this is soul food

12 Dec

WEEK FORTY-NINE (december 5-11)

The year both accelerates and compresses in the weeks before Christmas but the title for this weeks post could have been one of many things;
feeling the pressure / under the pump / Christmas bah-humbug….
OR the also very apt;
a week of lovely days / easing down the year’s gears / this is soul food….
SO
I choose to be positive.

I have a sibling who for many years, with his wife/family, has flown to snowy climes in December – and I am pretty sure that it is not simply for the thrill of wearing warm clothes.
I don’t think it is a bad thing at all.
I see it more a celebration of self, a way to experience personal joy in a more intimate way without getting caught up in the frenzy.

Very tempting though it is.…I stick to my/our version of Christmas cheer – when I finally manage to rouse it – a simple, ritualistic celebration of and with extended family and friends. It is fill for the soul.

I still vividly remember having to have an afternoon nap on Christmas Eve so that we could say up late to go to Auntie Joy’s for the Wood family celebration.
I remember getting into our ‘best’ clothes.
I remember the fun of playing with the cousins, of chase-y around the beautifully manicured garden and of pick-up-sticks when it got dark.
Of someone playing the piano – Auntie Joy always, but sometime the older cousins, and
I think Dad sometimes played. All played with different personality.
I remember the Uncle Ed always sat in the same corner chair. He was the oldest and after we lost grandad he made a suitable Father Xmas figure.
I remember the spread on the big dining table….mostly? made by Auntie Joy. She was unmarried as she chose to look after her father and four brothers when her mum died young.
She was a gem. We all loved her dearly. She was generous and made each of us feel special.

Christmas Day varied from year to year but I thought it was MUCH less exciting than the Wood family Christmas Eve party.

Boxing day bought the much anticipated pack-up to head, with Caravan in tow, and with new bathers at the ready, to Point Lonsdale for the weeks of our annual booking.
We grew up and roamed free over summer with the our regular camping neighbours at Royal Park.
Wonderful soul-filling memories.

And it is because of these wonderful memories that every year I put in the effort, and it is a big effort, because every year I have that little moment of ‘wanting to chase snow’…..to run away from the seasonal vacuuming/siphoning of time and money.
BUT
and it is a really big and important BUT…..I have never been able to deny my kids, and now the next generation, their chance to forge strong and inclusive memories and to connect at a set time with annual (often dorky) rituals and close family and friends.
If they choose to continue the rituals, to forge new ones, or to chase snow, it doesn’t matter to me. They will choose with knowledge and understanding and my blessing.

At the start of a busy last week I was feeling under control.
The lists of presents, food, events and chores were being organised in an orderly manner and I felt good about where I was at.
At the end of the week though, my demeanour had changed drastically.

Last night, Sunday night, George asked if we were going to decorate Gingerbread tonight?
Calmly I answered that we’ll be doing that next week but underneath the calm I was suddenly paddling….I’ll have to make the gingerbread on Friday….it takes forever…..I’ll fit it in somehow….it can’t drop the ball….
I’ll have to fit in decorations and and and and and and before then.and I still have some presents to buy!

I will now grab at some bites of soul food to stop the panic….
The beauty of last week was a peaceful session with little Bran and another session with Flick. I now settle in to calm mode quickly with these two independent little charmers and expect to get nothing done.

Soul food also came my way via a very lovely long lunch with generous and intelligent female friends.
I am not a ‘lady who lunches’. Too busy for that!!! BUT it was such a pleasure to stop and be in the moment, to be inspired by and grateful for like-minded souls.

Soul food that popped in and out of every day this week¬† – and the project that I had put as a priority before Christmas in my mind was ‘the making of the quilt’.
I sandwiched, turned through and top-stitch/quilted the edge and either side of the seam lines and put it up on the board.

The next stage is filling the farmyard and the stage has been set by my six horizontal lines of green/dark fabric.
With some photos of animals as reference I sketched out some of the animals that need to appear.
They will be corralled in each of the horizontal lines.
A genre each at the moment; horses, cows, sheep, pigs, dogs/and cat, chooks/and a duck.

I am also trialling upholstery scraps, velvets, and corduroy to add texture and weave variations that will give a scrappier laid-back look.
For ease of working they will be cut as a silhouette, each fused to a bigger piece of black wool, edge stitched and lightly detailed in black thread (perhaps I will need also need some highlight variations???).
I do like the circle ‘spotlight’ effect that the next photo shows but it could be overpowering?
It is also potentially going to take much longer….

When the animals all finally sit in perfect position on the board they will be stitched to the quilt on the trimmed-down black fabric.


I need to get all this done this coming week to have a chance to quilt/tie it all before Xmas…a truly impossible task.
Perhaps I need to line up for a Christmas miracle?

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Jan Mullen

B. Ed. Act/Craft (Textiles/ Sculpture)
Living in Perth, Western Australia
Artist, Fabric Designer, Author, Teacher.