"I have always lived in houses with a chimney, that's also very important to me.
Always fires because it gives warmth and centre, it gives light.
I always had animals, cats and dogs."
(Juliette Binoche in a recent interview with The Sunday Times Magazine)
As the little house I have been renting for the past six-and-a-half years (where did the time go?) begins to show the signs of the extremes in the Irish weather (cracks, damp, failing to heat up properly), I have been tempted to think in terms of need and want (complete first-world problems) rather than gratitude for what I have. I still love this place, but when I came across the above, it brought into sharp focus that the structure she talks about is missing - I felt the absence of a fire, the absence of pets. Both will come when they are supposed to, I'm sure, or maybe they won't, and that'll be ok, too, if it has been ok for the last six years or so.
After the three weeks of the cosiness of blazing fires in my mom's house, I am finding it hard to adjust again. I have been walking around with a hot-water bottle tied to my body; we attempt to curl up under a blanket on my way-too-small hard couch, and when I am on my own, I retreat to bed early because it's the one warm place (after the addition of a hot water bottle). Then I think I am missing out on so much of life by going to bed so early, and I blame the cold. Yes, ALL the procrastinating and ALL the stress is due to living in a cold house.
And yet I love spending time at home. So I am shifting the focus back onto the good things, of which there are plenty. The flowers on the table (each time I am as touched by this gesture as on the first occasion, and I photograph every bunch) are my centre in the absence of a fireplace. Or the gigantic candle with the tall flame on my coffee table, a mini fire. And I am making small, mostly inexpensive changes, because change is good, and while I don't agree with the 'update your home decor every season and buy tons of new stuff!' mentality, I do believe in Feng Shui, and I have found that some of the objects and arrangements that have been the same for years feel stagnant or are actually disintegrating into a state beyond a welcome wabi-sabi aesthetic. New bedclothes (a generous gift), the aforementioned candle, thick towels, buying prints of artwork by friends and framing them.
Even just rotating my books has helped clear some mental clutter and the feeling of being stuck. And mending clothes, sewing on buttons, finally refilling my fountain pen, polishing the coffee jug - nothing earth-shatteringly important, but it makes me feel more grounded. It may all be yet another way of procrastinating (this is how I am spending the limited time I have at home during the busiest time of the year), but it is just what I need, a form of domesticity meditation.