The phrase I took for the title of this post describes what my housemate and I soaked up this evening as we sat by the stove, where she had been tending a wood fire since she got home from work. When I came downstairs from a nap, it was already brightening up the whole house, and our dispositions as well. The modern world doesn’t let us feel comfortable about the slowing-down and love of staying home that are natural during these cold and short days, but Kenneth Grahame does:
“The rapid nightfall of mid-December had quite beset the little village as they approached it on soft feet over a first thin fall of powdery snow. Little was visible but squares of a dusky orange-red on either side of the street, where the firelight or lamplight of each cottage overflowed through the casements into the dark world without. Most of the low latticed windows were innocent of blinds, and to the lookers-in from outside, the inmates, gathered round the tea-table, absorbed in handiwork, or talking with laughter and gesture, had each that happy grace which is the last thing the skilled actor shall capture–the natural grace which goes with perfect unconsciousness of observation.
“Moving at will from one theatre to another, the two spectators, so far from home themselves, had something of wistfulness in their eyes as they watched a cat being stroked, a sleepy child picked up and huddled off to bed, or a tired man stretch and knock out his pipe on the end of a smouldering log.”
My post of last night seems melodramatic today. I wanted the main point of it to be courage, because that is the aspect of God’s grace that seemed to be given, and that is a positive and going-forward kind of energy.
Today I enjoyed housework, and as I was beautifying my house I thought about how I would like to spend more time on housework than I have been doing. My next thought was, How is that going to work with your desire to spend more time reading, and walking, and more time in the garden? And writing letters and book reviews…. ?
I didn’t waste time on such practical questions, but I vacuumed and dusted and wiped and scrubbed for a few hours, to the point where it was obvious I only had one more bit of housework to do: bring in some flowers. That, as I soon realized, created more mess, because I don’t have a cutting garden.
After I wandered around the paths I had a big jar full of a wildflowery kind of assortment, from which I made a couple of wonky “arrangements,” and in my wake, on more than one horizontal surface, were wide trails of litter: pieces of lavender stem and echinacea petals and parts of lambs ears that were dried and falling off. At least one tiny spider and one ant jumped off and ran away somewhere… But all in all the flower-arranging was a satisfying treat I gave myself, and I still had time for writing this little report. 🙂
Sooo slow I am in fully returning to Being Home. Though I suppose I never will be living in my house in quite the same way as before, having sojourned so distantly, and changed in God only knows what ways. I grew older, for sure. But maybe I grew younger, too?
I was so surprised, when I walked in the front door on my return from that other world, to see that I have wood floors. At that moment I didn’t feel the lack of windows and light, but only felt the warmth and welcome that my house had held in trust for me all those weeks, even though I had learned to live happily with hard and cool marble floors, and the strange light coming through a multitude of windows, reflected off the Arabian Sea and filtered through smog.
It’s taken me nearly three weeks just to fill and start up the fountain again. The finches were having to make do with winterized nyger seed, that is, frozen and thawed, rained on and packed down into a brick at the bottom of the feeder. But I fixed those things today and looked around some more at the garden. Rosemary is blooming and the fountain is now tinkling.
Do you remember Miss Grenadine? She was a gift from Mr. Glad. She kept watch over my bedroom while I was gone, and still does during the day:
I had lunch with my goddaughter last week. She and her husband lost their house in the fires that ravaged our area last October. A day or two after that dreadful event, she texted me, “Wherever our family is together, that is home.”
I understand some of that. Ever since my husband passed from this earthly life three years ago this month, I have felt most at home when I am with my children, wherever a few of us are gathered. I don’t think I would feel this way if we didn’t all agree on this: though we’ve been supremely blessed in this life, it’s not satisfying in itself, no matter what beautiful place you live in and with what dear humans.
At this moment I’m thinking about things homey and cozy (or cool, as we preferred, in Mumbai), but of course concurrent in all of our lives is pain and suffering. Wherever I go, I bring myself with my sin-sickness, and I carry in my heart the burdens of those whose suffering seems to me hardly bearable. But in every place, Christ is. He is the one who makes the atmosphere sweet with the scent of flowers or the affection of our children. He is always giving us Himself.
At the end of things, The Blessed will say, “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven.” And the lost will say, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly. ― C.S. Lewis
Many things are strange about this Christmas, flowing from the fundamentally odd and new situation of my husband not being with us in the flesh. I keep remembering that he is with us in Christ, and in the Holy Spirit, and he would say, if he could speak from the grave, “Christ is born! Glorify Him! Rejoice evermore! And again I say, Rejoice!”
Mr. Glad loved Christmas. He loved buying presents for people, and wrapping them, with special notes and hints on the gift tags. He liked to dress up in his best clothes, to eat oyster stew, and to sing carols around the piano or while strumming his guitar. He would want us to carry on in that tradition; so we won’t be glum.
When I headed out to church yesterday, a block from my house a rainbow appeared and stayed with me all the way. I kept stopping (sometimes just in the middle of the street) to take its picture, and it was still there when I reached my destination and walked up to the doors. I could see the whole bow, but not encompass it with my camera. I felt God speaking from the image, “Good things are ahead for you.”
I’ve been wrapping presents like mad, and not baking cookies. Maybe my cookie art, of which I have written many times on my blog at Christmastime, will be superseded by creative wrapping? I haven’t made any cookies at all this year! And I’ve had to wrap all the presents by myself, which has been fun, actually. I’m making just as much of a mess as I normally would in the kitchen.
But amazingly, I had time to go for a walk this morning, too (or did I?) and I saw this manger scene with very folksy and friendly animals who wanted me to take their picture.
When I got back I inspected the greens in the front yard…the smallage, chard, kale and collards are all doing famously. As I bent over to snap a picture, Whhoosh… a mighty breath exhaled nearby, and I thought, Did the neighbors just deflate their front-yard Santa? But when I looked up, it was a hot air balloon!
One delight of this week was being able to attend the Christmas play that the church children put on, a story of the betrothal of Mary and Joseph, and the birth of Christ, written by one of our teens. After the children changed out of their darling costumes they had a visit from “St. Nicholas,” who told them stories about his life and gave out presents.
Another strange and new thing has been shopping and cooking, cleaning and decorating, singing and eating, not alone, but with my housemate and friend Kit. Kit is a young woman who just moved to this area to be part of our parish. She had her own reasons for coming here, and I invited her to live at my house without a glimmer of foreknowledge, just because it was something I could do, while I was still somewhat paralyzed with grief.
But within a month, I came to believe that God brought her here just to be a comfort and joy to me. I thought I would want to live alone, even while I believed that it’s generally not good for people to live alone. This whole arrangement, with Kit and Susan living here (Susan is house-sitting elsewhere this week) has been a great surprise and gift.
Glory to God for all things! Christ is born! Glorify Him! And may your Christmas be merry.