In honour of the vaulted ceiling in our newish-to-us house (we were away for Christmas last year so didn’t have a tree), J. and I put up an 11-foot pine bought at the nearly tree lot. I’ve been spending some lovely evenings knitting beside its twinkling branches.
That’s to help me calm down, since I keep finding myself tugged into the swirl of anxiety that this time of year can stimulate. There’s so much to do and so such pressure to make it all perfect…
It can’t be perfect.
It is what it is. You know that, and I know that, but still…
Like many of us, I’ve had to learn to take steps forward despite that urge for perfection, the anxiety that it won’t be realized, tugging at me to stop! Don’t buy that! That’s not the right gift!
Of course, it isn’t all about Christmas.
I’ve also been going over the proofs of Following Sea, my forthcoming poetry collection, these past couple weeks (note: there will be a cover reveal in the new year, and it is gorgeous!) This is always challenging. The copy arrives looking like a book with the inevitable warning from the publisher: we can’t make too many changes.
With Swarm, I was so anxious I could barely look at it. This time, I stepped up to the cliff and jumped off, then rapidly found myself flying between dread of the drop and elation of flight.
But I did it. I went through it, line by line, negotiating what I could live with and what felt necessary to me (for any of you who write poetry, you know that there’s probably a lovely heavenly grove in the afterlife where poets spend eternity altering their line breaks… )
Suffice to say: it isn’t perfect. No creative work ever is. But it’s as close as I can get, right now, right here. This is one thing that my writing practice and experience has taught me (because writing teaches writing, which, by the way, is the name of my new online course, opening for enrolment on January 1st – stay tuned!).
And, you know what?
I’m damn proud of it.
Our grand and gorgeous tree is also imperfect. We found it at the back of the lot, overlooked, with a price to match. It has long lanky branches and lots of gaps. And it’s beautiful (although in this picture Mowat seems a bit unsure).
The title of this post comes from a tradition J. and I developed in the early years of our marriage, when I was freelancing from home and we were facing the first big hardship of our relationship – the repeatedly dashed hopes of acquiring that perfect life of baby, and our dreamed-for family.
Exhausted in those first years of teaching, he went to work one of the last mornings before the holidays and I said, “When you get home, it’ll be Christmas Town around here!”
I spent the day decorating, and Christmas town was founded in our tiny eighty-year-old house with the basement that flooded every spring and the invasive trumpet vine that grew through the foundation (and the bathroom floor), and where we began to wrestle with the bigger imperfections of life (several poems I wrote during this time, more than a decade ago, are in Following Sea).
Not perfect, those days.
But still beautiful.
I wish all of you a gorgeous, messy, lively holiday, streaked with the glow of joy and reflection and full of whatever line breaks you desire.