adding wood to the fire

It was fifty-two degrees in the house when I woke up this morning. It always feels colder, these predawn moments in the first days of frost. I immediately started the fire in the porch room wood stove.

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When we are solidly into winter, I will keep this stove going twenty-four hours a day, damping down a full hot chamber to last through the night and give me glowing embers in the morning. But I resist starting this practice too early. The frugal in me wants to preserve the current stock of firewood, make sure I have enough to eek out the winter, stubbornly refusing to order more just in case. So I will wait, and anticipate when the days become as frigid as the night to begin the practice of adding wood the fire continuously, to keep the inside of home warm enough to support the productive flow of life here.

I think of the wood kiln firing Molly and I attended this past weekend. My neighbor Mark Shapiro is a renowned potter and has created an impressive body of work that draws an impressive community. I learned that day that it takes at least five people to be attending to the needs of the voracious fire inside the kiln, heating the chamber to an epic temperature needed to fire the beauty inside. I learned that the fire was started at five in the morning and would likely go until well into the evening. I watched invested potters attend to their various jobs, conversing, taking breaks for soup and tea inside, and coming back to the fire with absolute dedication. I marveled at the intensity of heat that was building.

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Invited back to the opening and unloading of the kiln to take place three days later, I had the honor of carrying one piece of magnificence after another into the studio to be placed on tables and shelves. I learned it was a ‘good firing’ with almost no casualties. I can only imagine the sense of anticipation in the three days of waiting. It was a sight to behold, the arrangement of beautifully crafted objects waiting to be removed.

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As I stood talking with Mark and his apprentice Eli about being a visual artist, about the thrill of seeing and appreciating such accomplished work, I shared about the upcoming publication of my book. When I said the title, “Adding Wood To The Fire – A Quiltmaker’s Way”, there were smiles, as the synchronicity of FIRE serving both literally and figuratively, the flow of our respective work, registered.

The book is in the hands of the printer and all that’s left is to do a final review, make the last little tweaks, and make the commitment to send to press. I received the final proof of the book cover exterior yesterday.

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This first effort, of integrating art and life in a series of chapters that have been written over and over and over these past four years, has now led to my own days of anticipation, of waiting to see the actual book in hand. I am only imagining a ‘good firing’ here too…

 

the order of things

I live with a rack of empty jars. They have been background for a long time, all sitting there waiting to be filled. I notice them in the dim morning light as I look around for a container to pour the gorgeous pink salt Molly has travelled home with. She loves this salt. It is the only food item she has brought into the kitchen since she arrived. It is the real deal.

Within moments of landing in the room I have given over to her, Molly re-arranged the furniture. I affectionately refer to as ‘the dorm room’, three single beds that have often been filled with three friends visiting at a time, to my parents and Ben at Christmas. It is a generous room which invites participation. Molly needed to create a sense of order here that was hers. I resisted of course. The order of the room as I had made it felt right to me. It had never occurred to me to make a change. I finally yielded, and was rewarded with the experience of a new order that also felt just right. Molly’s order, but order I could embrace too. As an architect I considered how confident I have become in the experience of order that I make for others. and how settled I have become in being able to live in the daily order of my own making. I loved that Molly, in just a few short moments, was able to shift me out of a stuck place. The room quickly filled with her things and her essence, becoming a safe place for her cat Jupiter as he adjusts to life in a new country with two strange non-Peruvian dogs and their human.

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After filing two jars with the salt, I looked around, then grabbed the oil soaked rag under the sink and began to dust the surfaces that were calling out loudly in the sunlight, knowing I wouldn’t be able to settle into the day until the surfaces gleamed the gleam of saturated, well nourished wood. I felt how the rhythm of my own brand of experience of the order of things that I respond to can condition every movement of my day, putting items in their places, sweeping floors, adding two more pieces to the quilt, clearing counters, three more rows of knitting, stacking a little more wood, making the bed, and so on….

I took a photo the other day that I keep thinking about.

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There is something about the collaboration of stone and wood and air in this particular place that has called to me every time I’ve walked by. On that day the sun and foliage were in just the right place for me to see the order that I typically only felt there. There is no explanation for why this image should invoke a sense of order for me, but it does. It is simply a quality of order that I seek to embody and flow through in all I do. It is what sometimes take months to find expression in a design or a quilt or a chapter of prose. And when it finally does, it is because it is right in front of me and I have finally yielded to it.

The order of home is now changing as I continue to yield to my beautiful daughter’s presence and way. Every little modification is a revelation, and an opportunity to revel in the joy of true and new at the same time. There’s nothing like an adult child coming home to live to stir things up. Even Jupiter is now venturing out of the room, considering his options.

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Now, when I look at the rack of empty jars, I see only the potential of what will fill them.

browned purple potatoes

I pan fried purple potatoes for supper the other day. Nestled in the blackened cast iron pan, they were a sight. They came from my favorite local farm, organic, fresh, full of moisture and life. I’ve never seen a potato so beautifully purple all the way through, shades of shades of purple, like a fine piece of hand-dyed cloth that registers a palpable flow of color.

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If I could assign a color to my life right now, it would be this purple in the pan. It is the color of spirit moving through my days of calm, resilience, and solitude, the color I see in passing awareness. Three years of living life to my own rhythm and beat, punctuated by needs of the four-legged’s that share this home with me has been a life full of shades, of the ups and downs of reckoning with just me. It is the first time I have emptied out drawers and closets to make space for another human here. Daughter Molly is coming home!

And then, after a time, when the potatoes had been cooking just so long, I began to turn them to reveal an indescribable shade of browned purple, flashing gold. It was the color of cooked to perfection, crisp on the outside, soft and pliable on the inside, something new ready to be savored.

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The last time I saw a purple potato was when I was visiting Molly in Peru. It feels like a sign, a premonition of something alive and fresh about to breeze through. That she is arriving with her beloved cat Jupiter (pronounced ‘hoopeeter’) means she has left her beloved second home in search of something new. Life is about to change. Two dogs, a cat and a daughter all under one roof. For however long. I can’t wait.

the middle way

Having my first walk in the woods with the dogs in almost three weeks, there are noticeable changes. Gold gone tone deaf brown,

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and conifer green with sunlit yellow bursts now reserved for the low lying beech trees that define a perceptible middle ground.

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There are broad stretches of wheat colored growth, dying while at the same time holding firm ground.

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There is the iridescent flaming red that connects and ignites the middle ground of the landscape.

I revel in this middle ground. I find comfort in the enclosure of life and color so close that it caresses. It’s hard to ignore. It’s easy to accept the change from all inclusive vastness of tree and sky that so recently encircled and invited, to the starkness of bare gray branch getting lost in blue white grayness above.

I settle back into a middle way, between fight and flight, into acceptance. Finally giving the adrenals a rest from battling fatigue, worry and denial.

Contemplating the middle way is probably about as old as time. As I walk, I realize how easy it is to settle into acceptance. It doesn’t mean I have to let go of a vision or give up. It doesn’t mean I have failed. I want the best for my parents who need our support right now. But it doesn’t mean I can fix anything or actually change the outcome. I can help. I can provide some measure of comfort. Hopefully with kindness. It is as a wise friend recently told me, “The best we can do is simply walk beside them and hold the space for their journey.” Well, isn’t that the truth. For everything. For every relationship and every encounter and every experience that we are lucky enough to have in life. The middle ground is acceptance of another’s journey, offering the respect to let it be, and recognize where I can take responsibility for my own journey at the same time.

Walking now in the beauty I call home, I revel in the good feeling that acceptance can be.