Special to the OBSERVER
I can make an evergreen wreath from the boughs that I collect in my backyard. I add in other items to dress it up and it is a one-of-a-kind holiday decoration. A wreath is an object created with my own hands and imagination, from resources grown on land that I have nurtured and sustained. Pretty cool. And when I give the wreaths I make to family and friends it is even more meaningful. Downright awesome.
I can take the natural treasures I collect on trips and turn them into enchanting reminders of those trips. A seashell, some kelp, a few leaves from my morning hike, some sand, and a eucalyptus seedpod turn into little fairy creatures one for me and one for my host when I visited California. Preserved in whimsy, the trip becomes eternal as a shared memory half sitting on my kitchen shelf as its partner sits on a different shelf, on the other side of the country, in the home of one of my best friends.
I can reap the bounty of my garden, add a few (or sometimes no) ingredients, and have wonderful food for the winter. I can take that same food, lovingly preserved in glass jars stamped with the iconic Ball logo, and wrap it up to share with others for the holidays. It feels good to give of that which sustains me.
I can take my junk mail and old catalogs and turn them into new paper to serve as greeting cards, gift tags, wrapping paper, and more. Taking something I would normally recycle, this time of year I take a little extra time to repurpose it and turn it into a useful product. On it I write words of gratitude, love and peace on it and send them into the hands of those most dear to me.
I can take local wool roving dyed with natural materials and turn it into ornaments, cat toys, or gift soaps. The ornaments are beautiful, natural, and repurpose my broken ornaments (from the cats) into new and non-breakable ones. The cats get something even more fun to play with (a little catnip in the middle of the jingle bell is terrific). And friends get some non-slippery soaps to use and be grateful for.
These are all things I do because I value homemade items. I value things that people take time to make with passion and creativity. I value a gift that embodies not just an item, but time and love as well. I suppose I hope others value that, too, when they receive my gifts. But giving something of myself feels better, more genuine, as if it is actually a gift and not an obligation. The giving really becomes the gift then.
I love the images that spring to mind when I read one of my favorite holiday books, of Claus sitting and carving wooden toys for the children who need to smile. A fire in the fireplace, wood shavings on the floor of a one-room cabin, a generous man using his time and talent to bring joy to others. Maybe that's what sits so well in my heart about something homemade.
At Audubon's Homemade Holidays, you can learn to make the things I described above wreaths, ornaments, homemade paper, preserves, and fairy creatures. You can also learn to make a Wee Beastie ornament from local artist Ellen Paquette. It is our effort to bring some authenticity to the act of giving and remind you that a full half, and maybe even more, of the effort is the giving. And giving things that are natural, recycled, repurposed, or local gives a gift to your community, too. When you remember that, what you receive is so much better.
We will also have homemade items for sale from local vendors. These folks take their time to make products that they value, so you can share them with those you love. From alpaca wool socks to local honey to broken china mosaic trays, there is something for everyone.
Take a moment to make something this season. Transform your time and effort and skills and passion into a tangible item. And then give that item away. 'Tis the season.
Homemade Holidays, December 7 from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., is offering many workshops. Prices for the 1.5 hour workshops (wreaths, canning and Wee Beasties) are $16 regular price and $12 for Friends of the Nature Center. The 45-minute workshops (paper making, felted items, and fairy creatures) are $8 and $6. For more details, call (716) 569-2345 or visit jamestownaudubon.org. Reservations are required by Dec. 2.
Audubon is located at 1600 Riverside Road, just off Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. Trails are open from dawn to dusk. Call for winter hours.
Sarah Hatfield is a senior naturalist at Audubon.