Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Musings from a Timeless Journey #1

Hi All!!!

I am back from my cross country trip to visit Mom and my childhood home.

I'll be doing my best to get caught up with you all and your lovely blogs as soon as I get caught up here with shipping and get back on track.

Instead on inundating you with a long post about my trip, I think I will share the experiences in brief, short-short story versions in the coming weeks. It will be a writing exercise for me. Trying to tell the story is one or two pages, no more than 500 words per story.

Little vignettes of past and present all tangled into one.

I hope you'll enjoy them!


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"The Farmhouse"

Driving towards the comic book store which thrives in the now nearly-vacant mall, I'll be passing the old farmhouse I so fondly remember from the year I was enrolled in a scholars program. Only two students from each middle school were chosen to attend the year long program and I was lucky enough to be one of them from our small, neighborhood school.

The program consisted of only three classes, every Wednesday, with each class almost two hours long.

Creative English
Ancient Art History

This is one of my favorite memories of those difficult “tween years”.

My classmate Paul and I were first to be picked up on the bus each Wednesday before dawn. The next stop to pick up a student was a full 15 minutes later along a stretch of the old river road where several smaller houses sat framing this grand, three story farmhouse.

During the winter months we’d arrive at the farmhouse still cloaked in winter darkness and the radiant glow that emanated from the first floor windows of the farmhouse cast a palpable warmth across the snow covered yard. A warmth that always managed to touch me as I sat on the bus staring at that beautiful old house. I still love and covet farm houses like that to this day,

Julie, the girl who we were picking up there, I’d come to learn was wicked smart though we barely talked beyond the weekly “Good morning” as she got on the bus. Since the scholar classes were divided into three groups of fifteen students each, and Julie was not in my group, we only really saw each other on the bus and at lunch.

The year of “Good Mornings” passed, and I went on to high school and life beyond but the impact of those classes and the creative support I received from the teachers, remains with me to this day.

And, of course, the farmhouse.

I knew as I drove out towards the mall last week that I’d be passing by it along that same river road.

It’s still there but the years have taken their toll. Most of the houses that were once situated nearby are completely gone and the farmhouse itself has fallen into a state of general disrepair, like many things do across decades of time.

I drove by slowly, conflicting feelings turned inside, saddened at the state of the farmhouse but also glad that it was still there at all because so few things from those formative years are.

I thought of Julie, Paul, and all the other kids who’s names are now as lost to time as the houses that once stood around that farmhouse.

I wondered if the classes, and the opportunities that they afforded, are remembered as fondly by any of the others. And I wondered what happened to the farmhouse thru all these years.

And though it’s not the pre-dawn chill of a long-past winter day, I allowed the words to come anyway.

“Good morning”

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Small Magic - In the Details

My dear blog friend Andrea, at Falling Ladies, has begun a monthly collection of stories and experiences of what she has termed as "Small Magic". You can find this month's post by Andrea by clicking HERE

And the original "Finding Small Magic" Post on her Falling Ladies blog is HERE:

I hope you will take a moment and check them out, add your own (even just a link to a picture or a sentence or two is PLENTY! It need not be as wordy as I tend to be. :)

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Hi all!

I am just a day from leaving on my cross country train excursion to visit mom, and "home", though I sometimes struggle to call it such. I struggle because I have not lived there in over 20 years. Not in the state and not in the house I mostly grew up in.

And I can write this because I know that my mother understands what I am about to tell you.

Home is not just found in the place or the time spent. It is in the details.

The house remains the same, mostly. The rooms, the lot size etc. But all of the details. . . the small magic. . . is mostly gone. The small magic that I now know, made it "home" for all those formative years. Made it a place that, no matter what life in the outside world brought, I could retreat and get lost in the small magic that abounded there.

