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Mixin' in the Village Gravy by Amy Magnusangel in our window

BLOG-Setting the Scene

Whew, I’m glad I got my Christmas shopping done at the Art and Soul art fair back in November. As soon as Thanksgiving was over, Christmas seemed right on our doorstep. With the gift gathering done, we’ve been able to concentrate on the decorating, the baking, and the general festivities of the holiday season.

our treehappy hunting

In this the darkest month and today, the year’s shortest day, we gravitate to the sparkle—young and old—to tickle the fire within. The skies have been gray of late, but—for all their trouble on the area roads—the new snows have brightened the day and quieted the night. We sleep deeply—home layered by crystalline blankets and skin bathed in wool and flannel—as the christmas lights about the village take on an ethereal glow half buried in white spume.

triumphant tree hunterYoung's Christmas trees

Between Thanksgiving travels and the constant snows, we did not get our outdoor lights up for the season. Still, our daughter—keen to our responsibilities to light up our little corner of the neighborhood as much as to her own pleasure—made sure that we set our priorities properly and that we secured a tree in the first weekend of December. Shepherding us out the door, she lead the tree hunting party across the fields of Young’s Christmas Tree forest. The firs and pines about us auditioned their comely silhouettes cloaked in branches heavy with—not ornaments—but snow. We found a six foot tree with a straight regale crown and a symmetric billowing skirt. Fighting to beat the fading twilight and a chilling drizzle, I cut the tree free, and our daughter hauled back in this beauty of a Canaan Fir. Pleased with the family’s efforts, she retired to the barn handing out hot chocolate and bags of popcorn to our party as our catch was baled and loaded atop the family station wagon.

gloves drying by the stovewarming up

At home, the tree sat in the garage drinking from a brimming bucket of water in order to ease its transition from the outdoors to the inside. Two nights of baited anticipation passed, then we brought the tree into the house and released it from its baling constraints. As my husband dressed the children for bed, I attempted to don the tree in lights. A string of incandescent lights failed and then a second frustrating all and dampening the joy of the tree’s first turn about our living room. With my daughter’s resigned approval, I slung two strings of cool blue LED lights—originally intended for our outdoor bushes—and we consigned ourselves to bed. The next morning, we arrived with purpose at the opening hour of Downing’s Hardware, 254 Xenia Ave, and acquired a fresh string of LED lights—ones that beamed red, green, blue, and orange.

cookie dunkingsnowman in red hotswild birds gift packaging

That night, we wrapped the tree from base to crown with the added string and toasted our success with milk and cookies frosted and shipped by Grandma Sandy and Grandpa David. As we dressed the tree with ornaments, my daughter pressed me to open one present early. The gift box that she presented me was a repurposed card holder adorned with winter birds. Inside was a jeweled ornament wrapped in pink and rose paper and stamped with a silver dove and the word Peace.

Strong Heart dovetree friends

My daughter had made this ornament, she told me, at Strong Heart Press & Studio, 143 1/2 E. Limestone St, under the mentorship of artist Sarah Strong. Its loving glory explained much of my daughter’s unextinquishable eagerness in securing a tree. She positioned the elegant ornament in a place of honor…next to a precious silver pendant presented to Jeremy and I from Grandpa David on the occasion of our first Christmas…and, thus, marked her parents’ ten years together with a fitting tribute.

our First Chrismasour eleventh Christmas

As the women of the family decorated the tree in red ribbon, white ceramic, and silver, the three year old diligently went about his own version of Christmas decorating: assembling his Thomas Train set about the tree. We dodged working engines, boulders, and bridges as tracks were laid about our feet.

make trackstree decorating

New ornaments from school and the children’s Breakfast with Santa at the Yellow Springs United Methodist Church, 202 S. Winter Street, were added to the tree: sequined wood and foam figures, beads and bells strung by the boy, and gingerbread people fashioned by the girl.

danglingBeadsgingerbread people

From our thanksgiving visit, Grandpa Wendell sent us home with vintage ornaments for each child, and we set them on top of the tree to catch the light and eye.

triangleornaments from Grandpa Wendell

My husband remained a constant visitor to the scene adding his own touches and contributions. Giving the children a chance to say a fond farewell at the end of a prolonged but well received stay, he removed our friend the Great Pumpkin from the window. Wiping the last evidence of the fall holiday from the window, I picked up a bar of soap again and traced out a new figure—an angel—answering a request from the children.

making the scenestable

As the mural literally took wing, I was not allowed to progress without another’s full engagement. The work quickly became a collaboration—all the better for it I humbly admit—with my daughter giving a rich and intricate texture to the angel’s silver wings and her plum-colored gossamer gown.

flying over BethlehemJoseph, Mary, and Baby

I refined the features of our angel’s face—reminiscent of a family friend, I notice—and my daughter picked up the soap. Below the angel in flight, she traced the earth-bound village below: a collection of modest buildings and—there below the star that the angel is setting in the sky—a bare stable with a baby and two parents brimming with unmistakable excitement, exchanging with each other words of hope and wonder.

Soap Scene

Intrigued to know the source of her inspiration, I muse that the scene she has set captures her own excitement of the season and resonates with a humble instinct to share its enriching power.

angle faceput the star on the treetop

The season’s holidays come at dark time. Preparing for the holiday is so fun. And so terribly exhausting. I find if I am patient and forgiving of myself and others, magic will happen. We can’t entirely escape the impact of the shortened daylight hours and the rumbling troubles in everyday living. But, here in this moment, I am glad—so glad—to find myself in the gentling company of those who forge healing light and that I am not blind to it.

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