Yes to your genuineness, your grounded worldliness.
In today’s world we are thrown by many minor and major forces. Surfing the internet can lead us in different directions, and we can get lost in a field of data and information if we’re not grounded and don’t know what we’re looking for. COVID-19 is a major force that is blowing our way at the moment and it too can stir us to get lost without anything to anchor us.
But, as from the painting, there is something about being next to a fire that calls us inward, that opens our senses to hear the smoke going up the chimney, the sight of the brightest part of the fire, the smell of the home, the taste of sipping tea and the rise in temperature on our skin.
Being beside the fire is also a good time to tell each other stories. I wonder how many of us can do that when COVID-19 and internet surfing take us elsewhere. A good story connects with the heart. Here is one I heard recently:
There were two bachelors who lived in the countryside. They often visited each other and talked over a cup of tea and some batch bread. But there was a problem: each time one kept dropping the bread, resulting in the buttered part falling onto the ground and being filled with the hairs of cats and dogs.
One bachelor asked the other what to do to solve the problem as the same buttered part kept getting dirty. “Give me a while to think about it,” he said. Then one day they met each other again. After the cups of tea were made, the wise one said: “I figured it out. The problem is that you’re buttering the wrong side of the bread!”
Another element of this painting is the pot of water that is being heated. It strikes me that we need a bit more patience than the time it takes for an electrical kettle to boil the water. But perhaps this old-fashioned process will give us more pleasure in drinking a cup of tea when it is done. We may declare that “the tea is ready” and continue to sit down in front of the fire, share our life stories, stimulate our creativity and help each other feel at home.
Sitting beside the fire and embracing time also ‘softens’ and relaxes us. It connects us with our ancestors who gathered around this source and drew on their inner strength during difficult times. And isn’t a mellow heart one of the most attractive things in the world, something that draws us to a person despite having to keep our distance (social distancing)?
Home, sweet home
When we create a sense of home, we are less likely to be blown by the winds of social media and the crises of our days. We are more likely to express our authentic selves, to get through the surface level conversation and speak “heart unto heart”, as Saint John Henry Newman said.
Of course, we do not all have a fireplace and it is not always possible to sit beside one. We do not all have the opportunity to take extended breaks during the day. But we can create a ‘grounded worldliness’ in being fully present to each other’s lives, resisting the temptation of endless distractions and simply knowing that right now, in the midst of our circumstances, we have more than enough conditions to be happy.
Wishing you much authenticity during these challenging times!
Oil painting by Siobhan Murphy.