Small magic that was found in:

The bird feeder my grandmother stocked daily for her assorted feathered friends.
The hand-laid cobblestone road, now paved over with black, ugly asphalt.
The old recliners my grandparents sat in.
The little decorations and extra touches they had added all through the house over the years
The trees: Peach, apricot, plum, blue spruces lining the driveway. . . all gone.
The flowers I planted and tended to for my grandmother or, as my grandfather and I called her, "The Boss", year in and year out.
The stone birdbath which was a joy to watch all year long, even when it froze in winter and we'd poke a hole in it to allow the birds to find water!
The old toolbox in the "junk room", which was my great grandfather's, and had been hand-built.
The gravel lot (the neighbor's property actually) where epic stickball, nerf football and street hockey games were played and where a lot of skin got left behind over the years.
The old TV shows, the old tv (with rabbit ears when you had to actually GET UP to change a channel!!)
The flagstones out the back door that moles found their way beneath and dug their maze of tunnels each year.
The tree house
The ivy covered hillsides along the driveway.
Worn patches of grass in the uneven back yard from wiffle ball
The old red wooden sled in the garage
The old stereo
The simple feeling of timelessness and possibility and love that you can't define, but know it when you feel it.
All the smells of my grandparents cooking, old family recipes, 7 day candles burning, chocolate making and canning all summer and fall.

Maybe most of all, the possibilities of endless days of discovery. All those little trinkets and treausres tucked away over the years in the basement, in the sewing room, in the garage or that junk room, in the piles of boxes, that I would unearth in my childhood adventures and marvel at.

All of it gone. . .

Now, I do still find a lot of little things here and there. And I have, I know,  a keen imagination that allows me to suspend time even in the absence of such things and transport myself back there again and again. But, in truth, it is easier with physical distance. I actively seek the spirits of the past out when I am there. I open myself to that little boy and invite him in and, he DOES show up here and there. But it is often fleeting. My mother, you see, is very much a "here and now" type person, and understandably in her 80's, there is much to worry about I suppose. But I have never been a worrier to any great degree. Life drops what it will in our laps and reality is, as I have learned and proven time and again, very much a creation of choice, circumstance and attitude.And worrying never seemed to be successful at staving those incidents off or prepared one for them to any great degree.

Don't misunderstand. . . I adore seeing my mother and the fact that my coming there, cooking for her and connecting again makes her whole year is enough, truly, to say that it is worth going back. . . but it just is not the same for me. I'm just being honest.

So I will take those moments as I can find them over the next two weeks and try to fill them with whatever magic remains there. I'll try to find the small details, even if they are only in imagination and memory now. . .and I try to create new ones too or rediscover old ones that even I may have forgotten. . . and those are treasures, to be sure.

Since it is February, I am hoping for a real honest to goodness snowfall.
Maybe a few moments of that magical "time travel."
A little childhood inspiration. . . and most of all, just a touch of the innocence from that time.

Mostly though, I suppose I will be counting the hours til I can return to the reality we have created here. Where magic is the rule and not the exception 7 days a week. Where the outside world rarely encroaches or is allowed in. Where my heart soars with every new turn of the page, even the messy ones. . . and where that little boy finds small magic in every thing he creates, day in and day out. :)

See you all in a few weeks.


PS, since I will not be able to post a new work post on the first, below is something I just completed for a custom request. A statue of Ereshkigal, a Sumerian deity that I had never made before. With all the details left to me, I pulled from several of her ancient incarnations including her association with having inspired Hecate (thus the owls) and her role in the underworld.

This work I do, I realize, is a perfect blend of adult/little boy. I "play" often and in turn, am fortunate enough to be able to navigate the adult world of expenses/bills from the work I do as well.

It's a far cry from legos and play dough eh? But the root inspiration, interest and exploration are very much the same as they were all those years ago.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

New Work - February 1st

Hi everyone!

It's been an incredibly hectic January!

