|Magdalena Wasiczec's winning photo for|
the 2012 International Garden
Photographer of the Year
First, there's the festive mood. As I noted in The Sydney Morning Herald a couple of years back, it's not just about turkey and booze.
It can be a good opportunity for reflection, creativity and gratitude. New year's eve, too: replacing blotto denial with lucid celebration or recognition.
Craft is important. Creativity is something of a glib buzzword, but the better festivals require a hands-on, domestic spruce-up. I put it this way in The Age, in a column on 'Christmas':
It's not simply buying and selling, but the novelty of seeing familiar places transformed. In telling stories, cutting up silver paper or baking fruit pies, we're changing our environment: adding new ideas, impressions, emotions.
In this, we're not passively consuming, we're seeing our own creativity come alive in our homes. This is what cultivates not only happiness, but also personal refinement: as we see the products of our psyche around us, we understand ourselves a little better. And we also understand our family and friends: creativity encourages a kind of lucid communion. No doubt the routines of Christmas started this way - but every family deserves to contribute its own innovations.This year we have Japanese paper buntings, new silhouettes on the walls, and paper butterflies and snowflakes on our tree (a Modigliani-esque branch from the backyard).
Speaking of which, this December has been particularly exciting personally. Philosophy and the Garden was published around Australia by MUP, with overseas editions to hopefully follow. The launches were a blast, and the book's seen some great publicity.
The School of Life. Following Alain de Botton's book on sex, and John Armstrong's on money, I'm writing on exercise, and how to do it intelligently.
I also saw the first illustrations for my children's book for UQP, which were very promising. Kids books are no slum for the simple-minded--they require art, humour and sympathy. Still, rhyming for pre-schoolers is a welcome break from heady philosophical prose and journalism. (This year I wrote about ninety columns, features and reviews.)
If I can get twee for a moment more, my ambition for next year is summed up by the brimstone butterfly in Magdalena Wasiczek's award-winning garden photo: close to vital and elegant things, well-fed, light-footed, and seeing things from a slightly different perspective.
Season's greetings, folks.