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Making Wreaths

Observations and Insights on the Nature of Things

A monthly blog by Eve West Bessier, Poet Laureate Emerita of Silver City and Grant County, New Mexico. Look for a new post every 1st Saturday. (Free stock photo)

A tangled pile of clipped grapevines takes up a corner of Teresa’s driveway, the harvest of her fall pruning. This morning, she is teaching me how to make holiday wreaths from the vines.

“Just pull one out,” she says. “You might want to try a long one first. It’s easier.”

Wearing gardening gloves, I tug on the thick end of a vine, trying to free it from the pile. It gives me resistance like a big fish on the hook. Suddenly, it comes free from the tangle, swirling through the air like a bullwhip.

“Whoa!” I shout. “Watch out, it’s a live one!”

We laugh, our breath condensing in the chilled air.

The vine is umber brown at the end where I hold it. It tapers to a raw sienna and then to a thin, still-green tip.

“That’ll make an interesting weave,” Teresa says. The strong, tanned features of her face breaking into one of her generous smiles. She’s wearing a bright red sweater, the only touch of primary color in the pastel day. The clouds are the kind of blue-gray that whispers rain. The bare trees profile against the pewter sky like strokes from the brush of Rembrandt van Rijn. The fragile light today reminds me of Holland where I was raised.

“Just gently bend it over itself like this,” she says, showing me how to begin the weaving. “Leave the ends long on both sides, start in the middle like this. That way you don’t have to pull so much through.”

I twist the long vine around itself, feeling the strength of the plant and testing the limits of its flexibility. It’s easier than I expected. I twist one end through a few times, then begin weaving with the other. There is a peaceful satisfaction in seeing the wreath take shape.

Teresa already has a pile of wreaths ready to take along. I’ll help her make a few more on this last afternoon together. She’s moving away tomorrow.

I wonder about our lives, how they too twist around each other like these vines. Our friendship is relatively new. We’ve known each other less than a year, but good talks and long walks have laid the groundwork for trust and candidness. The weaving together of our stories becoming like a vine wreath adorned with flowers of affection and ribbons of laughter. A touch of Hallmark in that metaphor, perhaps, but genuine nonetheless.

Teresa is an artist at making wreaths. She gave me one for the Thanksgiving holiday, which always falls on the week of my birthday, and every seven years, exactly on my birthday. Her gift is a bright, sunny wreath with yellow, pink and fuchsia colored dried flowers accented with the surprise of red jalapenos. The peppers are the best part. She knows I like them. They are symbols to me of my love of Latin music, salsa dancing and spicy cuisine.

I watch her for a moment, admiring her confident movements. She’s making a very large, thick wreath from a vine with lots of spiraling offshoots. Selling decorative wreaths at farmer’s markets will provide part of her income in her new home base, where she will also work part-time for a nursery.

My vine is wrapping around itself nicely, although it’s not forming a perfect circle. I finish and tuck the ends into the twisted pieces. I lay the wreath atop the finished pile and fish for another long stretch of vine. This new vine is thicker than the first. I like the way the fresh green ends juxtapose with the dark, almost purple thicker vine.

I’m thinking that living a life is like creating a wreath, experiences wrapped around experiences, all twisted together, emotions around emotions. The feelings I am experiencing today, I have experienced many times before. Some originate from events long passed in the linear sense of time, but they still present in the cyclical sense. Our life lessons spiral around to greet us again and again, until we understand whatever it is we need to learn, and integrate that wisdom on a deeper level.

Wreaths are like photographs too, capturing a fresh moment and preserving it. When we look at an old photograph, the colors are faded. The clothing and hairstyles are humorously out of date, and everyone looks impossibly young. The day on which the photo was taken is a distant and fragmented memory. Yet, the photo serves as a testimony to something once green, blooming in the moment. It holds the power to cheer us, or bring us tears.

Tomorrow, when Teresa is on the road to her new home and community, I’ll look at the tropical colored wreath she made for me. It will hold the details of this afternoon in all its early December splendor, not an ounce of tropical color anywhere, except for Teresa’s sweater. I’ll feel close to her even as I start to miss her, and I’ll be glad that she is a weaver of wreaths and stories.

I wish all of you a wondrous, joyful holiday season. Make space for happiness. Weave together precious memories, and if you have the inclination, make a vine wreath to adorn your holiday home. See you in the brand new year!

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The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Southwest Word Fiesta™ or its steering committee.

Eve West Bessier

Eve is a poet laureate emerita of Silver City and Grant County, New Mexico; and of Davis and Yolo County, California. She has served on the steering committee for the Southwest Word Fiesta, and was a presenter during two festivals. Eve is a retired social scientist, voice and life coach. She is a writer, jazz vocalist, photographer and nature enthusiast.
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We respectfully acknowledge that the entirety of southwestern New Mexico is the traditional territory, since time immemorial, of the Chis-Nde, also known as the people of the Chiricahua Apache Nation. The Chiricahua Apache Nation is recognized as a sovereign Native Nation by the United States in the Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Friendship of 1 July 1852 (10 Stat. 979) (Treaty of Santa Fe ratified 23 March 1853 and proclaimed by President Franklin Pierce 25 March 1853).

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