.
As I wandered, I noticed something. I noticed that I started behaving more like I was traveling than as if I was shopping. I stopped at the booth of a photographer whose work I liked, and noticed a sign about a trip to Cuba for a photography workshop for street photography. I talked to him, imagined going on the trip, got quite excited about learning to change the relationship between me, people, and my camera. Talked about signing up for it. I met the eye of one vendor, and looked at her really lovely, interesting clothing, and had a really authentic conversation about her struggle to shift from being a costumer to a designer. Bought a pair of trousers from her more from the human connection than because I thought they really suited my stocky little body.
Had another catalysing conversation with a woman whose collages I really liked, who described herself as a creativity coach. We talked about creative practice, and what I was trying to do even with this practice of 365 photos for 2012 (have been doing the photos, but have not achieved the practice of actually posting them). I bought a piece for me, and started thinking about the thread that’s missing from all of the fragments of my life — the meaning making. What I am trying to do with shooting photos, with blogging, with the stalled book outline I’m trying to write — the practices that collage it into place.
I’ve always been drawn to collage and bricolage in art, mixed media that layers multiple types of images and objects and text together. I think that’s how I’ve been living my life, but right now, it feels like the snippets of text are on one part of the table, the photos and images scattered and falling on the floor, the paint and finishes that will pull them together in stiff-lidded jars. I’ve been really irritable about things that shouldn’t make me so irritable, finding some things hard that shouldn’t be. No… integration, no structure, right now. I need to do a bit of creative assembly, now, make something.
So I bought this.
And I think I’m going to sign up for this woman’s creativity workshop. And maybe go to Cuba and tell more stories with my camera.