As Sam Gamgee announced when he returned from saying his last farewell to Frodo and Bilbo, “I’m Back”. Unlike Sam, however, my reasons are neither dramatic nor poignant. When I began these email letters I did say that I wouldn’t be bothering you with annoying frequency but it’s been so long since my last letter that you could be forgiven for thinking this artist-writer had left Planet Earth for some other realm. In a sense, I have but we’ll get to reasons why I’ve neglected you all for so long in forthcoming letters. At the outset, I offer my apologies. Now It’s December and the end of the year is nigh, so I wanted to wish you all the best for the Festive Season and send you some updates on two of my favourite artists and introduce you to a third.
I love this beautiful portrait by New Zealand artist Karyn Roberts. Yes, she does commissions. What a great gift that would be for a special person in your life!
Check out Karyn’s NZ stone jewellery as well for a treasured and lasting gift.
There are many beautiful, affordable prints on Karyn’s website too.
I’m delighted to introduce you to Paul Zawadski, a fun guy and accomplished artist I met in England a couple of years ago. His innovative and imaginative style is delightful and I couldn’t resist a small souvenir painting to bring home. (A lot smaller than the striking image above but much treasured.)
Do check out more of his work on the artists links on my website or on his own site. You’ll find he has plenty of galleries and free music to download. Yes, Paul is a musician too. He goes by the name ArtBear.
So here we are near the close of another year, a time that we traditionally try to celebrate under the banner of Peace and Good Will. The last few have seen humanity increasingly divided politically, economically and in too many countries, racially and culturally. Such troubles I shall leave to other more informed and astute commentators but who are they? To paraphrase a savvy friend of mine, we need to get our news from sources outside the mainstream, from grass-roots independents from the regions themselves, not from those backed by and loyal to, big corporations ultimately serving the ‘god of capitalism’. No, I’m not a marxist, just a concerned human being. And since you and I are engaging in a form of Social Media, check out Sacha Barron Cohen’s insightful address about Social Media giants. It can all get rather depressing sorting lies—disingenuously called ‘fake news’— from truth and then finding that the truth can be just as depressing.
Here in New Zealand, like other parts of the world, we’ve had our share of terrible crime and tragedy this year. By comparison, the pain of this rugby obsessed nation getting beaten in the Rugby World Cup by the Mother country (as it was known when I was growing up!) has faded somewhat as the fans get over their shock while outside the pride of sporting obsessions, life goes on regardless of which team ‘wins’.
Like other countries, we too are dealing with extreme weather and our hearts go out to those here and around the world who have faced loss of loved ones and property this year. Our Gratitude should also go to those known in today-speak as ‘First Responders’ those brave men and women who deal with all that ‘our’ planet throws at us and the violence we do to each other.
“But hey, Jacquelyn,” you may well protest, “This is a festive time of the year. Why are you bringing up these things?” Because we are each responsible for this ‘human world’ in that we have personal and collective responsibility and the first kind contributes one at a time, to the second. You’re right though, it’s nearly Christmas and we can smile or weep at what a tangled web Christmas itself can be. Some have ‘retired hurt’ from the whole thing, refusing to participate at all, others are simply delighted to have their families celebrate being together. Then there are the good souls who volunteer to give the lonely and the poor a free meal at community events.
As Christmas approaches and I observe the frenzy of shopping, I remember the shock my brother and I experienced when our parents took us to visit a friend’s family on Christmas day. The kids were tearing open their presents with no regard for saving the wrapping paper for the following year as we were required to do!
My thoughts also go back to our times spent in Egypt, where we once attended a pre-Christmas party in a grand old Alexandrian home with an Arabic-speaking Santa distributing gifts from a large ‘sack’ to all the children present. On another day in Egypt, while my husband was visiting business acquaintances, their beautiful three year old girl climbed onto his lap, stroked his white beard and with a smile of beaming delight, announced he was ‘Baba Noel’.
One year, we spent Christmas Day at a hotel on the Mediterranean coast about an hour west of Alexandria with a home-sick Australian who walked with us along a windswept beach under grey skies, as the off-season rubbish tumbled mournfully along the sand. The emptiness of the hotel reminded us we were in a Muslim country where festivities are not generally celebrated on that day nor for that reason but spread over an entire month of fasting days and feasting nights during the Islamic festival of Ramadan. Socialising and partying into the early hours of the following morning led to employees falling asleep at their desks and we expats quickly learned to leave the country until things got back to ‘normal’ and the wheels of industry could turn smoothly again.
Those of you who live in the Northern Hemisphere and who have never experienced a Christmas in the other half of the world may find it strange to realise that for us, Christmas occurs during our summer and we hope for a day warm enough for a barbecue and maybe a trip to the beach. A friend in Rovereto (Northern Italy) recently posted his newsletter with descriptions of their pre-Christmas community events, which sounded delightful. (I’m going to do a feature for you on this intriguing part of Italy next year)
I do know what it can be like, having experienced a couple of Christmases when we lived in England in the early 1970s. Our first son had been born mid December and icicles hung from the windows of our second floor flat. We were delighted when it snowed heavily a couple of days after Christmas and I photographed a rose capped with that pretty white stuff that eventually melts into slush. When said child was about four, we stopped on the side of the highway on New Zealand’s volcanic plateau in winter so he could experience snow. After a short exploration, he got back into the car, announcing, “I’ll come back one day when it’s not cold and wet.”
Freezing fogs were occasional visitors to the English Midlands and when we waited at the bus stop in their aftermath, icicles tinkled in the trees behind us as squirrels ran along the branches. It’s understandable that overseas visitors or immigrants to the South of the world miss such winter wonders at this time of year and feel that here, it’s not really Christmas. We Kiwis, of course, would disagree.
Personally, my husband and I enjoy that we get Christmas greetings from Jewish friends and they doubtless enjoy it when we remember their important festivals. So, depending upon your culture and religion, enjoy the Christmas season for its deeper meaning of Good Will and maybe side-step the commercial madness of it it altogether. I know many wise families find ways to compromise on that score. Regardless of our beliefs or religious affiliations, for all of us the important thing to remember is that our big challenge is not one of choosing presents but choosing how our presence in this world contributes to its troubles or its joys.