One of the joys of this winter has been to have a wood burning fireplace as we renovate #TheTackyBrownHouse. I grew up with fireplaces at my Grandparent Geddie’s, so many memories have been revived as we began to burn wood in ours. A fire is a formidable thing, it requires tender care and constant replenishing. When handled well even difficult weather or almost too late additional logs won’t disturb its ability to burn. We are blessed, we’ve had trees down this year that are appropriate for burning and this summer we had saved the downed wood before we even knew if the fireplace would function. When we moved in the fireplace had a gas log insert and a tank out back. Express heat, however Dh and I both longed for a wood burning fireplace, the sounds and joy of the crackling fires and we’ve not been disappointed.
I am the early bird of our home, I wake up to write and to be about the joy of early morning solitude. I love walking into our living room and realizing that with just a few new pieces of wood, the coals are still hot, ready to burn with passion again. The sounds are amazing. Often I’ll go outside in the bitter cold in a robe and bring in another round of wood for mid morning. It reminds me of being a little girl of four or five and holding my Grandfather’s hand as we went out to get the kindling each morning when I visited. I have remembered so many moments this Christmas as Dh and I chopped wood, stacked or brought in the kindling. Precious memories.
One of the lessons of this fireplace is that sometimes less is more. It was certainly easier to turn on the gas last year. The insert was much more efficient, but hands down, our family loves the burning wood. Our friends gather by the fireplace, our daughter gets up to read by the fire, she’s moved her chair to its side to be able to look into it. The fire invites each of us to be mindful, to quiet our soul, turn off the television and just be together. Company comes and immediately goes to it and warms themselves. It is, as my friend Kristin would say, the heart of this room…a small gathering place where life is lived.
Work of the home is love made visible is one of my favorite quotes. It’s also the one that encourage me to do domesticity though I am not very good at it. I see the love of Les as he chops the wood, clears the downed trees and provides fuel that warms our home. I see the love when a sweet friend sits with me to talk in front of the fire and the cup of a warm beverage and the warmth of a fire allows hard things to be shared and prayed over. I see the love when our almost grown children without being asked, tend and mind the ashes, for they value the time we are spending as a family. Hallmark has had nothing on the reality of this simple change in our home some moments. Evenings have become about us all being around the fire. We had built a movie room in the house, a room without windows for our family loves to watch movies. A funny thing happened along the way, when fire times came, the tv got turned off. Later the college kids asked if we could mount a tv for date nights and family movie night in the fireplace room. Before weeks went by, the evenings were no longer spent watching movies, but watching the fire many nights and conversations….oh the conversations.
The t.v. is more often used to add music to the room now, a welcome change. We have loaded a picture card so it also at times shares pictures of our family together. Sweet memories shared every now and then as we sit by the fire.
The Ikea commercial about the second letter of Christmas is not astonishing to me. I think what most of us long for is not more stuff, but more solitude and meaningful time with others. My plans for this Christmas have been much more about how to connect to others than what to buy. We’ve baked cookies, shared meals, and the joy was in the delivering and the doing together, not the things done.
This Christmas, like the fire, I am purposefully tending my heart. It’s fire had burned low, too often not fueled or burned with the passion it was intended to live. I’ve had to become aware of what is going up in smoke that simply wastes energy. I’ve learned how to “bank” my life more, by engaging in some long game fueling of my daily living so that I am not as often letting my heart’s fires burn low. I’m learning to season and reserve a future harvest of fuel in my life, for having the stock and time to enjoy every moment of the season is worth the effort. The sweet gift of this awareness is that my family, though shocked and somewhat amazed at this softer, slower, mom and wife, seem like the fire, to hum with approval as we all slow down and hold the boundaries of time together with intention. No longer family movie night once a week, most nights they are choosing to be home, to bring others here and to include us all, sharing together.
Is life really this syrupy sweet? Yes, we’re having more and more of these moments of sweet solitude. I can assure you there are also moments of shortness, of feelings hurt, and utter silliness through misunderstandings, but the fire has brought us all to a place of mindfulness. A wonderful place of remembering that beneath the busy-ness of life we are each connected.
I love that.