 Jizos by the dozens, the busiest January by far over the last 7 years! YAY! Writing for the Ledgerkeepers book, the podcast and Bewilder and Pine "atlas" all going SO well. Sadly,  my old faithful Mac mini died but luckily the hard drive was able to be saved and I did not have to go to a Genius Bar (ugh) at a Mac store to have it done as there was a place her in our little town with a few geniuses of their own! (Thanks Evan!) Got the new Mac mini a few days later via overnight delivery and am back at it again.

To all my lovely blog friends, I miss coming by your blogs and I promise I will be by this week to catch up. I

I am also less than three weeks out from my cross country Amtrak train excursion to visit mom and looking forward to three days of intensive writing and editing each way bookending the 8 days in the middle spent at the family home with all the old fat spirits, childhood ghosts and voices of the past. Always seems to be an inspiring trip for me. . . and always aware that it may be the last.

More on all of that in the weeks to follow but for now, just my selection of new work from January. It's heavy on the Shadow of the Sphinx side as I was inundated with custom requests there all month long. :)

Thank you for dropping by and I am hoping that magic is inundating YOUR world each day!
It had been awhile since I made Wadjet/Cobras and I really enjoyed this one!

Never tire of making towers. . . or imagining who dwells within. :)

I always forget about Groundhog Day till people start ordering these little guys! We refreshed the photos this year and. . . 

. . . added an image of the little, landscaped box "burrow" we make for each one to ship in! :) 

Wenut, the Hare or "The Swift One" is always fun to make!
Hadn't made a mini Moai Statue (4" tall)  in a long time too! January was really filled with all sorts of requests.

Mossy Lane Fairy House in Lilac.

This was my favorite request of the month. Hathor in cow form and another cobra to match! 

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Grace of Jizo

Recently the NY Times ran a small story on Jizo, the Japanese Bodhisattva, one of the most beloved and revered Bodhisattvas in Mahayana Buddhism. Jizo is the embodiment of the Bodhisattva Vow, the aspiration to save all beings from suffering. He is the protector of women, children, and travelers in the six realms of existence. 

"Most prominent today in Japanese Zen, Jizo is understood to be the protector of those journeying through the physical and spiritual realms. This bodhisattva is closely associated with children, believed to be their guardian before birth, throughout childhood, and after death."

In India he is known as Ksitigarbha, in China as Dizang, in Korea as Jijang Bosal
and in Japan as Jizo Bosatsu.

Long before many of the fantasy and fairy elements of my world showed up in Bewilder and Pine, I was making Jizos. I had learned about them while studying Zen just after the turn of the Millennium and when I was trying to find the comfort zone in my desire for solitude and silence around me.

I fell in love with the figure and the meaning behind him.

Visiting a monastery that had a "Jizo Garden" with statues large and small, each dedicated to a child who had died and lovingly placed and cared for along the forest paths, my interest deepened.

Then I read about the Onegai, or "wish granting" Jizos aNihonji Daibutsu, where thousands upon thousands of tiny Onegai Jizos surround the larger statues, all placed by folks making wishes or prayers as they visit.  The Onegai is one of over 70 various Jizo versions I have seen described! 

Over the years I have been so blessed to have created a few hundred or so of these little guys and they have grown along with me. I change the listing photos every few years as they mature and grow with my skills. 

The story in the Times led about 15 or so folks to the shop, all within this last week, and I have been graced with making Jizos one after the other to meet the demand there, as well as with the few little boutiques I sell thru who also happened to see the article. I've also been graced with the stories of some of these new customers who are buying them who read the article, searched the internet for Jizos, and happened upon my little guys. They sometimes share stories of the children they lost in childbirth or far too soon thereafter. Some purchase them for just that purpose, others as travel companions for protection. and some just for their own altar in the role of a "wish-granter". 

The thing is, and many of you know this about me, I am usually not fond or making things over and over in short spans of time. But I have to say that I felt none of that this last week creating two dozen or so Jizos to fill the purposes they were requested for. It's a whole other realm. It feels like a deep and true service. . . 

