One of the good things about having the farm and woods is going out on a damp afternoon with hand clippers and a couple of empty buckets to get cuttings for wreath making. Some fir, some Scotch Broom, and some Salal from the woods, 45 minutes to an hour among the trees and brambles, a bit of a chill, cold hands, cold feet, and I am back for a cup of tea in the kitchen.
My wreath-making goes back a lot of years. When I first had my own house, in the days when I lived alone, I looked out on my city back yard one winter afternoon and wondered whether the boxwood would keep its bright evergreen color if it were cut for holiday greens. This must have been in the mid-1980’s. I had a big fir tree as well, and the neighbors had a cedar tree. I bought some wire and a store-made frame, and combined it all into a wreath to take to my mother for Sunday dinner. To my alarm, she collapsed into tears at the sight of it. I hadn’t thought it was all that bad. As it turned out the tears were because she remembered her own mother making holiday wreaths from cuttings taken in the woods of Denmark. Well then, I felt it was all right.
I’ve been making a select number of winter wreaths ever since. I was making them when Richard first started coming around to see me. He would call and suggest he come over with some sausages to cook, and I would say, “Fine, but I’m not cleaning house. Things are a shambles here.” When he arrived, I’d be in the middle of a pile of branches and wire on the kitchen floor. If it had been all that important that my house be clean to receive him, we’d never have made it this far. Fortunately, he took it with a glad heart, and ordered a cast bronze sign with the name The Shambles printed across it. The sign hangs outside the new studio building now.
I have made wreaths in the kitchen. I have made them in the rain on the deck. I’ve made them sitting on the front porch. We made them all in a group one Thanksgiving when Richard’s kids and Significant Others all showed up together at our little house, and we turned the kitchen floor into something like a medieval small-holder’s scented, rush-covered floor. I no longer buy store-made wire frames for constructing the wreaths. One year, short on frames, I made my own by twisting small fir branches into a hoop and wiring them together. It worked fine, and the whole thing was suddenly throw-awayable. Before that, folks conscientiously sent the dried-out old wreaths back to me so I could retrieve the frames for reuse.
Return to the present:
Here I am on Thanksgiving Day, making a couple of hostess gift wreaths. It was cold out, but the sun was shining. Good wreathing weather!
I have nothing but respect for people who can make wreaths of holly. I’ve tried. Without gloves, it’s torture. With gloves, it’s torture. I much prefer the combination of needles and smooth leaves that come out of the woods here. The boxwood has been left behind in the city, and I found that Salal, a native of our woods, makes a fine substitute. Gaultheria shallon is a smooth-leaved , leathery plant that grows throughout the northwest, in shady woods and in sun. It can get pretty thick in some places. It makes fine holiday wreaths, though you have to look for this year’s growth of leaves to avoid spotty ones.
Here’s an Advent wreath for you all. Keep your holiday hearts bright.