Weaving Circles of Love From the Seasons' Gifts

My family and I gather the materials left behind after the storm, approaching this time-spun task with glad hearts. We are here, united by purpose after the winds have slowly simmered to a close. We've gathered to collect treasures for the annual wreaths we will make, holiday gifts for friends, old and new. Every season has brought us new things to add to the friendship circles we will make, every season a new joy to share.

In the summer, as we frolic and spin in the water, holding hands and swirling with the waves, we seek out special things by which to remember this time. On the seashore, shells glitter like pearls in the golden sand, and we gather them as we enjoy the warmth on the beach. My daughter Natasha paints the pictures of otters and seabirds in the shells' crevices, remembering how close they felt to her as she took to the water. When she was young, the otters would come in close for a look at our otter-sized daughter. At first I was scared by their interest, but I gradually accepted this as a gift, a sign my child was welcomed by them.

In autumn, the winds stir acorns from the oak trees and pine cones from the long line of green-skirted trees. The leaves, broad and colorful, line our baskets as we gather. They will soon grace the doors of those we love. Autumn bears a promise, and my eldest, Amanda, relishes this season. She admires the webs left by spiders and weaves tiny dream-catcher ornaments for our wreaths. "To catch the dreams," she says, "and keep the good ones close to our friends' hearts."

IN November, our circle-weaving begins. We take out the treasures we have collected through the year. Some of the summer shells are etched with gold paint by my daughters, as I warm the mugs of cocoa around the table. The shells remind us of the long hot days spent on the beaches, dipping our feet into the cool ocean water.

We are thankful to share the beach with friends and family, and we reminisce about such good times. The shells we hold to our ears whisper those memories to us: picnics under spreading trees and long talks as we walked hand in hand. Sand castles and voyages out to sea in the rubber raft that Grandpa brought with him. Friends who came to break bread with us over wooden tables, and squirrels we fed by hand. Long nights telling tales around campfires.

The autumn baskets are lined with maple leaves, blazing gold and red, symbols of my country, Canada. Pine cones, harvested from the grounds of the secret places around Victoria, British Columbia, places like Goldstream, where the artist Emily Carr would seek the solitude of nature and create the most beautiful tapestries from the colors of these nearby woods.

There are other things that make up our wreaths: apple branches from our trees in the yard, spring flowers dried and tended into miniature bouquets. Trinkets we picked up while shopping, when they reminded us of someone special who will receive our gift. Pictures of us tucked in tiny hollows.

And of course, wishes for the receiver, written on paper and formed in origami flowers. Spring's promise, summer's remembrance, autumn's lasting beauty. Each wreath is different, each one unique for the person for whom we craft it.

As we sit after our work is done, sipping hot drinks and listening to the birds flying home, we hope that our presents will warm the hearts of those who receive them.

We talk of friendships, of new circles and old, and the gifts that spring from such unions. We load up the car to deliver those we can, to open arms and friendly familiar faces. The post office is our last stop, as we mail this tiny piece of ourselves to those we cannot visit.

"Hang a wreath upon your door and remember us," we say, "for we always have a special place in our hearts for you. And like these circles, our love is unending."

May our daughters continue weaving circles of friendship, a tradition handed down to my mother from hers. Blessed be the season of contemplation, a warm winter fire, and memories of the year that passed before.

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