It's possible, especially when Bewilder and Pine is fully stocked, to miss them altogether among the fairy magic and mythic gargoyles and such. . . but below are a few of the images of some that I made this last week. If you have never heard of Jizo, there's a lot of information out there. But if you are truly interested in the meaning behind Jizo,  I'd recommend the book written by my previous Zen teacher from that time, Jan Chozen Bays called:  "Jizo Bodhisattva - Guardian of Children, Travelers and Other Voyagers".  She has worked with and studied Jizo for years. There's no better introduction to Jizo than her book. 

It's been a hectic week. . .  but every step of the way it's been a wonderful reminder of how you can touch people with creativity. The meaning found within and the wealth of warmth and love one can receive from the service of creating. . . 

Hope the New Year is treating you all so wonderfully thus far!!


Onegai, Wish-Granting, Jizo

Just over 2 inches (5cm) tall

I offer them in the same aged patina finishes as my statues in Shadow of the Sphinx too.

I hope you enjoyed the glimpse of these little guys. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year, New Plans, New Work

Wishing a very Happy New Year to everyone in the blog-world and thank you, for your comments, for just taking a moment to read and for being a part of my world. :)

Hoping YOUR year to come is filled with magic and wonder every day!

“Now I become myself. It’s taken time, many years and places.” 
 May Sarton

2017. . . yikes! I can recall, in the early 1980's being old enough to realize that I  would see the turn of the century. It felt like it was a world away back then. Now, 17 years after that millennium date came and went,  feel like I can hardly remember it passing.

I found myself, this past week, thinking of so many of the things I have tried in my life. as it pertains to "making a living" — Cooking, writing music, sound engineering, running coffeehouses, owning cafe's,  photo editing, photography, digital art. . . all took up a bit of my life as my main "pursuit".

A perfect word, pursuit.

Looking back I think I am realizing that I was always chasing something — some dream I held at that moment.  And at the core of those dreams was the thought "Wouldn't it be great to be able to make a living doing ___ " Of course, if I am honest, I wanted more than that. I wanted to be "known" for what I did too. And I often, in those early adult years, let that misguided part of it in the driver's seat far too often.

How wonderful now, all these years later in life, to have discovered thru the process and elimination of all of the attachments to that particular ideal, that it is truly enough to just say, "I want to make magic!" Well, that and then to put it into this world"

I feel most grateful that I have been able to become a "maker-of-things" and that, for the last six years, it's been my sole occupation. I do not think, in that time, I have ever thought about anything else other than gratitude for the fact that I get to rise each day and travel down whatever road my imagination wishes to go.

When I am asked about my "occupation", as with my recent, mid-December eye doctor appointment, it is funny to notice how speaking of what I do tends to stop people in their tracks. That's how it was with Dr. Paul,. Like him, they'll often ask the question, take in the answer, then turn, look at me and say "Really? You can make a living from that?" In Dr. Paul's case, this led to us stopping the exam mid-stream so he could open up Etsy on his computer and look at the shoppes! :)

But behind the magic of my two main shoppes is, at this point,  seven plus years of diligence and hard work, experimentation and lessons learned along the way. From those first days of running to the store to get the right sized box with every sale to now, where our "guest" bedroom is 100% devoted to packing and shipping. Walls lined with shelves of gift and shipping boxes, tissue and bubble wrap and oodles of rolls of raffia and ribbon.

From not knowing how to ship an international package at all to having a pretty good grasp on many of the oddities one cannot ship to specific countries. We've adapted and grown into it with every step of the process. And the thing I believe that we are most aware contributed to our ability to turn these ideas into our life's work, was the way we look at each new obstacle and are willing to do almost anything to overcome it.In short, as I have said before, the willingness to shape our life around the work and not try to force it the other way around.

