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[personal profile] woolmyth

On a sunny afternoon earlier this week I opened the door of my car after work and was splashed by a thick wave of heat hitting the front of my body. For the day it was a little blue solar-powered oven, glass and steel collecting and hoarding warmth in the bright May sun. I slid inside, setting my purse on the seat beside me. Doors closed. Windows up. Fiddle with knobs and vents and fans and I'm driving down the road with the slightest breath of cool air hitting my face. Just enough air to not feel stifled, keep the breathing calm and relaxed. I baked. An hour's drive home, sitting in traffic with the sun pushing against the windshield and heavy, bright, warm air massaging its way into my skin. Bright yellow heat with no taint of winter or fall or overly-enthusiastic climate controllers. For the first time in months, stiflingly warm. Rolling in it, feeling heat all the way in through stomach and femurs and the little bones in your hands.

I called my father two weeks ago while he was recovering from knee surgery. His conversation was a little rambling, to say the least. Somehow I made my now-familiar joke that I didn't need to try to pamper myself - I have central heat and air, and after growing up in a house heated entirely by wood stove, that still seemed pretty luxurious! Well that's nice, he told me, but with central heat you can never get really warm. Comfortable, sure, but sometimes you want to be really toasty until the heat sinks all the way through your body.

Suddenly I'm thinking about the house I grew up in, about cold feet on bare wood floors with no insulation underneath. About the cup of water beside my bed that would freeze every night in the winter. About the stack of blankets over me. Two sleeping bags, one old and thin with the classic red and green plaid lining, one thick and blue but not soft and rated to -20 degrees all by itself (yeah right). Two ugly green army surplus wool blankets, the edging at the top and bottom long since torn off. Two or three cotton blankets - the yellow one my mother was given when she was four, that I still sleep under every night; the tattered one in light blue, a little moth eaten; the one with the blue and purple flowers that had been through the wash so many times that you could barely make out the pattern; an electric blanket that was on High every night and needed to be replaced every few years because it didn't much like that.

I remembered the hearth. It was built with weathered red bricks. Some more orange, some more brown. One fireplace faced the dining room and kitchen, the other into the living room, sharing a thick brick chimney. Each had a large, black, metal wood stove sitting on it, rigged with pipes to send the smoke up the chimney. The one facing the dining room was rarely lit. This was a real hearth. Wood dust and splinters and bits of bark were scattered over it. All winter we gathered very naturally around it. The farther away from it, the cooler you were. The bedrooms were definitely too far. My father in a rocking chair with the paper in his lap and the cat on top of it - as best she could manage. Me standing on the edge of the hearth on the dark red bricks with heat radiating all around me. Heat from the stove. Heat from the bricks - the house didn't really get warm until the bricks heated up. Standing as close as possible to the stove without getting burnt - a danger we were raised to be very aware of. Occasional minor mistakes were a potent reminder.

On the top row of bricks of the hearth, just below the wooden mantle, there was room to set a few choice objects. Stones. Oblong, smooth stones from the James River, which was a mile's walk through the woods away. Bringing them out with us in the morning and taking them out of thick socks to warm on the brick until evening again. That thick pile of blankets had to warm up somehow. Sometimes the rocks were so hot we had to put more than one sock over them. Near the rocks a few pieces of wood accumulated over the years. A slice of cedar tree. The center of the trunk was red when we cut it off the bottom of the Christmas tree one year. It wasn't even and round, but like a smooth splash of color and scent and cut-off life. It sits on the hearth, dried by the heat, still smelling faintly of cedar. A stick that was found with little tunnels tracing all over it under the bark. The flesh of it is a soft golden white. Other chunks of cedar have found their way onto the hearth as well, fresh chips drying and scenting the house with a smell that means Home to me.

He was right. Luxury takes something away. Winters spent all in the same room, clinging to the heat. Basking, baking, warming every part of yourself until you're pink with heat. Burrowing under blankets that weigh more than you do. Stepping three steps away from the stove because that's where the temperature is perfect for sitting on the threadbare carpet that my grandmother bought second-hand when my mother was a child. Warm red weathered bricks.

Date: 2005-05-20 01:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kessa.livejournal.com
Very nice sensory images - thank you for sharing that. Especially on a damp, chill day like today.

mmm

Date: 2005-05-20 04:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] therosstifarian.livejournal.com
I get warm and fuzzy thinking about it, thanks leah:)

Date: 2005-05-20 05:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tcepsa.livejournal.com
Beautiful... You are definitely on a roll today. :)

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woolmyth

August 2010

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