(h)eart(h): ‘a vital or creative center’
Eg: ‘all were welcome, friends and strangers alike, to their humble hearth.’
Many years ago I converted an old horse stable into a 400sq.ft. workshop/studio. In this corner I built myself a small clay-masonry cookstove/heater. This was intended as a very special space; somewhere to slow down, relax, and soak up some gentle far-infra-red heat. The fire-warmed bench/bed would also be a great place for guests to bunk down for the night.
I took this photo of the heater last May 2020. At this time I was making full use of the space whilst self-isolating after returning from the mainland where I had been helping my parents recover from covid 19. These were the early days of the p(l?)andemic, and we were all trying to do the right thing. My version of that was to fully expose myself to the bug for 2 weeks as I lived with my folks as I tended to their daily needs. At the time there was talk about impending shortages of medically trained people, so, in the spirit of service, I figured better to go through the process of developing natural immunity sooner than later.
Both of my parents had recovered from the covid lung infection thru April into May but Dad continued to test positive. What with pre-existing co-morbidities including high blood pressure, leukemia, 5 rounds of chemo, and a new regime of toxic blood pressure meds that were destroying his kidneys… you could say the odds were stacked. One week after I returned home to Cowichan, he passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack.
The coroner’s autopsy found no sign of covid anywhere in his system, but given the presence of remnant proteins and junk circulating around his blood stream, it had likely been a contributing factor. Another factor was that his pacemaker had been glitching for some time, locking his heart rate at 60 bpm whether or not he was exercising. And what with the public health orders then at play, he couldn’t get into an empty hospital to have it fixed.
But to my mind, the the biggest factor of all was his sheer work ethic. Dad and Mom still lived in the same old 3-story BC box that they raised us kids in. And just getting anything done in that house involved going up and down 14 stairs at least a half dozen times a day. And all through his life, clearing all 14 stairs in one go was just how my Dad rolled – even at age 84, with his heart pounding out of his chest… And then one day, he made his final ascent. I recon there are worse ways to go…
So there I was, one week later, alone in my little studio. Grieving. Gazing into my wife’s eyes from 10 feet away as we were dying to hug each other. And filling out a daily auto-questionaire on my cell phone regarding my symptoms. Runny nose? Yes. Burning eyes? Yes. Fatigue? Yes… cuz I’m crying; cuz my Dad just died. These were insane times.
In amongst all this insanity, there was one thing that brought me profound com-fort: the hearth. Cooking meals, brewing tea, drying herbs and burning smudge on the wood-fired stove… and sleeping on the fire-warmed bench as it slowly emitted heat from an earlier burn. Candles were lit. Drums, rattles, flute and singing bowl were in the mix.
Truth be known, aside from missing the touch of my wife and kids thru that stretch of time, I was otherwise not lacking. My workshop/studio had morphed into a temple. And my Dad was there, at times, visiting thru the fire, checking in, saying thanks and farewell…
For those who have yet to experience the comfort of a fire-warmed earthen bed, it may be hard to believe, but it feels a lot like curling up with a loved one. And at that point in my life, May 2020, there was no better place for me to sing myself to sleep, dip into the limen, and wish my Old Man a very Bon Voyage…