I am sitting at the long table in the living room, which is one of my primary work spots. Three items in this room are especially important to me: the fireplace, a stained glass lamp, and an icon of St. Mary.
The fireplace is right behind where I sit and during most of the winter months, there is a fire crackling in the hearth. Right now it is swept clean of ashes since the weather is warming up, but it is one of my favorite parts of this room. I can almost feel the fire’s heat on my back now, though there is no fire. And when there is one, I often shift to the rocking chair near my table and rock as I watch the orange flames of the fire and do my writing or reading from that chair. I grew up with gas heaters that had orange and blue flames and we also had a fireplace in the living room that was lit for special occasions, plus I was a Camp Fire Girl who loved the nightly fires we had at summer camp out near Telephone, Texas. So, open flames – contained, of course – feel familiar to me and homey and represent some sense of connection to happy memories from childhood. I feel safe and peaceful by the fire, as if I am exactly where I am supposed to be.
Across the room from me is a stained glass lamp that came from my grandmother, Winnie Waugh, and which is a real antique. It is a Bradley and Hubbard – a good quality arts and crafts lamp – and it is my favorite single item that we own. It has a green and red shade with bronze inlays and a bronze stand. I love it because it is so well crafted and beautiful, and I also love it because it was my grandmother’s, a woman who I know lived a life beyond herself with the goal of helping others. I like having my grandmother’s lamp around even though she and I didn’t know each other very well when I was growing up. She was too old and I too young to appreciate each other then, but I have since come to admire the life she led and the values that guided her actions. Every day I see her lamp and every evening it is burning bright with its beautiful red and green light. Winnie Waugh is shining through that lamp, reminding me what is important in life.
My third favorite item in this room of mine is a small icon of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus. Our priest and friend, Ian, gave me this icon and it sits eye-level on the bookshelf that is right next to the table where I work. Mary appears to be looking right at me whenever I glance over at her and she has a calm and peaceful expression. This icon also reminds me of my own mother, who was a devout Episcopalian and who modeled for me the value of faith. My mother lost three sons in her lifetime (one as a baby and two in their forties) and she exhibited a remarkable ability to cope with these tragedies. I know – because she told me – that prayer sustained her, and she said bedtime prayers every night of my life until I was a teenager, which included Hail Mary, full of grace… So, it is only fitting that Mary is here and she and I exchange glances over the course of the day and evening. She is a window to my own mother, whose presence I miss every day.
So, the fireplace, the lamp and the icon anchor this room for me. They all three connect me to my past, but are very much a part of my life in the present. They somehow help me to feel a sense of continuity in this life with things past, present and future. Each helps me to remember that there is more to life than what can be seen, and that the “unseen” with all its mystery is what creates meaning. So, I will sit among these objects that others may or may not notice, and I will know that they bring me peace in a way that is hard to describe, but is very real. I am grateful that I have the warmth of the fire on my back, the diffused red and green light from the lamp in front of me, and Mother Mary watching over me as I sit and work here in this lovely room I call home.