Even at the beginning, when Sofie and I first took an apartment together, on day one we decided we needed to make the living room space the bedroom and the two small bedrooms into our work studios so we had more space and better light to work within. Our lifestyle never goes over well with family, though our few friends seem to appreciate it and understand. It's all in service to the creation of what we hope IS magic. And that magic has to come first for us or it's just not going to work.

Now I have gone about things pretty much the same way my whole life.

All or nothing.

No safety net or cushion below the high wire.

It's always paid off beautifully with either wonderful experiences or total collapses — and I mean that. It's always paid off BEAUTIFULLY.

Even the worst of it was a better learning experience than anything I might have gained playing it safe or taking things slow and sure.  Diving in always felt like learning to ride a bike. The uncertainty of your steadiness before that first glorious moment where the pedal completes a revolution and you catch the balance of the wheels just right. Now, I didn't learn to ride a bike until I was 30, so I recall the feeling oh so well. I'll never forget it.

That said, all or nothing was a younger person's game to play for sure. And I never had the stress in those years of a mortgage or of kids or of car payments etc. I moved across the country, started four or five businesses over the next 15 years and, when things didn't work out? Next idea please! Along the way I've accumulated skills, equipment and insights that I would never have had otherwise. And they all seem to be converging in the here and now.

Thru all the trial and error, I kept looking for that one thing. That certain "magic"I could call my own.

It was never a case of wanting to have it all for me.  I remember reading in May Sarton's,  " Journal of a Solitude" about how, as she was becoming something of an icon for feminism, she would get letters from young women begging her to tell them the secret to "having it all", which they perceived her to have achieved. She often would reply, "you can't dear, no one can."I want to write another post in the coming weeks about Sarton's influence on my own life. Her love of solitude, seeing it as an absolute necessity for her sanity. . . it resonated so strongly with me. Quotes like:

“Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is richness of self.”

No one had described solitude's graces quite like that before and it allowed me to feel as though I wasn't just some oddball for wanting so much time to myself again, as I had when I was a child.

So. . . solitude, magic, openness to change of direction or to unorthodox means. Whatever it took.

Here we are then. Solid footing and seven years into this magical path and I am completely committed to whatever it takes to keep the magic flowing.

So what does 2017 hold?

Well, I'll just bullet point it for now with short descriptions as I am sure I'll address these all in detail in the coming weeks.

1. Continued growth of my Etsy shoppes. I think I finally get it when it comes to creative balance. I've needed for some time to be better about not overloading myself and trying to accommodate everything that is requested of me.  And I plan to further my dive into exploring new work and new skills each month.

2. Creating a dedicated Squarespace website for "The Bewildering Pine" — OK, I know this is confusing to some. The Etsy shoppe, "Bewilder and Pine" is "inspired" by the land of the "Bewildering Pine.". That's the world itself. Rooted in childhood.  The place where all the little houses, stories and ideas come from. I want the site to be for those stories, little vignettes and a blog just for that world and it's characters. Anything sold there would be directly related to the stories told within. Sets of fortune cards, special amulets, dream teas and "tinctures", who knows what could be created? But at it's core, it's to be a place to grow the magic of that paracosm without limits or without tying it to the varied expressions found in the Etsy shoppe.

3. "The Ledgerkeepers" book - Short stories from around and within that same world. A full color, detailed map and 24 or so small story "peeks" into the folk who live there and the reason the Bewildering Pine came to be. A limited run of hand-bound copies and possibly (hopefully) a full print edition by the summer of 2018. All of it, however, is to lay the groundwork for a novel in the following years. There is a certain ripple of darkness under the magic of the land itself and stories to be told that no one can begin to guess at their point of heading :)

4. The Bewildering Pine "Travel Guide"- Part of the extensive world building for writing "The Ledgerkeepers" has been taking each town, point of interest and the variety of elves and kind folk, myths and secrets of that world and writing about them. It's all backstory for the larger project but I thought it would be quite lovely to put together a collection of those descriptions, a map and some other details. Maybe a small bestiary, a lexicon? Perhaps more. . . also slated for late 2017 or early 2018 but we'll see.This would also be hand-bound.

