Art Resolutions: Study 105-Seasonal Creativity in the Mt. Muchmore Studio

Art Resolutions is a self-imposed initiative to create an art study every day for a year.

Letting go-Part 2.

Depending on who you talk to, “letting go” can either be healthy or a gross rationalization. A slippery slope for people like me who have been long trained in thinking you can never do enough. Enter age. Bodies tell us the hard truths. Not only that we are not as young as we think, but also that adrenaline can be a dangerous drug.

Rather than try to woo you to the idea that I have developed the wisdom of the ages or iron will, I’m coming clean. My body has paid me cruelly for long driving hours on short trips, long working hours on stressful deadlines–in general, physical expectations carried over from being 20 (which I certainly am not). Six weeks of a pulled lower back muscle and an intermittent sensitive sciatic nerve have finally conditioned me to say “no” to making heroic gestures centering around travel.

All this has me spending Christmas at Mt. Muchmore. I celebrated with my Mother at Thanksgiving. With the local sisters last week. And will carry on virtual celebrations all through the holiday. The fun, games and family will be celebrated in full when the boys arrive on the 27th. Today and tomorrow will be spent making little preparations for their arrival and   connecting to close ones by phone and Skype. Since going on leave last Thursday, I’ve been catching up with my personal life–a bit neglected this year because of the big changes at work and important needs of my people.

It’s not how you connect. It’s that you connect.

Regardless of whether I traveled or not this holiday, there is no way I could see all the ones I love this Christmas. They are spread out–all over the world now.But staying put has allowed me to calm the chaos within my four walls and make time to connect with many directly. For the first time in years, Christmas cards with Muchmore art will have reached dear ones before Christmas Day.

On this holiday, I also gladly give thanks for communication technology. I had a two hour conversation over a glass of wine with Trisha, my dear friend from grad school now in Cleveland. Another hour conversation with Mike, one of my oldest dearest friends from undergrad. There will be a Skype call with Cindy in Australia–maybe tonight. I will play the “Word Game” over the phone with Mom this afternoon. And, maybe another wine call with Rick later today. I’ll catch up with my boys–both working , and reminisce with Rosemary in Vermont.

Really coming clean.

How, you ask, does this come back to art in the Mt. Muchmore studio? In an earlier life, I worked hard on pen and ink drawings made especially for Christmas cards that I had printed each year when I was single. I loved that tradition and longed to bring it back this year. But a week and a half ago— I understood that having two major deliverables due at work on Dec. 15 — left no time or mental energy to create an art card. Nevertheless,  nearly as soon as that thought entered my head, I thought of the block print of Mt. Muchmore’s crooked pine. The one I had carved this fall. A pine! That could be transformed into a Christmas tree! I had elaborate ideas for how that would happen. Some I will probably use later. Instead, within a half hour, I had printed the tree with blue watercolor on gray art paper and covered the background with white watercolor dots. Subtle but more holiday like than our 67 degree temperatures are allowing this year.

Dom at Walgreens.

A 17-year-old clerk at the local Walgreens took one look at the print and enthusiastically asked, “Is this your Christmas card?” I nodded. “Cool,” he said. Dom is a laid back kid and had lots to share about his schedule and thoughts about the holidays. What was unusual for someone his age, was the care he took to figure out the best deal he could give me. This, even after I increased the order twice. (Time to walk around the store can cause dangerous reconsiderations.) I doubt he understood how much he contributed to the holiday spirit by just showing he cared.

An old tradition revisited.

When I delivered cards my last day at work, Darnell told me he valued my handmade cards because he understood the time and care that went into the act. His was a gift of gratitude for the work of creating something personal to share.

Of course, the other half of the tradition is actually writing the cards. Handwritten messages made especially for each recipient. 18 cards have gone out in advance of Christmas. More will go out for new years.

For me, the ritual marks the return of a tradition rooted in peace, tranquility and the act of connecting with my people. And, this is exceptionally important. Life moves faster and faster each year. The world seems a meaner, scarier place — one,  I think,  that needs small, personal gestures that reach out and connect us person-to-person. Gestures like my little cards.

It’s not a novel thought, but what if everyone took one small step toward making things more personal? Let one car into the long line. Admire the colorful scarf on a fellow traveler. Start a conversation with a stranger. Smile at every forlorn face you pass in your daily rounds.

A pebble in a pond.

To remember how much it means to have people notice—seems hard to hold on to. That’s one of the reasons that I love old movies. There aren’t many movies today that would allow themselves to be unabashedly idealistic. To let go of the sure sales of sex and violence to lift optimism for the 90 minutes and remind people to wonder “what if.” The corny, old sentimental movies have an afterglow. Not all the hope they raised has been realized, but they have made me hold out for more—reach out of my comfort zone and dare myself to make a small contribution.

The miracle in movies.

What if you tried to let go of what Christmas is not. Embrace the small, sentimental thoughts that enable you to put $5 in the Salvation Army bucket or pay for the movie tickets of the two people behind you in the theatre line. Watch “Meet John Doe,” “Miracle of the Bells,” and “The Bishop’s Wife.” Read the Gift of the Magi. And let yourself be caught up in the magic for however long it lasts. Promise yourself you will make it last longer next year…and the year after…and the one after that. Magic isn’t mysterious, just generous and joyful efforts in small moments.

Merry Christmas Eve!

The Mistress of Mt. Muchmore 

Christmas Lone Pine






About vbassoc

Donna Van Bogaert is a researcher and consultant in the field of cognitive styles, health communication, and organizational communication and behavior. Her business, Van Bogaert & Associates, Inc., specializes in cognitive-based coaching, management consulting, and leadership development. When the winds are blowing her way, she travels and talks about workplace potential and creative problem solving. In another life, Donna sings jazz. For a very long time, she fronted two 18-piece big bands —All That Jazz (Madison, WI) and The Gardenia Big Band (Rockford, IL). She currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio where, in a third parallel universe, she leads a media branch of a national research institute. Mostly she has returned to painting, poetry, and plotting the next chapter of her life.
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