December 22, 2020

Staying Close to Hestia’s Hearth

A foot of heavy snow fell in mid December. The world grew quiet and, for one night, there were no cars on my road. I stayed close to the woodstove hearth, the domain of the Greek Goddess Hestia. In this pandemic winter, the hearth has kept me warm and comforted during endless stay-at-home nights.

Longing for a future of warmer weather and butterflies doesn’t help as I try to thrive in this world, just as it is. I practice living without plans for the future—even if I’m lousy at it. I practice appreciating winter solitude after a summer of outside walks and tea with friends, but I miss my friends and my son who lives 600 miles away.

Vic’s cairn wearing Hestia’s blanket

When I feel hopeless, I remember my husband’s favorite response to sad times. He hugged me and said, “It doesn’t get any better than this, E.” He was right fifty years ago and fifteen years ago. He’s still right even if he’s no longer here.

I put orange jackets on the dogs while their tails wag. They know this means an outside adventure, probably on the same trails we took yesterday, but it’s always new to them.

Leaving the windy fields, misty white snow coats the evergreens as we enter the forest. It’s a sheltered cathedral of trees and trails. I wear insulated boots and snowshoes with many layers of warm clothing. My pockets are stuffed with balls and dog treats, plus my cell phone, just in case.

Giutiniani Hestia (Wikipedia)

Back home from our hike with a tired body heated from exertion, I imagine Hestia brewing white pine needle tea. I imagine Her presence as I load the stove with dry wood and let the fire burn hot. The dogs take turns warming their chilled bones on the hearth, turning their fur into warm winter blankets.

Our family gathering will be on Zoom this year, an odd substitute for warm hugs, fragrant feasts, and the comfort and edges of family togetherness, but we’re not the only ones. We share this 2020 experience with many. Will you stay home or take a risk? We made the hard decision to avoid travel until the virus is under control and a vaccine is available. I hope that won’t be long.

Willow waits for her turn

Willow and Disco are my pandemic companions and teachers. They don’t complain about cold short days, too much time at home, or not seeing their friends. They don’t plan for a better future and warmer times. They don’t fret about the weather forecast for cloudy skies on the night of the big Jupiter-Saturn conjunction. Instead, they take turns falling asleep on Hestia’s hearth for a long winter rest.


I wish you a Blessed Solstice and a joyful celebration of one or more of the holidays that help us mark the return of light in the northern hemisphere. How will you celebrate during this challenging year? Will you see family or be alone? Will you find new ways to connect? For a post about the light returning in the next months, see Here Comes the Sun. For more details about Hestia, see Home with Hestia: Goddess of the Hearth.


  1. December 31, 2020 at 6:16 pm



    As I was reading your entry, I could almost feel the comforting heat from Hestia’s hearth as well as the exhilarating cold while on an outside adventure with the dogs. And these words went straight to my heart:
    “When I feel hopeless, I remember my husband’s favorite response to sad times. He hugged me and said, “It doesn’t get any better than this, E.” He was right fifty years ago and fifteen years ago. He’s still right even if he’s no longer here.”
    It helps me to remember that.

    I also love what you wrote to Marian: “the angst comes and goes, but the gratitude stays.” When I can remember to stay with the gratitude, then space opens up and I can breathe more deeply.

    I picture you in a funny hat with your family Zoom meeting for Christmas, and imagine that there was laughter at old family stories (and perhaps some tears as well). And, now, as I write this, it is New Year’s Eve. There is much to be hopeful for even though, as you wrote, there is so much that is heartbreaking.

    I am sitting by my wood stove, which brings me so much comfort, and sending wishes for peace and light your way,

    1. January 1, 2021 at 10:20 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      Blessed New Year, Anne. I’m stirring the first fire of 2021 from the coals of 2020. I hope it’s symbolic as well as literal.

      Vic was good at taking a wider and more positive view of life’s troubles. I miss so much about him, but his grounded sensible patience is one of the big things. All I can do is try to foster that within.

