Is Christmas about the gifts? Definitely not! Do we, here at Synchronized Swim, love to give and receive gifts? Definitely yes! I’ve been reading blogs consistently for a long time, and if there is anything I have learned from my dutiful readership internet-wide it is that gift guides are both ubiquitous and a huge indicator of taste / kindred-spiritness. I have always secretly loved holiday gift guides, and every time I read one I always secretly want to turn around and make one of my own — mostly because I often don’t find in the gift guides any of the sorts of things I would actually like to give or receive for Christmas.
My favorite kind of Christmas gift is the really lovely thing that you would genuinely love to own but would never buy for yourself. Not the things that might be nice to have, not the things that are just good to have around. No, the things that stick in your heart, the things that could fill a real empty space no matter how narrow. That, for the most part, is what this list is made of. I’ve kept many, many of the things on this list squirreled away in my amazon cart under the “save for label” tab or in a list called “Things I’d Love to Someday Own” in the notes app on my phone. These are the things I think about sometimes with a feeling I’m almost ashamed of, a feeling that is just a little smaller than longing. It’s funny how objects are not that great, really, most of the time, and yet our life is peopled with them. Slowly but surely, I’m enjoying surrounding myself with objects that I love and find to be useful, and I’m getting rid of things that do not fit that bill.
In order for me to want to own an object, three things need to be true of it. I need to feel like the object is beautiful, useful, and true. Beautiful meaning simple and lovely, with visual interest, clean lines, thoughtful construction. Useful meaning I can think immediately of how I would use the object or why it would be worth taking up space in my tiny home. And true meaning full, holding more than just the baseline of what the object is, carrying a little bit of extra meaning, story, care, personhood.
All of the objects on this list are here for a reason, and all of the objects are things that I genuinely would like to own and don’t already. They are not things that I need–now that I am an adult, I buy the things that I need when I need them. No, they are things that I genuinely want but probably will not buy for myself. They are things that you may also genuinely want and probably would not buy for yourself. In favor of full disclosure, this is basically my real-live Christmas list — because what are we doing here at Synchronized Swim if not trying to offer up what we have going on right this second in us as something somehow worth something. These are the things that I, Amy, would love to receive for Christmas or otherwise. These are the things that live in lists, waiting for some sort of someday, little object-dreams, little “maybe-somedays.” It is amazing how precious to me the things I use every day become. It is amazing how ordinary objects become sacred because of their having been touched by my own two hands over and over again. How the books I read become, somehow, more than just books. How the bowls I eat from become more than just bowls. The objects I live with become, in many ways, a part of me. As Isaiah and I packed up to move to the woods, it was so clear to us which things were important and which things weren’t. We knew what we wanted to have near us. Belongings are not nothing. We travel through the world with our bodies and our things. The physical stuff of life is worth paying attention to. It is good to make and keep beautiful things. It is good to believe in what you own.
So, I suppose, here’s to more belongings that are not nothing. Here’s to gifts that are like real blessings. Here’s to pointing out what we think is beautiful, somehow, and seeing if other people agree. Here’s to offering what we have, and here’s also to not pretending we are experts on things we are not experts on (like what anyone but myself should want for Christmas!) I’m not going to tell you what your gift guide should hold, instead I’ll just show you mine and hope that someday we can dance together to ABBA in my kitchen after a simple/special handmade dinner in the light of a beeswax candle wearing wool leggings and shirts we maybe even made ourselves. Amen.
2017 SYNC SWIM GIFT GUIDE:
For dancing (with Jess) in the kitchen/living room/bedroom: ABBA: Gold on Vinyl
For taking your knitting/hand-quilting/embroidery to your pals house to work on while watching a weepy movie: Fringe Supply Co. Field Bag
For feeling like cooking is a real/possible thing to do (Sync-Swim-Snack-Mom Margaret approved): Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark
For taking half-way decent photos of the full moon during particularly spiritual moments that need to be documented right that second, obviously: iPhone X (cheeky, we know, but why not!)
For staying hydrated, which is truly so hard to do adequately: 12 oz Hydroflask
For accidentally weeping on the bus and then again later at the park: All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
For when you feel like moving to the middle of nowhere and farming for the rest of your life: The Art of Loading Brush, Wendell Berry
For keeping tools close at hand and debris far away while making stuff: State the Label Smocks
For waking up without your phone in your face: Analog Alarm Clock
For writing your life: Midori Notebook
For keeping legs warm because coats aren’t for legs and maybe they ought to be especially when you live in the middle of the cold snowy woods: Smartwool leggings
For mystics who need someone to tell them, “keep going,”: Magdalene by Marie Howe
For if you want to wear probably the best pants in the world: Elizabeth Suzann Clyde Pants
For eating your corn flakes in the most beautiful way possible: East Fork Pottery Breakfast Bowl
For a recycled / very lovely quilt experiment: Jamie + the Jones raw silk scrap bundle
For feeling encouraged by lovely people doing/making lovely things: Taproot Magazine
For wearing your heart/secrets on your neck: In and Of Silk Scarves
For learning about what is real and true: Chekhov plays
For turning your fabric stash into pouches eventually: Pink zippers
For little moments of measurement: sewing gauge
For snipping what needs to be snipped on-the-go: 5-in Gingher Scissors
For drinking coffee out of something that is (1) not from a thrift store, and (2) just so beautiful that you’ll want to stare at it the whole time you use it and absorb the color of it into your skin somehow: Ocean Mug
For when you’re feeling burnt out or are maybe going to feel burnt out soon: How to Not Always Be Working by Marlee Grace
For sewing into a long-sleeve shirt ASAP: two yards of Cotton + Steel Cheshire Stripe fabric by-the-yard
For everything, forever (VERY IMPORTANT): Blackwing 602 Pencils
For learning about how plants are even more magical than we already knew they were: The Modern Natural Dyer
For keeping warm beautifully (with something that isn’t a quilt for once?!): Hillary Sproat blankets, Swiss Fields
For making your own jacket with your own two hands: Tamarack Jacket Pattern, Grainline Studio
For first finding out that making your own clothes is easy/possible: Lotta Jansdotter Everyday Style
For REAL TRUE HEAVY-DUTY SELF CARE: Lush Bath Bombs, any/all
For feeling pretty: Marble + Milkweed Rosy Lip Tint
For adulting in style (because why have a million kitchen appliances if you can have one magic appliance that does it all?!?): Instant Pot
For blessing/acknowledging the year to come with something useful and beautiful and true: Sarah Parker Textiles Hand-Printed Calendar Tea Towel