I’m sitting on the little coffee table a friend and I picked up in a free pile a few summers ago, watching my wood stove rekindle through the glass and talking to my father on my little phone. There’s this forty minute window before my daughters return from work with stories of their days. Cauliflower and potatoes are roasting in the oven, and we’re talking about all kinds of things, like this incredible novel Let the Great World Spin.
Because my father and I talk about things like this, we talk about suffering. The fire suddenly flares up, and does its beautiful wave thing through the pipes in its top, rippling in waves and emanating heat into our house. My cat rubs against my feet.
In an everyday epiphany, this great world spins around me, and I’m abruptly released from the pandemic and from the imminent holiday itself — so complex, so multifaceted, in a culture driven to the reductiveness of images and consumption.
I see the logs I’ve split from a fallen tree, consumed by flame, transmogrified into heat, and headed as ash into my garden. For this moment, I remember all those cold winters in our other house, and how blessedly happy I am that I bought this stove, and I live in a house with yellow walls, with two daughters, two cats, and all the tangledness of our lives.
That forty minutes is irrelevant. It might be ten minutes, or six hours. There’s just this moment, my father talking about Homer and Socrates, these stories that have followed me all my life.