      Our Zoom meeting was quiet and affectionate. Just after talking with my sons, the friend who gave me the red crown called on FaceTime. After talking sensibly with my sons, she was wearing the silliest hat ever for Christmas Eve at home–with a flower hanging off the tassel. I put on my red crown and we had a good laugh. Friends get each other’s silliness–and I hear grandchildren do, too. I hope we’re seeing light at the end of a long tunnel, but I’ll breathe easier after Jan. 20. Sending you safety, hope, and peace for 2021. And warmth.

  2. December 26, 2020 at 11:01 am

    Aladin Fazel


    My lovely Elaine, my friend and teacher.
    It is a learning process to me, for sure, in this time of loneliness. Hestia, the Goddess of hearth. Hestia swore to remain a maiden forever, and I don’t know why I love such Goddesses in Greek Mythology, like Athena or Artemis. Maybe because they have proven their own consciousness and their power. I love women with power. And the memories of our good ones, who are not there anymore, though their wisdom remains with us. I remember Al had helped me in such uncertainty moments very often. One day, I came home from work, and I had a very small crash with a car which was not mine, but I was working with every day. I was very disappointed about myself, there, he just held me in his arms and said; it is not a matter, is it? my worries were gone at once, as I looked in his warm forgiven eyes. How memories are worth and they are. Stay safe my dear friend.

    1. December 27, 2020 at 10:22 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      Yes, Hestia is one of the maiden goddesses so a good companion for those who live alone. Hestia has a quiet, self-contained, stay-at-home power and in these times she’s a good friend for all of us. I love stories of your brother Al, because they remind me of Vic. When a deer ran into my car while I was driving, Vic said when I called him, “Are you OK? I don’t care about the car. They make cars everyday but there’s only one you.” Those memories stay with us when we have a hard moment. You stay safe, too, and may we all have vaccines soon. It’s awful that we might have to wait here for a new president because the one in office now is a child with temper-tantrums and would like to punish the whole world for not voting for him

      1. December 28, 2020 at 11:03 am

        Aladin Fazel


        Oh, my dear Elaine, you made me happy with the words of Vic, and make me laugh (as we might still laugh) with this big-mouth child. I wish you and yours a happier and healthier new year. Amen.

  3. December 23, 2020 at 8:07 am

    Robin Botie


    Thank you for putting in my head the idea that it’s okay to live without plans for the future, Elaine. Totally foreign to me, I’ve always had some travel or vacation plan to remember when things got tough. I’ve always had a plan b or escape plan. But this year I’ve been struggling to keep in the moment, to recognize the beauty or the okayness of The Now. I’m coming to realize that I skip over so much time when I’m looking forward to a future event.

    1. December 23, 2020 at 1:49 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      It’s foreign to me, too, Robin. I have to remind myself constantly that it’s OK to not know what comes next–and in truth, we never know. Disco is lying on the floor in my office chewing vigorously on a deer antler she found in the forest and when that gets boring, she joins Willow on the hearth. They’ll look at me expectantly around 3 pm when it’s time for their second meal of the day. They have limited expectations. Since I’ll be alone on Christmas Day, I’ll make a pot of soup for the occasion. I’m OK without a big feast. Soup, bread, and a bite of chocolate. Blessed peace to you and our world.

  4. December 22, 2020 at 11:13 pm

    jayne demakos


    Thank you Dear Elaine. Reading your writing this evening slows me down and let’s me feel myself and my own aloneness here in WA. It’s a bittersweet thing. Sending you sister love.

    1. December 23, 2020 at 1:42 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Ah, Jayne. You are so far away. I’m glad I could reach you through writing. I can imagine your aloneness as bittersweet, and I know you are helping so many struggling people with your heart-harp work. Sister love and prayers for your safety on the way.