5. The Bewildering Pine Podcast - Yes, a podcast. Though it likely won't be called that. I am quite taken with podcast radio dramas like "The Message", "Tannis", "The Black Tapes" and "Life After" but I wanted a place where I could begin to tell my own family stories (which are rather magical and unbelievable in many cases) yet keep it in the realm of "otherworld" magic. Well, a short synopsis would be: Reading so many folk tales about particular fae and elven spirits I found myself thinking, quite often, "Oh, that one reminds me so much of my Great aunt Kate who lived on an old houseboat or that meadow elf reminds me of this girl I knew when I was 10 who was bewitching!" In short, it's a podcast that's about my experiences, looking back and realizing that there may have been more magic in our world, in my childhood and extended family, than I ever realized. The journey into it is set off by the discovery of a diary of my great grandmothers, long lost until it turns up in another extended family members discarded things. The entries within it, the allusions in the details, to other worlds and other "folk". I am planning on two seasons of 6 episodes being blocked out before I get started with it all for recording and broadcast.

6. Ice Elf figurines - Well I have mentioned this before over the past two years. A series of 50 or so limited edition "Ice Elves" that would  feature a story that is told over 24 months. A new "chapter" is sent to the buyer each month. I'd like it to be an interactive story as well. So as those who bought the Ice Elf figure follow the "mission statement" of the Elves and, hopefully, engage with me thru a future website for the Ice Elf world, we can build the story together. and complete their mission. I imagine the Ice Elf packaging to be rather elaborate. A "chest" containing the small figurine and a series of extras. Ice Crystal gazing ball, scrolls and amulets, coded messages, magic ice dust. . . oh I have a long list of possibilities and am sourcing materials now. I'd want to be sure I could get at least 50 of each required supply I need to keep them consistent.

7. Music - OK, this is tied to the podcast. I wrote music for years. Worked with dance companies, commercial and film makers and produced songs for other songwriters. What I rarely did though, was create solely for the "magic " of it. There was always an end game, an ideal of success that I wanted within it and, I felt, that kept me from really getting into the heart of it and writing just in the service of finding that magic. So, creating music for the Podcast would allow me that opportunity.  A way of righting that part of my past too. Working with just limited world/ancient instruments and going more for atmosphere than pure song writing or music/CD release, I just want to indulge in the magical creation of it all again. I used to be so obsessed with music. I felt like I lived and breathed it but, looking back with the advantage of the years,  I see that I always wanted and expected it to be in service to me, instead of the other way around. I want to give that back. So it's time to dig out the old digital recorder and start reacquainting myself with it all again. we'll see. . .

Ok, that's it.  . . I think. :)

This really has been much longer than I anticipated so I am going to just leave you with a few pieces of new work from December. I may have to come back and edit any errors above as the New Year is calling me already.

And I've got my Sparrows and Crows and Starlings to feed.

Magic to make. . .

Make YOUR New Year magical too!!!

And thank you for reading, but more for believing. . .

Perhaps my favorite Sutekh/Set I have ever sculpted! 

I never tire of making Sekhmet pieces. She is, after all, the Lady of Light.

These two were part of a gargoyle "quarry" of nine!  I loved making both sweet and bratty gargoyles for this request!

A fine fellow in Ireland buys multiples of mini statues for his work team when they complete a major project,
which are always named after an Egyptian Deity so, these were for "Ma'at"

The Fairy House of Barberry, the village of Hobs and Grogochs.

And a pair of country Hermitage Fairy Houses. These have come a long way over these past 7 years so they
do still feel rather "new" to me. ;) 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Little Bit of Christmas Past

Hello all! Hoping the season has been magical thus far wherever you are whether snowed in or hoping for a white Christmas!

Just thought I'd share a bit of our holiday world today.

