We had a ceilidh--a house-party--last week. It was an effort to hold ourselves accountable to joy: the joy we want to feel, the joy we know we should feel, the joy we can't always figure out how to feel. We decided we'd have a handful of friends come over for a potluck, followed by some shared tunes, songs, and stories to celebrate our farm ownership and usher in the Celtic New Year. We figured the presence of friends, feasting and merrymaking, would help us reconnect with the vast array of Goodness that has touched and warmed our lives. Besides, parties are always a lovely excuse to neaten up the house!
We'd had a housewarming party once before-- our friends Bruce & Sue joined us more than a year ago to help us celebrate our official inhabitation of this woodshop-turned-farmhouse. Sawdust was still on the floor and wallboard joints were still waiting to be plastered. We ate at the folding table I use for the Farmers' Market, but we had a wonderful time and together christened the place, "home." Their surprise gift that night, a basket of domestic goodies that included kitchen goods, two wineglasses, and a toy for our dog, proved immediately and continually useful. The memory is bittersweet because Bruce died later that year, a dear friend lost to cancer far too soon.
This year's We-Bought-The-Farm party fell on October 30th, almost exactly a year after Bruce's memorial service. The greatest gifts this time around? The songs, tunes and stories shared in the post-potluck glow, including many recollections of Folks Gone Before. Yet we were surprised with some more tangible treats, as well-- a jar of home-canned dilly beans from one friend, jars of rhubarb jam and chutney from another friend, and a beautifully turned salad bowl of local alderwood cleverly disguised by...well, a bowlful of salad. Oh, and then there was the bottle of champagne handed off with a conspiratorial grin--we were told to tuck it away in the fridge and save it for a "private celebration" of our own!
But there was one person who didn't make it to the party--didn't even know it was happening, in fact--and sent something anyway: my Fairy Blogmother, MamaPea. MamaPea is a homesteader and gardener extraordinaire who has been a sustaining source of wisdom, kindness, good humour and understanding. Her gifts were a very sweet surprise and could not have come at a better time. They were actually part of a "pay it forward" scheme among some craftsperson bloggers, but that deserves a future post of its own. For now, I want to share the tremendously thoughtful work bestowed upon me by MamaPea, who is a professional quilter of obvious talent, wit and skill!
Here's one view of the four quilted potholders MamaPea made for me. By the way, they match our kitchen's colour-scheme perfectly. I have NO idea how she managed that, since she's never seen our kitchen! How clever of her to work in so many salient motifs: alphabet fabric for my love of words and writing, images of old-fashioned farmsteads interspersed with a print of tiny quilts to commemorate our friendship and our homesteading foremothers, tiny gold stars and all those trees and branches and leaves...
Here's a second view, showing the potholders flipped so you can see (gasp!) their backsides. Such perfect colour-coordination! Such splendid designs! I feel so blessed and delighted to be the recipient of such gifts! (Trivia item: the potholders were photographed while resting on the tile runner of our dining table, one of the last items made in our house when it was still a working woodshop. The house is just small enough, and the table just big enough, that it dictated the placement of the stairwell and, by extension, the dimensions of all other rooms in the house.)
MamaPea didn't just treat me to a sampler of her own talents--she also sent a packet of beautiful photo-cards made by her daughter, an off-the-grid homesteader and artist/designer who blogs as ChickenMama. Most of the images come from Swamp River Ridge, the site of her Northland homestead. They betray the keen eye and deep appreciation for nature that you'd expect from a serious homesteader. Not only are the photographs themselves strikingly beautiful, they're also nicely mounted and elegantly packaged. I'm sure there's a wonderful story behind every image, and if I could just lure ChickenMama and MamaPea over to Maine, I'd love to sit down with them and hear every single one!
So, here we are: surrounded by friends and stories and gifts from many hands, our hearts full of gratitude, in a small farmhouse well-stocked with warmth and love.
P.S. Happy Birthday, Piper. I think this year's going to be a good one!