A few summers ago the Tailor and I took a cross-Canada road trip. One of the best parts was seeing that beautiful maple-leaf flag flying for the holiday. So in that spirit, Happy Canada Day to all my friends and readers above the 49th Parallel!
I’m sad to report that one of my favorite holiday traditions came to an end this weekend. For the past thirty-plus years, the Pacific Northwest Ballet has staged a unique version of The Nutcracker—complete with unusual choreography, nontraditional storytelling, and incredible kinetic theatre sets by one of my illustration heroes, Maurice Sendak. I’ve seen the performance several times since I’ve lived here, and have even sketched from the audience before—but when I found out this would be the last season, I had to go one more time, pencil in hand.
As you can imagine, it’s pretty dim in there during the performance, so I sat there doing blind contour pencil drawings in the dark (hey! All those art school exercises had a purpose!). Then, as soon as the house lights came up for intermission, I looked at the (often hilarious) results and cleaned up the drawing in ink, from memory. Then when I got home, I filled in the color as best I could.
Sketching this way is never exactly ideal, but I have a feeling it’s going to help me remember that last performance for many years. And it’ll remind me of how grateful I am that the PNB has given Seattle such a wonderful Christmas gift for so long.
Posting here has been a little light lately, while I help make Christmas happen at home. But while there’s nothing quite like basking in the glow of your own tree, I also love traveling at the holidays—if only because I get to see how other places deck the halls, or experience different regional traditions.
Best of all (for me) is when everything is festive … inside—
Wherever you are spending your holidays this year, I hope they find you cozy and warm—and wreathed in light.
Every year the Tailor and I go to the mountains with our friends to pick out and cut our own Christmas trees. Some people, when I tell them this, look at me like I have three heads and ask, “Why don’t you just go to a tree farm?”
Well, sure, it’s more work (and a much longer trip), and wild trees are not nearly so “perfect” or full as farmed ones. But by doing things this way, our Christmas tree comes with a story every year—as well as a favorite tradition with our good friends. And there’s something wonderful about searching for a wild Northwest tree in the most beautiful and wild part of the Northwest. Somehow it feels like a quest to catch Christmas and carry it home.
When we head to the mountains on Sunday to get our tree, the holiday decorating will officially begin. At our old house, most of our decorating focused on the mantel—since we don’t tend to go overboard with that sort of thing anyway, sometimes it was the only place that hinted at anything festive. At our new house, the fireplace is even more central to our lives and the rhythm of our home. I’m excited to see what the season brings, and how the mantel will rise to the occasion.
Since the holiday falls on a non-post day, I’ll have to settle for this sketch of last year’s table setting. But I’m sure I’ll be sketching tomorrow, too, as our friends gather round our table to share a meal and give thanks for one another—and for friends far away, too.
This goes for you, too—whether you’re here in the U.S., getting ready to celebrate, or somewhere else in the world, having just another normal day. Know that wherever you are, I’m thankful for you, for joining me each week in this space. Wherever tomorrow finds you, I hope it finds you warm, well-fed, and surrounded by the things that bring you joy.