Time can simply slip away. The Fall was a time of work, illness and recovery. As I sit in the Faculty Room drinking a cup of coffee, reading a copy of Kinfolk Magazine and reflecting on how much my life has altered since the year previous, I cannot help but smile. Christmas is my favourite time of the year, and for the first time since I was a child I am really looking forward to the little things, the smells and sounds of family. Satisfaction will come from letting go of the digital world in favour of spending time cooking traditional foods, roasting chestnuts on a charcoal grill, setting a home-made pudding ablaze with brandy, roasting a goose worthy of Dickens [and then using the fat for Parisian potatoes; the debris will make a fine cassoulet to soothe the soul].
Paderno has sent along a few boxes of cookware to photograph this week. It will be the first paying gig I have done this Fall, so my mood will be excited to work with the medium again. In fact, my entire weekend will be a flurry of activity as I wrap presents, invite friends to the first official dinner at the new place, photograph product, see a play and musical bands. All the while, knowing that shortly ahead lies smooth sailing until after the New Year. Like a long yoga stretch, this weekend will be painful, but will feel great immediately afterwards.
I shaved my beard. For the past year I committed to growing a solid beard, and for the past year it felt right. Last night, it felt the time had come to shed my skin, to clean the palette for the next stage of life. It was a good experience, and I remain committed to growing my hair out. I think every man should know the power of what a beard and long hair feels like; I also know that settling in to either of those modalities long-term defeats their purpose: identity masks and enhancements.
This will be my first Christmas without my father. I know it will be a hard time for my family on Prince Edward Island. I also know that ghosts will populate this time of year [Dickens made certain of that post Christmas Carol]. It will be what it will be, and perhaps the greatest gift that I can offer is to honour the idea of family even though I cannot be home with what remains of mine. This will be a year of music, candlelight, games, communal food preparation, and cozy moments reflecting over a warm hot chocolate.
Post-Christmas has us in Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans for a week. I love the south in the winter months, and by renting a car we can explore the landscape beyond the hotel/restaurant scene. Our time will be an odyssey from country music to blues to jazz; from BBQ to Creole. There might also be a gorgeous banjo in the works from Santa Claus; it might be a Wildwood Exotic made in Bend, Oregon by little elves. I am very excited about this possibility, and expect to spend a lot of time in the next six months working on little things.
Santa may given us an early surprise last week; Luke Doucette from our favourite band, Whitehorse, at Dakota Tavern. NQ Arbuckle was playing a gig, we felt like braving the cold weather to see a live show, and much to our joy fellow stable-mate from Six Shooter Records, Luke, rose from the crowd to play a blistering guitar solo. I may have embarrassed myself by mentioning to him how much I would love to photograph Whitehorse and that I saw them on a plane from Calgary this summer – but hey, I was polite and genuinely appreciative to say a few words to one of my favourite musicians. The show was killer; if you get a chance to see NQ Arbuckle, then it is worth the effort this cold, cold winter.
The plum pudding was made last week: super-rich concoction of Grande Marnier-soaked fruits, eggs, challah crumbs and Balvenie Scotch. Tradition is just one of those ideas that can make our lives have meaning and ritual. While plum pudding has never been a tradition for my family on Prince Edward Island, the idea of it has always appealed to me, so as I construct new traditions with new family this holiday season I wanted a well-made pudding to become part of that.