November 17, 2009

Strawberries in the Snow

As a bit of contrast from the summer blooms of the Hummingbird Vine print, here's the finished reduction cut (in lino) for my Christmas cards this year. I'll still be mounting it onto card stock to finish it off.

I strayed from traditional Christmas icons and, instead, based the card on a traditional Eastern European/Russian folk tale: The Twelve Months.




The story, in my condensed version, goes like this:

There was once a girl who lived, in a small cottage in the woods, with her stepmother and stepsister. As these things generally go in stories, the stepmother and stepsister were mean and treated the poor girl badly. For example, one day in the heart of winter, the stepsister decided she had to have some strawberries to eat. This was long before the age of supermarkets and Mexican produce; strawberries were definitely not available in winter but the mean women threw the poor girl out into a winter storm to go find strawberries anyway.

Wandering around in the storm, nearly frozen to death, the girl came to a clearing where twelve men sat in a circle around a blazing bonfire. Four of the men were very young, four were slightly older, four were middle aged, and four were quite old. The men were the Twelve Months and, recognizing her kindness and purity of heart, they not only allowed the girl to warm herself by their fire but also, one of them, June, made strawberries bloom in the middle of the snow drift so she could take them home to her tormentors.

There’s more to the story, of course, and the evil mother/daughter duo get what they deserve in the end. Also, I used a little bit of artistic license in choosing it as the inspiration for this year’s Christmas card: the girl is sent for the strawberries in January, not December. But her humility and purity of heart (and the magic it once would have taken to get strawberries in the middle of winter) are fitting to what, in my mind anyway, Christmas should be about.

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