When icicles hang by the wall,
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall...
~from "Winter" by William Shakespeare
We finally got our winter recently, with below-freezing temperatures, frosty rain and wind and a few beautiful fat flakes of snow - though no white blanket as the children had so wished. Nevertheless, the fire in the hearth provides welcomed warmth and comfort against the cold, and once again we find ourselves naturally gathering together before the woodburning stove. Light and heat and scope for the imagination the fire makes, and it has been respite for the soul to sit and watch the beautiful flames.
The kindling does not magically appear, and so the boys and girls have worked out an efficient system of keeping us stocked, forming an extensive assembly line spread across a rotation of tasks. Some pull over and load up the large wagon at the woodshed across the field, some haul it back and unload it onto the porch, some get the pieces stacked neatly by the door, some bring logs in to stack by the stove. Somebody sweeps the porch and steps and gets the wagon put away. Overnight the stove is packed and the wood slowly burns to low glowing embers, and in the dark morning hours the ashes are emptied and the fire stoked up again, making the hardships of winter not so difficult, and actually quite enjoyable, after all. It is true that we have no snowdrifts to contend with, and so we recognize the relative ease of our condition - however since we have no central air nor useful heating system the fire is necessary, not just a luxury, and it's one of those things that proves the worth and genuine fruits of labor.
Again, the fire-making ritual comprises a favorite part of living here - the wholesome and natural draw to this space for the family, a nourishment for the body and a balm for the soul. Music sessions with stringed instruments, pipes, and drums abound before the fire - complimented nicely by the fully bedecked Christmas tree which, with its many ornaments from childhoods of decades ago, provides its own kind of fodder for patient rumination and glad moments for the heart. O Jesu, joy of man's desiring! O, happy Christmastime, that feeds our childlike sense of wonder!
As January marches onward into February, we cherish the last of the season, keeping Christmas until Candlemas on February 2nd, when the Virgin is purified and Jesus is presented in the Temple.
It is a time fitting for reflection upon our gifts and our duties. Too, our family recently overcame a difficult period of illness, testing patience, humility, and bodily strength; though - Deo gratias - it is a relieved and blessed time of convalescence now. May our wills be willing in mortification, and our imaginations keener for having run the purifying kind of gauntlet that sickness can be. In good times and in bad, we hope as a family to grow together in worthwhile endeavoring, capable of warming by the true fire of His love - not taking His providence for granted or forgetting His great and enduring care. As always, may our family rosaries by the fire fortify us in faith and bring about His glory! Our Lady of Fatima, ora pro nobis! Our Lady of the Good Event of the Purification, ora pro nobis!
On this little homestead our family aspires to work the land and hand on the Catholic Tradition, walking in wonder and learning to live by the fruits of our labor, in honor of Our Lady of Fatima, who guides us to Him.