Holly and a Skull, fountain pen on paper, about 18" x 6"
Epiphany, the Twelfth Day of Christmas, has come and gone, so Christmastide is officially over. For those of us who still live within a liturgical calendar, the end of Christmas means a look forward toward the rest of that child's life and eventual death, and toward our own as well. The other parts of that story are hinted at or even mentioned explicitly in a lot of the old Christmas carols and Advent motets, reminding me that in prior ages, human beings were not in the present state of denial about what happens to all of us. Christmas was joyful, but carried with it the same poignancy as every human birth, and in many of the songs about Mary, in particular, later events are darkly foreshadowed. The steady increase in life expectancy for adults in developed countries, the decrease in infant mortality, and the decreased likelihood of sudden death have all contributed to less preoccupation with being prepared to leave this mortal coil at any moment. That's nice for some of us, but a luxury that's still not available to millions of people on our planet. I ponder this as I survey the charitable donations I still haven't made for 2014.
Lent, the penitential season, comes early this year, and Easter could be - in Montreal at least - still a wintry holiday. Even though we're in the depths of winter right now, with new snow on top of ice just last night, and treacherous walking and driving everywhere, by the end of January the days will be visibly longer, and by the end of February, there will be palpable hints of the spring to come. I was surprised and happy, when drawing these little branches of holly, to notice little bunches of white flower buds at the tops of the stems, developing in the unexpected heat of the house. In the studio, my bougainvilla is putting out beautiful pink flower-bracts, while snow falls mercilessly a few inches away, outside the window. The life force is very great, even when we pluck and transplant ourselves and other species into unfamiliar environments; somehow, most of us survive to reproduce, create, and live this mysterious and miraculous existence, at least for a time.