Last December, I closed out the year on here with an Advent poem by K.D. Miller. This year, I thought I’d share one of mine. It’s published in CRUX(Winter 2020; 56.4), a journal of Regent College.
I think this is the only Advent poem I’ve written, and one I had the opportunity to read at church. It’s also probably the most theological poem I’ve written, attempting to bridge (pun intended) the story of Christmas and Easter in the short form of a Petrarchan sonnet.
As I state in the poem, my reflections are borne from “this common world”: my commute from Vancouver to Surrey where I notice a bird’s nest on the S curve leading to the Alex Fraser Bridge. The associations spin off from there, much like the cars on this dangerous stretch of road.
It is this common world that strikes me anew in the Christmas story; that strikes me in another year of getting through. We are weary. In need of rest.
I also invite you to read “The Pulley” by George Herbert, which you may hear echoes of in my poem.
Happy New Year! I’ve been waiting for Christmas to be over in one aspect: so I can finally share some of my sewing projects I’ve been up to.
This year I decided to make gifts for the women in my family. It was a great way to avoid all the malls and crowds and give something a bit more personal, though I probably won’t touch the sewing machine for some time now.
I know how to sew garments pretty well, but when it comes to basic things like a table runner that doesn’t even require any seams, I’m out of my element and turning to google. I found my inspiration and directions from Apartment Therapy, where the placement of multiple table runners along the width of the table added a more contemporary look to the dining room. I also like how the table runner doubles as a placemat.
I cut out four rectangles, making sure when I folded over the raw edge 1/2″, the finished width was wide enough to fit a plate and cutlery on either side. Mine were 16″. However, I found that it lacked a certain je ne sais quoi when I tested it on my table, so I added red seam binding to all the edges.
The seam binding was a bit tricky at the corners. I folded and pinned them like this and then hand-sewed the gap together.
Here is how a finished one looked:
I had also never made pillows. They’re not terribly hard, but they do take a while to get the hang of, especially if you want a full-looking pillow, rather than a saggy one. I discovered a great trick of cutting the fabric the same length and width as the pillow because the pillow form will stuff into it and make it look healthier.
I did two Christmas-themed pillows, using the dark red/maroon colour as a way to tie them together.
For the abstract lace Christmas trees, I followed directions from Make It & Love It. I was thrilled when I saw almost the exact same green zigzag fabric at Fabricland! Instead of doing 2 layers of lace trim, I had a lot of maroon ribbon to use up so I sewed a strand of that on each lace piece (9 in total), and then added the silver buttons for stars. Make sure you sew all these pieces to one piece of fabric before you sew the two rectangles together!
The Canadian-themed pillow was my own pattern. I cut out the maple leaf from the leftover squares of this patchwork quilt fabric, sewed it together, turned it inside out, and handstitched the gap. I’m particularly pleased with how the envelope back turned out so that you can actually take the pillow case off and wash it if needed. Instructions on how to do that also from Make It & Love It.
The last project I’ll mention because it’s so darn cute and was probably my favourite to make was this fox apron from Simple as That that I discovered on Pinterest. The main adjustment I did was instead of using white glue to fasten the paw pockets, ears, eyes, nose, and cheeks, I cut out backs for everything (including the face) so there would be no raw edges and fraying seams. This also meant I didn’t make mine reversible, but I didn’t think that was a great loss because if you have the option to wear a fox or a floral print as a little girl, chances are you’re going to go for the fox. So I altered the free pattern you can download from the site to allow room for seam allowances. I’m really happy with how it turned out, and my niece loves it too!
This Advent season, my husband and I are reading through poet-priest Malcolm Guite‘s book Waiting on the Word, which offers a poem a day from classic or contemporary poets accompanied by Guite’s reflections.
We started yesterday for December 1 and it is exactly what we need right now. I don’t really know how to explain it other than I think art/poetry offers a balm for our aching hearts.
When first thy sweet and gracious eye
Vouchsaf’d ev’n in the midst of youth and night
To look upon me, who before did lie
Weltring in sinne;
I felt a sugred strange delight,
Passing all cordials made by any art,
Bedew, embalme, and overrunne my heart
And take it in.
Since that time many a bitter storm
My soul hath felt, ev’n able to destroy,
Had the malicious and ill-meaning harm
His swing and sway:
But still thy sweet originall joy
Sprung from thine eye, did work within my soul,
And surging griefs, when they grew bold, controll
And got the day.
If thy first glance so powerfull be,
A mirth but open’d and seal’d up again;
What wonders shall we feel, when we shall see
Thy full-ey’d love!
When thou shalt look us out of pain,
And one aspect of thine spend in delight
More then a thousand sunnes disburse in light
In heavn’ above.
Guite opens his reflections on this poem for December 1 with the question:
“What might this moving and mysterious little poem have to offer us as we come to dark December and begin our Advent journey together?”
