Christmas shopping can leave you feeling warm or cold, anxious, boxed-in, eager, small, excited, curious, angry, sullen, empty, broke, infuriated, surprised, inflated, humbled, sorry, bland, informed, torn, confused, apathetic, charmed, depressed or even happy. Every year it creeps up on you. I expect to keep things simple and then like something stored up in a dark moist place it mushrooms until it is almost out of control. I don’t think this has to do with the other people in my life. I think its complexity builds and churns in my head until I’m left beaten and whirled like some kind of human batch of butter. The surprises are always nice. I get so many different emails all year and one of them is called Found it. Loved it! They are supposed to be surprising finds you can look for on the internet. I decided to look at it for once, since I usually admittedly delete them and found this wonderful site www.artoftea.com. It is all about the artful drinking and preparation of fine teas. I found myself enjoying the arm chair experience of the somewhat exotic world of teas. The teas are presented like fine wines, the black teas, oolongs and dessert teas particularly captured my fancy. A while back, I wrote an extensive article on incense, the Japanese art form and also talked about incense games, in an article for “Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac.” They are going to be re-featuring the article next year and while out of ideas for Christmas presents I thought back to that article and thought of the joys incense can bring to the soul. I went back to visit the Shoyeido incense website and found myself once again captivated. I ended up ordering up quite a lot of stuff for different people on my list and I must add with some guilt, for my home and studio. They have incense that goes up to near $2,000. USD--amazing. They describe those premium incenses as being otherworldly and they must be because while in this world I don’t think I’ll ever experience them unless it’s it a workshop. I know they usually contain the finest aloeswood available. I am partial to their pine and outdoor scents as well as the peace meditative blend that contains myrrh. When I get into burning my collection of frankincense from different areas of the Middle East and the African myrrhs over bamboo charcoal, I find that I get very blissful. I used to have quite a good relationship with the old owner of Scents of the Earth which features many different incenses; some of which are made by the company, now located in my beloved Cape May, NJ. They have some nice ancient spiritual blends. He is the person that let me in on what richness and delight incense could add to your life and our conversations led to a great deal of research. I have ordered some white ash and incense bowls, for listening to my Japanese incense. So that type of Christmas shopping is the type that fills me with anticipation and delight. I wonder how the recipients of the incense will feel when they experience the gentle music of these very unusual blends. I’m also very into candles and my five office candles I described in a previous post are lit and smelling wonderful. That will be another type of Christmas present to share with guests that come into our home. Still, I look forward to the peacefulness of Yule—at the Solstice this coming Thursday--the day of the longest night and shortest day. I have a Yule cauldron-luck to go to tonight and I just can’t wait! Hopefully, by the time Kwanzaa rolls around I won’t be too worn out to celebrate a little more. The drawing above, is a colored pencil drawing from my sketchbook inspired by the rock formations found in parts of Illinois and Wisconsin.