Archive for December 15th, 2021

Real Gifts/ Emerson

“Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Gifts: An Essay

I came across this essay, Gifts, from Ralph Waldo Emerson which is actually a practical guide to gift giving and receiving, well suited to the time in which it was written in 1844. It struck a chord with me because, while I have never looked upon a gift as an apology for not giving more of myself, there seemed to be some logic involved in his words.

It is so much easier, so much less revealing to not truly give from ourselves and to simply go to the shops (or online these days) to acquire what often amounts to a poor symbol of what we might really feel for the person receiving that gift.

We’ve become accustomed to accepting these apologies because it excuses our own apologies to others. It’s to the point that we don’t know how give of ourselves nor do we know how to accept or acknowledge a gift that is really a true portion of the giver.

How do you do that? How do you bleed for someone else? Is it in the words of Emerson, as he continued after the quote above: Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing. This is right and pleasing, for it restores society in so far to its primary basis, when a man’s biography is conveyed in his gift…?

I don’t know.

I used to think that giving my paintings were like giving a piece of myself. It certainly fits in with Emerson’s words as he used just that as an example. It certainly seems like it is a piece of the person creating it.

But is it any more than a different sort of apology? Maybe an apology for not giving of my time and self to people directly? An apology for keeping my distance?

Sometimes I think that’s true. But there have been times when I have been given something made by another and I certainly don’t look at it as an apology in any way. I am just touched that they took the time and made the effort to even think of me in any way.

For example, I received a Christmas card from a friend whose two daughters drew red trees inside the card. That is as precious as any gift I could have received.

So where does that leave us?

I don’t know.

I am just thinking out loud this morning. Tomorrow I might look at this and ask myself what the hell I was thinking. You can never tell.

Bottom line: You can’t go wrong by truly giving of yourself. Bleed for someone, okay?

This post first ran a couple of years ago. Like most things written quickly in the dark of the morning, there is usually some afterthought or outside comments that make me reconsider some parts of what I have put down in print. Sometimes it warrants an addition or corollary to the original post.

I have been given a couple of bought gifts early in my life from my parents that have as much meaning as any poem or painting given from their hearts. These gifts took considerable thought and consideration on their part that still touches me deeply.

And I have given gifts that were bought that were filed with as much thought and consideration as I had at that time. My friend in Texas, Linda (shoreacres), relayed a story when this post originally ran about a small wooden box that now sits on her dresser. It was one that she had purchased for her mother the first time she was allowed to go shopping on her own for the holidays. The whole experience of that day and buying that box is a memory filled with, as she put it, mindfulness and love.

That reminded me of my own similar memory, one that concerns a wooden bowl in my possession. It’s nothing grand or expensive, just a simple green painted wooden bowl with a handle and painted flowers on the inside of its bowl that was a Christmas gift to my mom when I was about 12 years old or somewhere in that range.

I remember agonizing over that bowl, wanting to give her something that was really beautiful that showed her how much she meant to me while still staying within the budget of a 12 year old with nothing more than a tiny allowance. I remember the saleslady at the card shop smiling at my choice and me digging out a couple of dollar bills and some change then asking if I wanted her to put it in a gift box. I didn’t know that was even a thing at that point and was thrilled at the prospect. It made me feel that it was even more special.

She used the bowl for many years, usually holding bunches of fake grapes. It was one of the few things from my mother after she died and it still brings back that complete memory of buying it every time I see it.

So, maybe a gift doesn’t have to be made by your own hands so long as it is chosen and given with mindfulness and love…

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