But shopping for me doesn’t have to be difficult.
I like unique things with a back story, things that reflect places I have been or where I live.
Often, as I travel, I pick up a Christmas ornament, so over the years, my tree has become something of a travelogue. It makes decorating a really fun ritual, yielding a tree that literally is ornamented with my history.
I have a carpet on my floor that I bought in Bahrain; a mug here by my computer that bears the gold logo of the USS Eisenhower that I got while a guest on that aircraft carrier; a sand-painting on my wall from a tiny roadside stand on the Navajo reservation; fossils on my dresser from the Stonerose dig in Republic, Wash. and indigenous pottery from Nicaragua on the mantel.
I absolutely treasure those things. They can’t be found in chain stores. They are very personal to my own life story.
That story includes the region in which I live.
At 26, I paid far more than I could afford to buy a painting at a charity auction at the restaurant where I worked, and for 15 years now the striking Kwakuitl figure has graced the walls of everywhere I’ve ever lived. I cherish it because it reflects the culture and history of the land in which I live and which I love.
As I drove around visiting stores last week to do the story on locally-made gifts for this issue, I planned to not do what I did last year, which was to do a considerable amount of gift shopping entirely for myself. It was tough. I managed to hold myself to one item. But I can’t quit looking at the thing. It’s sitting on the other side of my computer, so clever and shiny I keep picking it up and dangling it to catch the light. It’s a necklace with a pendent made of copper and the tiny gold and bronze-colored gears of watches. It has a wonderful steampunk sensibility and I’ve never seen anything like it. I felt a little guilty paying just $8 for it at the GROW Washington store in Sultan.
Not only is it beautiful, as long as it is with me it will represent for me a little piece of Sultan, a town of which I’m quite fond, as well as serve as a memento of my time on the Monroe Monitor.
Given an unlimited budget, I think everything in my house would either be bought in my travels or made locally. I’d have handcrafted pottery, glass and ceramic dishes. I’d have furniture from places like Canyon Creek Cabinet Company or other local carpenters. I’d have hand-sewn quilts on my bed, local art all over the walls, outdoor art and plants from places like Falling Water Designs in Monroe.
I’ve been in homes like that, and I always love them. They are warm with the personalities of their inhabitants, and rich with culture and regional flavor.
That’s why I started doing this gift guide to locally-made items every year in the paper. I’m never sure anyone actually reads it or ends up shopping for some of those recommended items, but if they do, I envy the people for whom they are shopping.
They are getting gifts that give in many ways. They speak to the imagination and taste of the person from whom they came. They support local craftspeople, who need the support far more than do the retail giants that seem to end up with the bulk of seasonal trade.
Most of all, they carry with them the story of the Sky Valley, and that can make a $20 gift a treasured possession.
As you go about your annual shopping, I hope you will give these and other local artisans some of your trade, and your loved ones a wonderful piece of the Sky Valley.