The booklet was smooth in my hands as Shelly slipped the music for the Snow Angel Suite to me. It was a chilly October Saturday, and Ariose Women’s Choir members were assembled for our semester workshop. Our new album was ready to drop for Christmas, and Snow Angel was the title suite. Naturally, we would be providing a live preview at our December concert.
I have a deep emotional connection to the music as a mother. For the past 12 years, my oldest daughter–my “heart outside my chest”–has spent half her time away from me, and I have clung to the visualization of strong, protecting angels at her side when I can’t be there. Every conversation, every interaction with her is an investment, an attempt to instill resilience in her: the kind of resilience that can bend, but not break; that can hold on to hope in the face of discouragement.
I’m also drawn to the picture of God painted in the music. It’s a God of grandeur, whose essence is preserved even in the motes of dust that float in the sunlight, and whose goodness is manifest in the myriad angels who bring light and kindness to humans, especially children, in times of need.
It just so happens that one of my recurring times of need is the dark of winter in Alberta. What does it matter that the weather is often sunny, if the hours of sunlight are curtailed and the temperatures make it impossible to venture out? My Maryland-born blood has never quite thickened enough to enjoy the cold, and my Happy Light is only so good at raising my energy. I’m literally (not figuratively) half as productive in winter as I am in summer. Household chores and social interactions become overwhelming.
So, when the angel in the final movement of the Snow Angel Suite explains that her work is to enable winter to shelter life, via the protecting blanket of snow she scatters, I always get goosebumps. It’s a message that reminds me that I’m not the only creature that needs protection and reminding that spring will come again.
After the workshop wrapped up, I drove home, and found inspiration along the way. I wanted to create a series of photos to give my girls a tangible, personal reminder that resilience can be learned, no matter how difficult life can get. With three girls that look very similar to each other, it would be possible to create the visual idea that they were the same girl, growing up, and protected by her own guarding Snow Angel.
…all I needed was a model to portray the angel, a photographer, and a talented makeup artist…all of whom were not people in my orbit.
But sometimes, things that are meant to be just come into existence. Within a week, I had a model and a photographer on board, and within a short time I had a stylist and a makeup artist, and a plan for publication, so that each team member could be enriched with business growth as a result of their participation in the project. To my delight, every member of the team fell in love with the idea, and threw their entire hearts and souls into making the shoot incredibly beautiful. And, though winter took its toll on my mental health and courage as usual, I felt an underlying peace that this project was blessed, no matter how tumultuous my emotional day-to-day may be in preparation.
It was hard work, honestly. I had never made a sweater, or used a knitting machine, and in the span of about six weeks, I learned to use my hand-driven knitting machine, and designed six different sweaters to be worn in the shoot. I had never taken on such a large-scale artistic project, and I relied heavily on each team member–especially Kortnye–to help guide the vision lovingly.
When the day finally arrived, I had hardly slept for a week. I was seaming the final sweater together while Melenie worked her makeup magic, Shelby steamed the wardrobe, and Tanya tested lighting. Angela, my fellow dyer and friend, wove in loose yarns and jerry-rigged the blanket I hadn’t had time to finish.
At the beginning of the journey of producing the Snow Angel editorial, this had been a blend of business and personal, but unbeknownst to most of my family and friends, I realized in December that my business model was unsustainable in the long-term, and I had effectively made the decision to close up shop and focus on my girls. My personal commitment to the team and to the vision of providing a tangible representation of resilience to my girls were the only reasons I forged ahead with the design and organization work.
But something deep shifted in me when I saw my handiwork come to life through the lens. Suddenly, my first attempts at design weren’t just handmade: they were fashion. They were quality–even luxury.
It’s taken me a long time to write about the experience, because it’s taken me this long to process. Blame the cold of winter, I guess. But there’s a new confidence in my heart. It’s a new belief in the value I bring to the world; a new perspective on the ways that my interest in fashion can enrich the context and meaning of my life as a mother.
As winter melts into spring, I’m working on organizing the leftovers from my previous business model into a sustainable, worthwhile endeavour that’s scalable. I’m investing in myself as well as my girls, learning new skills and writing.
A friend once likened entrepreneurship to a duck learning to swim. From above the water, the little fluff ball appears effortlessly buoyant. But under the surface, those little webbed feet never stop moving. Without their constant activity, the duck would fail. That’s exactly how I feel: my website remains, social media remains, and yarn has always been my constant. But under the surface, I’m working, doing the math, fighting discouragement, deciphering how much to share about the struggle and how much to show my brave face.
One thing I know: no matter how cold and dark, winter shelters life.