During this time of cold and snow, we celebrate those things that bring us respite, that bring us comfort when there is so much outside that would make us uncomfortable. As I think all of you know, I had surgery last week, and with ample time on my hands to reflect, I found my thoughts returning over and over to the gratitude I feel deep in my bones for the comfort and peace of home.
Home and HearthFire is what we at Mountain Ancestors call this feast day, because it is easy to take for granted all that our homes and hearths offer us, unceasingly, on a daily basis.
It’s easy for me to forget how peaceful it is to sit and exchange gasses with my houseplants with a good book in hand and a cup of tea at my side when I haven’t made the time to do so in weeks. It’s easy to lose the wonder of modern miracles such as running water, automated heat, humming electric light, and machines of all sorts that do chores previously taking up hours of our time: the modern comforts of home. Comfort has been a refuge for me, a prized and fleeting gift between the pains and frustrations of recovery. But, it’s easy to get lost filling those at-home hours with media like Facebook, Netflix, Audiobooks, and Podcasts. The hard part for a people such as us in a society such as ours, one that values productivity and consumerism over quiet contemplation, is finding comfort of mind when our bodies force us to stop.
Needless to say, I have spent a lot of time with Brighid and Eir over the past few weeks, seeking healing and offering gratitude for receiving it. Brighid was the first goddess I “met” as a new pagan, and she and I have grown together over time, our relationship taking a myriad of shapes and sizes. She is there for me every time I light a sacred flame, every time there is a need for healing or protection, and every time there is a desire for change. All of these workings are best done, for me, when I am in a place safe enough to surrender myself to the work, which is what makes her embodiment of the hearth so important to my personal shrine work.
I am grateful to my spiritual practice, to the time spent practicing and building relationships with the Kindreds that is my foundation and muscle-memory for engaging in behaviors that bring peace to my spirit. Those practices help me find peace of mind and open my eyes to the respite from the world that exists around me in my home. That’s what the Home and Hearth teach us: to find rest and quiet and comfort in the things we already have, the things that are always there waiting for us when we return from traveling through our loud and busy world. We need only look and listen.
As a one-time bard, sound also holds significance for me. The sounds of home are equally important to my sense of safety and comfort: a brewing pot of coffee, the automatic ice maker filling and emptying and filling again, even the white noise of the central heat whispering through the air ducts. These are the sounds of home.
My favorite sound is the sound of falling snow, though we don’t attribute sound to snow. When the snow begins to fall, from the vantage of physics, sound waves lose their ability to travel freely through the air. Snowfall dampens sound waves and brings a silence far deeper than can be experienced in its absence. That silence can be difficult for us. Our minds are constantly processing the cacophony of life, even if it’s just the white noise of gadgets and appliances. But standing outside in the back yard while snow is falling, there is nothing to hear but your own blood rushing through your veins, your breath filling and evacuating your lungs, your heart beating rhythmically in your chest. If you listen beyond these sounds--the sounds of the life within you that our world drowns in modernity, you will hear the sound of nothing. What a gift!
“Nothing” requires nothing of you. It doesn’t care what you’re wearing, what job you have, how much overtime you’ve worked this week, how much you weigh, how much money is (or is not) in your bank account. Nothing doesn’t care one bit. Nothing beseeches you to be still and silent and drink in even more nothingness. It implores you to just be. In the spirit of embracing this nothingness, this place where we may find silence and peace and acceptance and yes, comfort, I call to us all to remember it is always there. When we find this moment and recognize it as the core of our home and hearth and heart, we can fall back on it and conjure it up at any time to bring us peace and strength through any “something” life throws at us.
May the gifts of comfort and nothingness bless our hearts and hearths, and may we rest in gratitude for that which is already ours.