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  • Monique Sliedrecht

Triumph of the Skies





It’s the day after the day after Christmas.

I hope you all had a lovely celebration.


I met with friends for a festive service in the morning, and had a delicious Christmas dinner plus the opening of gifts at the fireside after that. Later on in the day I took part in a gift exchange via Zoom with my family in Canada. We stretch across a time difference of 9 hours - from Prince George, British Columbia to Southern Ontario to the North of Scotland. Remarkably, the exchange all worked out rather well!

This tradition with my immediate family has remained over the years and despite the miles. We have adapted the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas and combined it with the Canadian Christmas day.


A month or so in advance of Christmas we pick names from a (now digital) hat. It all remains secret - a bit like a ‘Secret Santa’. On the day of the exchange, we read poems we've written, allowing the recipient the chance to guess what the gift contains.


We’ve managed to maintain this tradition of ours over the years even though we all live and celebrate in different places. It’s a lovely way to connect with each other and enjoy the festive cheer, even though we cannot always be in the same location. This year I had my Mom’s name for Christmas, and she had mine!

Here is a photo of some us in the Zoom chat. (And yes, I’m wearing my newly acquired Christmas jumper ☺️ )





I got off the call rather late and it took me a while to wind down and go to sleep after that. It was so good to see everyone, and I remain grateful for these ways of connecting. 20 years ago, who ever would have thought that we would be able to see and speak to someone else across the world! (Now I'm sounding old!)



* * *



When I woke up yesterday (Boxing Day) and looked out of my kitchen window, I saw the gorgeous luminous pink formations in the sky.








These were eventually overwhelmed by a looming grey.



When I stepped out and looked in one direction I could see the sunrise.




In the opposite direction, a thick blanket of heavy dark cloud started to spread across the sky from the northwest, eventually bringing the rain, sleet and snow that it implied!







Perhaps it was a carryover of the arctic blast that North America experienced recently.

Or it is just wintertime!


I took a look at the weather forecast and sure enough there was a yellow weather warning. The colour of the sky was sufficient evidence to signal the onset of unsettled conditions. Against the dark clouds I could see the other yellow light flashing from the gritter truck driving along the top road -- all indications that it could get wild out there.



* * *


Speaking of North America and wild, they certainly have been hit hard. The other day, I received a message from my sister, indicating the extreme temperatures in Prince George. It sent shivers right through me.




With the weather update, she also sent me a brief video of my brother in law and nephew each throwing a mug of hot water into the air and watching it turn into snow. Click here to watch.


* * *

This morning I woke up to a soft covering of white in the north of Scotland. And now there is a dramatic mauve grey expanse stretching over the wintry landscape.





I’m glad I am indoors and can have the fire going.

* * *

I’ve been thinking about angels lately, partly because of the time it has taken to design and carve out an angel print, but also because, well, it's Christmas!


And what occurred to me is that the angels don't stop singing and announcing once Christmas has passed. In fact, I imagine this is just the beginning of a new and active work on the part of the angelic host. They herald in a new year, and announce peace and goodwill toward all men. What message could be more apt going into the new year than that?


Peace on earth

and mercy mild

...

join the triumph

of the skies

...

with angelic host proclaim

Christ is born in Bethlehem!


...


Whether wintry or bright

let's share this light....




My niece and nephew as an angel and a wise man in the

school nativity this year.


* * *



Angels have been very popular subjects for artists over the centuries. In the last couple of months I have spent a lot of time looking at paintings and sculptures of angels. I marvel at the myriad of ways they are portrayed. This article gives a wonderful timeline of the angelic depicted in art from ancient times up until the present day. It is much better than something I could summarise or put together, though I may try sometime!


Saying that, in my own humble way I have drawn from the angels I saw on a trip to England. In November I visited the beautiful new museum at Durham Cathedral. I was very moved by the preserved fragments from the original coffin of St. Cuthbert, one of the greatest of all the Celtic Saints.





Photos by M. Sliedrecht ©


The angels are inscribed in a crude and primitive style which has great charm and even humour within the solemnity of the setting. The pieces are very broken up but I was able to take a drawing of these sacred figures and I’m happy to send them out as Christmas angels this year.


In the 7th century art was still far more iconic than the romantic view of angels that we see in the pre-raphaelites and beyond. There is a strange power and light shining from this period which is known as the dark ages.



Linocut print

by Monique Sliedrecht ©



The above is my print, derived from the Cuthbert angels. In this strange and beautiful 'in-between time' may you know light and hope.


Monique 🕯


* * *


Ps.

Here is a humourous clip of a singing angel in a nativity play. Some of you may have seen it already, but I still had a good laugh on watching a second (or third!) time.




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