This exquisite pair of slippers, one of the many products of Lea Stansal's gloriously whimsical imagination, reminds me of the novel The Snow Child - yours is on its way, Melissa - which so many of you have read with great delight. As I have already confessed I am a winter child at heart. It is a season which encourages you to become a good beauty hound and gently compels us to enjoy the novelty of seeing everything from a different perspective, the twigs glazed with ice, the snow glittering like diamond dust. There is always pleasure to be found somewhere among the leavings; remains that tell a story. The Alaskian storyteller, Eowyn Ivey, does just that: she spins a fairytale from the harsh reality of winter in Alaska and makes it into something beautiful. She has a talent which leaves me in awe.
In The Children's Book (the only book which carried me through those first nauseous months of pregnancy three summers ago) A.S. Byatt writes:
"Olive was sometimes frightened by the relentlessly busy inventiveness of her brain. It was good and consoling that it earned money, real bankable cheques in real envelopes. That anchored it in the real world. And the real world sprouted stories wherever she looked at it. [...] Yesterday's events had also transmuted themselves into story-matter, almost as fast as they had happened. She had watched Anselm Stern's version of E.T.A. Hoffmann's tale with glee - her response to any performance, any work of art, was the desire to make another, to make her own. She was in that world, watching, not in flat dailiness. The gliding movement of the puppets, the glitter of the limelight on their silk organza dresses, the half-visible strings, like spider-silk, had transmuted into other figures in other lights in her head, almost before they had performed their own sequence of movements."
I have always admired a storyteller. I may be a humble writer - a garden aesthetics journalist to be precise - but I am incapable of threading words together to make up a story. I put down facts on paper, simple as that. And what about those marvellous souls who snuggle down with their children in bed and make up stories in their head? Oh my, I wish I could do that! Tell me please, do you have that talent?
As you have all noticed I have temporarily put down my writer's pen and taken up my needles and thread these past few months. The constant clamour of my spirited Angélique has made it more tricky to form (halfway intelligent) sentences but fairly easy to stitch. I may not be able to write tales but I do enjoy making up characters with a little fabric and yarn.
Most days I am glad to embrace the commonplace in the knowledge that it counterbalances a desire to keep company with my flights of fancy. The imagination is a powerful ally and an alluring friend and this week I have wished to part company with the mundane and its ceaseless sermons to keep one's feet on the ground. This character, Mademosielle Butterfly, has been living in my head for a while now (she is destined for a little girl named Matilda) and has kept me cheerful through the symphony of hacking coughs and broken nights. When I look at her I think of skies in spring and holding a small, blue butterfly gently in my hands and watching it flutter. As I stitched the last piece of lace on her skirt I realised with contentment that the interludes between coughing fits had lengthened, that my children had rosy cheeks one more. and that the sodden winter garden was filled with dazzling sunlight . Thank you Mademoiselle Butterfly for carrying me through a tricky week.
And thank you too to Silke Leffler whose illustrations gladden my heart and inspire me. If you are looking for good reading matter for Christmas presents may I suggest these two books?
I bought these for myself a while back but have watched with a happy heart Angélique fall in love with the pictures and the tales. The Flower Ball is a clever tale of acceptance which uses rich imagary and words. Why Is The Snow White is an imaginative tale which celebrates snow and the sweetness of sharing. You may find them both here and here.
And finally, please could you all gently wag a finger at dear Gaspard!
He turned one on the first day of Advent and spent the entire night vomiting his first birthday bone. Poor love! 'No more bones', admonished the kind vet the following morning. For the past few days he will only eat and drink water from my hands and turns his charming nose up at his dog bowl! The vet yesterday advised me to stop handfeeding him. Is my dear dog becoming a drama queen?
Edit: I am wondering about stepping away from this space after Christmas...