Since we've added a full size floor loom and another work table to our set up we had to downsize the tree a bit this year to fit it in but it is still a lively 5' Nobel Fir.

The Santa is from the first tree I can recall as a child. I looked forward to seeing this "old friend" every year and I still do.

And these glass ornaments must be at least 50 years old now.  I've managed to keep nine of them in tact.

Danish Christmas Snowflakes Sofie got at a Christmas market when she was in school abroad. 

One of my favorite Etsy finds of all time. Originally I wanted to make little winter scenes for them but decided we should keep most of them for ourselves to hang on the tree. 

Sofie's Grandmother's tree topper! I love this bird and look forward to placing it on the top bough every year!

And the last few years, when we had much larger trees, we needed ornaments so we made dozens of these origami bows.   I am hoping to take a day next week and make a few dozen small ones to go on this year's tree.

And one last thing. . . last year we watched what is one of my favorite, nostalgic, Christmas movies which is "An American Christmas Carol" starring Henry Winkler, (yes, that's right, THE FONZ !) as the Scrooge based character. Now, I will admit, it is not as good a movie as I recalled (acting wise) from 25 years before, but I still reveled in seeing it again. It's hard to find but Netflix had it last year and it was a delight to watch.  Of course, Nothing beats "A Charlie Brown Christmas"  for me, the sad little tree, the monologue from Linus about what Christmas is all about and of course, Pigpen's endless dust clouds even when skating or exhaling while singing! Classic. . . 

Any favorites you'd like to share? LOVE to hear about them!

Happy holidays!


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Small Magic - Nostalgia

My dear blog friend Andrea, at Falling Ladies, has begun a monthly collection of stories and experiences of what she has termed as "Small Magic". You can find this month's post by Andrea by clicking HERE

And the original "Finding Small Magic" Post on her Falling Ladies blog is HERE:

I hope you will take a moment and check them out, add your own (even just a link to a picture or a sentence or two is PLENTY! It need not be as wordy as I tend to be. :)

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If you've been following my blog or visiting my shoppes on Etsy over the years, you probably are aware that i am a huge fan, and a fierce protector, of the notion of nostalgia. While my childhood was far from perfect and we all tend to gloss over some of the not-so-great aspects of  our lives, I think many people have a tendency to drift, for one reason or another, back to the past. Especially as we get older. 

For some it's childhood, for others it's college or the early years of their own children's lives. But it seems that, in one way or another, we all tend to find those spaces in the past where we can safely dwell for whatever personal reasons. 

Now, when that nostalgia revolves around childhood. . . well, many adults seem to leave it completely behind or, at the very least, rarely speak about it in and among their adult lives. You may see signs of it in someone's doll collection or Teddy bear Hug. Or in the way they interact with their own children during playtime or in creative endeavors. 

I never let go of that past and I am thankful, every day, that I didn't lose sight of it. 

To be completely honest, most of my life I lived with a foot in two worlds. That of the adult world around me and that of the world of my imagination and childhood. The struggle to maintain both led to a lot of frustration and misunderstandings among friends and family who could not see that I just was not cut out for the "adult" world. I needed every spare hour for my imagination and it was a very solitary pursuit for the most part. I made bad decisions. I tried to reconcile the two worlds in so many ways but, in the end, I always felt that the magical/childhood part of me was suffocating in the adult world. 

Then, after an accumulative series of events, I decided that it was time for a leap of faith. I was going to have to open myself up to the possibilities and ask for guidance as I threw myself and my world completely into the pot. All or nothing. Sink or swim. Betting on childhood, imagination and nostalgia over the adult world I had come to loathe.  Now, don't get me wrong, please, there are people who thrive in the adult world and I am  ever so grateful for them because someone has to keep our world running. . . it just couldn't be me anymore. 

