Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Of Fires and Fibre and Fall - Things Lost and Things Gained

I built the first fire of the season in the hearth - cherry wood and maple, well seasoned and split by my own hand. I turned the lights out and the others had gone to bed. I sat down with a good bottle of brown brew, carded a rolag of wool sheared from a sheep that I have fed and talked to and led in to the fold and out into the fields. Then I took up an inexpensive drop spindle made locally and spun out the rolag of wool whilst sitting next to the fire, in the otherwise dark room.

Earlier in the evening I closed up the henhouse and checked on the roosting chickens, then walked up towards the barnyard gate to go out into the field in the dark and bring in the sheep. A fawn was in the orchard, and we regarded one another and I spoke words of greeting. Mother doe had got around behind me, as deer will do, without my hearing her, and stood next to the dwarf apple on the other side of the fig trees. I continued up toward the barn and she watched me with interest but not, for a deer, too much nervousness. After I brought the sheep in she, now reunited with her fawn and standing by the apple tree, regarded me once more and, satisfied, turned and went into the dark under the Sycamore and off up the hill.

Later as I spun and sat by the fire, I thought how very real all such moments are compared with most of the moments of my day, which involve pixels and motor cars, ghostly typed words and telephone calls.

There is this moment, in the quiet of a house, when you have a real fireplace, where the fire is dying and you hear a hiss of consuming wood and you smell the smell of wood smoke about you. It is a moment of reality, of human existence as old as the world. There is a moment when wool becomes carded wool and becomes spun yarn (however poorly spun by the spinner); when you join in something that is a part of the human experience of centuries, wholly apart from the stuff of punching plastic buttons to make ghostly print appear ephemerally on a screen. There is a moment when you join the Theotokos in her gentle (and I mean that in the old way) art, and the stuff of a living being becomes the stuff to sustain warmth and life of me, another living being. There is a moment when somehow you are drawn into the movements of the great dance and wheeling of the stars in the night sky, inexplicably.

I thought: I do not like that we shall not, when I am old, be allowed to have real fireplaces, because they cause too much carbon to be released in the atmosphere. I do not like the Nanny Marketplace, where we are told what we may and may not do, what we shall eat, and what we shall wear, and what we shall think, and love, and none of it respecting what we know, or knew and have lost - how to spin, how to make a fire, and how to tell stories to our children beside that fire (indeed I cannot even tell my little story aright here, dear reader, but I hope you understand it anyway). I do not like that we are too tired to be able to walk much in the moonlight and regard the deer and talk to sheep - too tired because we must (mustn't we?) be prepared to get in cars and join the suicidal race to nowhere.

So I will say it here - I am against gas fireplaces and presto logs. I am for weavers and spinners and spinners of yarns by fireplaces. I am for those who sing in pubs with friends and by fires with friends, not for money's sake or any other sake but that it is human to sing together on such occasions. I am for home raised chickens and kitchen herb gardens. I am for picking up walnuts on a cool fall afternoon. I am for working with your neighbor to salvage the wood from the tree that blew down in the storm across the common fence. I am for plum jam from trees one has pruned and, dare I say, talked to (whether or not they listen). I am partial to pumpkins from vines that one watered and fertilized and watched grow throughout the long summer.

I am not for these things because the represent some self-satisfied image of the self-sufficient American. No. Rather, it is because I know these things about me. The nut that fell from the tree I watched put out leaves, and that I sat under, or the plum that we watched grow with its fellows all season, anticipating the time. I have shared in their living.

I don't want to make religion out this - there is but One that is needful. But we divorce ourselves from how we were created at a peril, I think, of forgetting what and who we are, and Whose we are. If all I can say about cotton is: "I am one of these people who are quite happy to wear cotton, but have no idea how it works," then I am perhaps one who cannot appreciate those who have labored to clothe me and I devalue their work beyond all measure. Indeed, I devalue even the earth from which the cotton plant yielded its gift.

I say this knowing that I have succumbed - I have bought in the marketplace. I am no man's better.

But I still want to sit by the fire, and hear that sound in the stillness, and know to Whom I belong, and maybe sing a little song while the stars wheel. Thank God I can still do that, and may he grant my children can too.


Blogger s-p said...

I envy the sounds and smells and labors of your life.

9:50 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

We have a gas fireplace, and while I do use it (because it is nice and toasty) it stricks me as ridiculous every time I walk over and flip a switch to turn it on. At least I don't have a remote control for it.

12:25 PM  

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