Spring has arrived in east Tennessee and my world is pink and white and spring green. The land is never more beautiful than at this time of year. My sweet birds are chirping from dawn to dusk and the cats, Timmy and Persy, happily jump into the open bedroom window for some much loved fresh air. Hamilton’s role changes from firetender to yardman. He enjoys both roles especially now he has “another woman” named Huskey 2.2, a mechanical woodsplitter. In the spring he spends many happy hours meditating on the old riding mower uninterrupted by the phone.
My old home has three working fireplaces and we use all of them during the winter. They no longer are the main source of heat but now provide an atmosphere of warmth and peace with the smell of burning wood and the crackling sound. During the winter months we offer our friends the irresistible invitation, “want to come sit by the fire”? No one turns us down.
In the spring it is my job to clean out the fireplaces. I gather all the necessary equipment: brown bags, fireplace shovel, old sheet, hand broom and dust pan, bucket and rag. I first take out the last bits of charred wood and then remove the screen, andirons, and grate. I scoop the ash into the waiting bag and then sweep the remains into a dust pan. Then, I wash down the mantel, tools and hearth. Finally, I replace the grate and screen. It is a big and dirty job but one that brings me a very unique joy. Not only do I love the tidy fireplace for the summer season. but it is the one time I feel deeply connected to all the women who have lived in this house before me. They are nameless, but we share a deep connection. I’m sweeping the very same bricks they swept for generations before me. I think about how they had to clean out the ashes constantly where I only have to do it once a year. I’ve never met these woman but we are friends, bound by the needs of family and love of home.
This week I was reading Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton. May loved her home and the solitude and space it provided for her writing. She writes…”I have a fire burning in my study, yellow roses and mimosa on my desk. We are one, the house and I, and I am happy to be alone…” Plant Dreaming Deep is a memoir about her first year in her home in Vermont. She learns to love her home and her home nourishes her. May and I are kindred spirits and our spring birthdays are just a few days apart. We love our old homes and find comfort and silence to grow our spirit. “We are one, the house and I and I am happy….”