I could tell you a dozen stories of what now seem like moments and instances when "angels" appeared, all within months, to be my guiding lights along the way. I also met Sofie who, without fail, has been the only person I have known in my adult life who didn't ask me to balance the two worlds or question my draw to the past, even though hers was a different experience. Despite that, she reveled in my memories , stories and dreams and explored them WITH me. With complete acceptance. We made the break together. And we changed our entire lives from top to bottom to suit the new life we wanted to have. We didn't expect that the world would accommodate our dreams without being willing to change along with it.

Around that same time as I was in the midst of creating what would become the building blocks of the reclusive, creative world we dwell in now, and of the work you see here that I create, the ghosts of Christmas past came to call. I stumbled upon something that I have held to as being a source of inspiration and light ever since.

During a random internet search laced with nostalgic ideas I found that, not far from where I grew up, there was man in his late 60's who had created a website for the history of little Christmas Putz Houses. Those glittery, magical, cardboard houses many of us remember form under our family trees in childhood. The history of them is fascinating but what I was taken by was that this man, and his love for these houses, was a clear channel to and from his childhood. That he REVERED that time and those memories and that he had found a way to keep it close and invest himself within his passion for it so late in life. 

It was a deeply appreciated thread for me to reach out and hold to.  

And the first thing I read from that web site was this:

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"There is but a very brief window in early childhood for many of us, a period of time that lasts from birth until we are cast from the nest and into school. A time when all about the world is new and good. A time when we are open. A time when we take things in so deeply that they will form us ever after. So we imprint upon the Christmas of that time, and what that was is what it will be for us always. 

I think that is what collecting is all about, especially for those who collect for LOVE and not for sterile speculation. 

This is true of most of the toys and trappings of the holidays. 


Actual tangible contact with our own past.

It is true that we forget nothing. The power that an object unseen in decades can have to transport us in mind and spirit back to a specific period or moment of our lives - to unlock long-closed doors in the mansion of our memory - is the true value that it has. We can hold such an object in our hands and know those times were real and welcome back whole parts of who we were into who we are - and let the inner child in each of us out once again to play - to live as part of us and and help us see again through our own "Magic Window"  

You will find that those old objects will take you back in time, but NEVER listen to those sad fools who say that you are "living in the past." We are what we are because of our pasts. Would that we could live in the past at will or at least visit from time to time. But we can bring  those things forward, to live within us as we face the uncertainty of the present and the future. 

Those pasts informed everything that we know so never be ashamed of your nostalgia . . .it was, and is, your reverence for the life you had, the path that you have traveled. -T.H. "Papa Ted" Althof

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Sadly, as a second wake-up call, I soon discovered that Ted Althof was dying, having been diagnosed with cancer just as I was diving in to his website in 2009. I'd never really put ityself in mortality's shoes before that. I always had time. Lots of time I thought. Angels, and small magic, really do come in many, many complex forms. 

What I am left to say is this: I wouldn't dream of asking anyone to be anything other than what and who they are. BUT if  this holiday/yule/solstice season you find yourself feeling silly for daydreaming of the best of your memories as a child, or your best memories WITH a child, please embrace it fully instead. We can't actually go back, I know, but allow yourself that time, that place and those memories to come back in a quiet hour. Indulge them fully. I can't say they'll lead you to a life path like mine but they WILL fill you with a bit of small magic and wonder again. And you might just find that today does not have to be so far from that wonderful memory of yesterday.

Have a wonderful and magical season wherever you are and find that SMALL MAGIC always and in all ways!

And  a special thank you to all of you for coming along on MY nostalgic road-trip, offering your kind words, support and patronage as I built this world I thrive in now. 


If you are interested in Christmas Putz houses and their history, there is an archive of the original Papa Ted's Place website, maintained by fans and friends of Mr Althof after he passed in 2012. They kept it just as it was with only a note stating his passing as an addition. It's a relic of a site. Not slick and "squarespaced". . . but that only adds to it's charm and beauty I think. Great old photos, collections, stories, memories. 

The site is here: Papa Ted's