the decades


I looked out just now to see if there’s the first snow on the mountain because it feels cold enough down here. There isn’t yet, but I bet it’ll come by next week. I love the cold nights, stars, that beautiful scimitar moon in the mid-November dark sky.

I just made a (clumsy) linocut for this year’s Christmas card. A winter wren, with a slightly foreshortened beak and awkward legs. (The lino was brittle this year, even when warmed by the woodstove.) I’ve chosen a short passage from my novella, Winter Wren, and John will print later this week.

Every year I make a linocut and he sets type and prints a card. I remember the first one we created, in the basement of the house we rented in North Vancouver before moving here in December of 1982, after a year and a half of living first in a tent here, then the shell of our house while we made it comfortable enough to live in. That first card used some old wooden type that came with the press and we had enough to print just two words: LOVE&JOY, all in caps, with the beautiful ampersand.

How the years accumulate. I listened to Emmylou Harris while I worked on the lino and realized I’ve been one of her biggest fans, boots and all, since grade 11. 1972. But I don’t think I ever paid much attention to this beauty, the one that caught my heart this afternoon.

In a couple of weeks, we’ll go to Edmonton (speaking of cold) to spend time with our family there. Emails arrive, asking would we like to go for a sleigh ride on Whyte Avenue, would we like to go to an abbreviated Nutcracker (our grandchildren are 2 and 4), and what about a Dickens tea? I remember carving lino in the early year with an audience, my own children, young enough to be impressed by a small knife making images in a piece of lino warmed by the woodstove. Young enough to listen to any music I played, and yes, there was a lot of Emmylou Harris even then. I wanted to preserve time in the images I cut with my little box of tools. I still do. John’s been sorting the decades of Christmas cards to make sure we have a full collection for the High Ground Press archive and there they are—a house on a hill with a moon overhead; a cat in a window with a star by its ear; a tree by the front door; a gingerbread person; a snowflake; a pinecone; the two fish undulating under stars (the image Anik and I appropriated for our Fish Gotta Swim Editions pressmark); a fishing boat with bright lights on its rigging (inked in by hand); and more that I can’t remember right now.

Sometimes I forget what’s to come. In late summer, preserving fruit and vegetables, I forget that I’ll be here in the house on a cold day in November, wondering what might make a card image for this coming Christmas. Or that listening to a cd heard hundreds of times over the years, I’ll stop as Emmylou sings,

So blind I couldn’t see
How much she really meant to me
And that soon she would always be
On my mind, in my heart,
I was blind from the start

6 thoughts on “the decades”

  1. What a lovely tradition you and John have made with the Christmas cards – and how wonderful to have an archive of them. Young Leslie set out to do something similar (nothing so artistic as yours) but didn’t keep it up. It would have been fun to look back through the years. I keep Christmas cards I receive and often think I will do something creative with them. Haven’t yet! Thanks for the Emmylou song – it’s a beauty.

    1. I love making the cards, Leslie, but I am obviously not an artist…Every year I have to figure out how to use the tools all over again. (Send me your address — I think I have it somewhere but spare me looking? — and I’ll make sure you receive one.)

  2. Oh this is lovely, Theresa. The card, and the tradition. I also make cards each year, but using photos mostly, sometimes something stamped with paint… but nothing as special as linocuts (typeset even!). I can understand the pleasure you put into the making, but what a treat for those who receive such a gift. The bird is a beauty! Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Thanks, Carin. I love the process. Love watching the image being inked and then printed. I always promise to be more careful next year — more patient with the cutting, etc. But somehow I never am. Still, I know I will be so thrilled to see this one printed (later this week, I think).

  3. I remember the card with the cat and star. A favourite. I have saved them all, over the years, but not in any orderly fashion. They show up, one by one, as I’m sorting and culling papers. We have a new baby girl in the family–my great-niece–only 5 days old, precious, I held her for hours yesterday.

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