That phrase “as we come to dark December” has stuck with me. Indeed, it feels dark and heavy. For those of us in Vancouver, we haven’t seen the sun for two months. I normally don’t mind the rain but it has definitely affected me this time. And recent world events add a lot of darkness to our lives, leaving us uncertain, afraid, and confused about the future.
I don’t know if this is why I’m feeling less ready and excited for the Christmas season than usual, but I do find myself struggling to embrace it. Reading that someone else called this month “dark December” made me realize that I am not alone in feeling this way. And so I have offered up a found poem in response to George Herbert’s, that is true of how I am feeling and may be true for you too.
Poem for Dark December by Charlene Kwiatkowski
We are tired
The days are dark and long
The sky is a faucet that refuses to shut off
There is no twinkling of stars
Many a bitter storm our souls have felt
but we are in the season where the soul felt its worth
—because he appeared.
His sweet and gracious eye looked upon us
from the wood of a manger to the wood of a cross
Our hearts overrun with surging griefs
A thrill of hope seems farther away
We are waiting on many things
We are a weary world
Open the mirth that has been long sealed
Look us out of pain
We are desperate for your full-eyed love
Desperate to delight again.
Actually, a lot of people don’t—my husband being one of them. So when I saw that a Vancouver improv company was doing an improvised musical based on this movie, I knew it would be a bit of a risk buying tickets for us. But I did anyway.
And we loved it. Actually! (sorry, just had to throw that in there). We weren’t quite sure what to expect: all musical? Whose Line is it Anyway-style theatre games? A Vancouver version of the movie?
The show runs two hours with a 10 minute intermission and features 8 different characters whose storylines intersect as the show develops, much like the movie. We attended last night, and the pairings of relationships were:
two friends (male & female)
two friends (both male)
a mother & daughter
a husband and wife
As Off Key Improv’s website states, the musical relies on audience suggestions for the different characters’ storylines. At the beginning of the evening, a woman asked for a show of hands for the different pairings above and then called on these people to help provide the details, such as:
what’s a favourite Christmas tradition? (skiing at Whistler)
how do you spend Christmas day? (playing board games)
what’s a really difficult thing about Christmas this year? (cat died)
It was impressive to see how the actors developed the stories from such little information to make a complete musical from beginning to end with rising tension, laugh-out-loud scenes, heartfelt moments, and even some sad ones. They have a live band improvising music too, which added a lot to the scenes. All the actors took turns singing and did a fairly good job at rhyming on the spot. But the musical was more talking than singing, which I prefer.
I anticipated a little more audience interaction and hilarity, but I think that’s because the only precedent I have of improv comedy is Vancouver TheatreSports League, where there are new games the performers have to do every few minutes or so, much like Whose Line is it Anyway?
Apart from the intertwined stories and the complex, tangled love relationships, the other aspect of the musical that played tribute to the movie was right after intermission where a couple members of the audience could sit on stage under the spotlight with the chorus humming in the background and present a special message to someone in the audience like this scene in the movie:
As this CBC article says, the actors play different roles every night, so hats off to them for changing it up all the time and not knowing what to expect either.
There’s still one more showing tonight and I would recommend it as a fun and different way to celebrate the holidays and the mix of emotions they bring. And even if you don’t like the movie, doesn’t mean you won’t like the musical!
Happy 1st Sunday of Advent! Today marks the beginning of a season of waiting, preparing, and anticipating the hope of Christmas who came as a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
On the theme of waiting, some of you may also have been waiting a while for my next blog post! I’ve been getting my craft on lately with a bunch of DIY Christmas projects and gifts, so I haven’t been on here as much.
But I did want to share with you the advent wreath that the Artist and I made (okay, mostly the Artist) to kick off this new season in the church’s liturgical calendar.
We went to our favourite local park, Fraser River Park, to collect evergreen boughs from pine and hemlock trees.
It was a crisp but beautiful walk in the noonday sun. We happened to look up at what we thought were barren trees, but to our delight, they weren’t so barren after all. The Artist & I had just been talking about how great it would be to have some red holly berries in our wreath, and even though these aren’t holly berries, they’re small and red and would do just the trick!
We then picked up some small pine cones and brought our treasure home to assemble on our living room floor.
And voilà! This is the wreath we made. The Artist used small pieces of wire (you could even use twist ties) to attach the boughs together in a circular shape. No need for a wire frame! Then he stuck more greenery in to give it more fullness.
We wove some purple ribbon around it (the traditional liturgical colour for Advent) and then embellished it with pine cones and those little red berries.
We’ve put some votive candles in it for now until we buy some of the long, thin kind to stick in—the first of which we’ll light tonight!
The theme of light has come full circle for me this year. I began 2013 with a poem for the new year, a poem of light, and I have ended the year surrounded by over a million twinkling lights in the beautiful city of Vancouver that I moved to in May.