We would like to be your community nature center. We would like to share our passion for nature with you, and have you inspire us to improve and serve you better. And we know that this year has been a hard one, economically and perhaps, as a result, emotionally. I know that while there are many wonderful things that happened this year, I will not be particularly sad to sweep 2009 into the past.
I will do so with ceremony, though. I like ceremonies, rituals, traditions and routines. I'm not sure why, since I have a theoretical aversion to putting down roots and establishing connections. I guess there is some sailor blood in me somewhere, a rogue gypsy's spirit that I never truly abandoned. The rituals help form a consistency no matter where I am, or what I'm doing. It forms a continuum that makes me feel connected on an intangible level, the world becomes home, I can find peace in any forest and memory in any flame.
Fire is a ritual - the lighting of candles for people, memories, and greater good. It is the means to moving on, to a new year, a new place, or a new time. Fire is both a way to greet and bid farewell. It is an ages old ritual, one that many people still use today.
Evergreens have their own symbolism and use in rituals, many of them occurring in winter. The most common association with evergreen is the power of life over death, the renewal of green plants in the spring, the celebration that life (in the form of light) returns to the world. There are numerous other meanings that have been given to evergreens through the centuries as well.
The idea behind the symbolism, though, is to make it important, to make it meaningful. Anything can assume that, from a simple key chain to a tradition of delivering home baked goods to the neighbors during Christmas. The meaning, whatever it may be, is what gives this "season" its identity, its magic and makes it special.
Today, at Audubon, we are combining evergreens with Homemade Holidays to create a new way to celebrate the season. Wreaths have a rich symbolic history all their own. By teaching how to make evergreen wreaths from a variety of local and common evergreens, we are teaching a skill. We will also introduce you to some of the evergreens personally and share some biology and some mythology.
Crafts are still a part of the day - and homemade crafts will be available upstairs, though not as many, and with more of an environmental or nature focus. We've said it before, but the true gift is the time you spend making the gift. A handmade wreath is a great gift, or decoration, and can contain a story in itself - the ceremony of gift making.
Perhaps, after learning how to make a wreath one of the four workshops during the day, you cut branches from a tree that you planted with your children years ago. Rather than another appliance or generic gift card, you present them with a wreath, made from the branches of that tree. It becomes a vehicle to meander through memories, one leading to the other, and can evoke a smile every time they see it on their door.
You could even wrap tiny presents and tie them onto the wreath, or tie little memory letters on to remind them of happy times. The wreath you make this year might start a tradition. That's what we'd like to help with, making your life a little better, creating some moments that make you smile. By giving some of our nature (our evergreens) to you and sharing some of our passions and talents (turning them into wreaths) we hope to become a better part of your community.
This year I feel I need to start a new tradition, a way of walking through the last year and then letting it go to make room for the next year. A wreath is what I've chosen to help with that. I like the symbolic meaning of the evergreens, that life is eternal, but cyclical. I like making it from trees I care for, whether in my yard or my woods. I like that I mix the seed heads of dead plants with living greens. And I love the idea of being able to untwist the wires and returning it all back to the earth. I might make a place for a candle, too, for the flicker of the flame transcends time and brings the past to the present and blurs it into the future.
Come and build a tradition with us today. The Greening of Homemade Holidays begins at 11 and runs until 4. The building will be open at 10, so the exhibits will be out to teach and entertain you. Admission is $5 for non-member adults, kids and members are free. Four short workshops are available if you would like to learn how to make a wreath, just $5. If you just want to try your hand at one without the instruction, the materials will be available. The cost of a wreath is $5 if you want to make and take one, or just stop in and buy one that someone else has made. Crafts are suitable for all ages, and we simply ask for a donation.
For more information, call us at 569-2345. Learn more about upcoming events on our Web site www.jamestownaudubon.org. Audubon is located on Riverside Road, just off Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. Winter hours are Monday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 4:30 p.m. The trails are open dawn to dusk. Stop in today. Make a wreath. Make some gifts for your friends and family and see the exhibits. It promises to be a fun day.
Sarah Hatfield is a naturalist at Audubon and thinks that there are few things better than the smell of fresh evergreens, the smell of Christmas.