  5. December 22, 2020 at 9:39 pm

    Marian Beaman


    Good evening, Elaine. Even though I detect angst in this post, I also see glimpses of joy, most obvious in the “dressing” of the dogs. Even though orange may have been in your only choice at the pet shop, it’s a color of joy, creativity, and warmth, like that of your hearth. You nudged me to look up the color’s meaning, and I found that although it was a hue associated with hippies in the 1970s, it’s becoming trendy again. Who knew!

    I like the idea of a wood-burning stove, but here in Florida we need heat only part of the day and not every day. You asked about our celebration: Well, our children are chary about gathering this year because we are elderly. They checked the weather and Christmas Eve seems promising – during the day, and outside on the patio – with masks if we have to go indoors. All bets are off though if the weatherman in wrong. Then, maybe we’ll have a drive-by exchange of gifts.

    Vic’s glass-half-full notion is now your legacy. What an optimist he was, and still is in your memory. I’m glad you enjoy your walks with your dogs in the snow (which I envy). You are smart to take a cell phone with you!

    I see brighter days ahead and the hope of a vaccine in the new year. Meanwhile, stay toasty warm and enjoy Hestia’s hearth! 🙂

    1. December 23, 2020 at 1:39 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Marian, the angst comes and goes, but the gratitude stays. Hunters wear orange this time of year because it’s still bow hunting season, even though there are few hunters around. Orange vests are easy to buy for humans and dogs and they give the dogs some protection from wind and rain–plus the color makes it easy for me or a hunter to see them. Fortunately they stay close to me, but they also explore the woods. I can’t miss their orange flash. A wood-burning stove is common here, but they’re dangerous if not properly cared for. I have my stove cleaned and inspected every fall–and every night before turning out my reading light, I go downstairs and check the stove to make sure it’s properly shut down.

      Yesterday after walking in the forest with our dogs, my friend and I sat on the back porch and talked a short time. It was about 35 degrees, but we were warm from layers of clothing and snowshoe exertion. I’ll see my sons on Zoom on Christmas Eve. I have no idea how that will be, but we can light candles and share prayers and blessings. Gifts were small or sent online this year. I asked gift-sharing friends to give extra donations to Educate the Children so we can continue supporting a woman’s group in Nepal. I started this about 30 years ago and my community helps every year. I’ll send off the checks after Christmas, happy to know the women and their families, especially their children, are receiving education and support. I see brighter days ahead, too, with political change and a vaccine on the way although my heart breaks for some of the things happening. May we do the best possible job of getting the vaccine to those who are shut-in. Prayers for you and your family, and endless prayers for my country. Blessings and Safety to you.

  6. December 22, 2020 at 9:07 pm

    Janet Fortess


    Thank you for always sharing what is beautiful and comforting to you from inside and outside your home. I have a gas fireplace and walk indoors–my city version. My aging cat does not adventure and my aging husband has the good grace to stay alive and be my deep companion. I agree–it doesn’t get any better than this.

    1. December 23, 2020 at 1:14 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Janet, thank you for sharing what comforts you in your stay at home life. I loved seeing your wedding photos online and know how lovely it is to go through hard times with a deep companion. Dogs are a poor substitute for someone who knows and loves your soul, but they’re sweet friends. Like your kitty, Willow is a resilient old girl. Sending you love, light, and peace.

  7. December 22, 2020 at 12:31 pm

    Deborah Gregory


    Dear Elaine,

    I’m also staying close to Hestia’s hearth, much like your beloved Willow and Disco. In fact I haven’t ventured further than my garden in the last five weeks with a heavy cold that follows me everywhere and doesn’t seem to want to end. Nonetheless, here beside the fire with only days till Christmas I’m slowly recovering, wrapped in a favourite blanket.

    I’ve disconnected from the world outside and reconnected to my body, it’s healing and my winter dreams. I too find myself living without any plans for the future as we in the UK return to an almost full lockdown. It’s heart-breaking as even limited plans are torn up again. We must it seems, begin again. Please know Vic & Elaine’s wisdom lights up my day!

    The cairn in its soft, white blanket and your beloved companions in their orange coats were a treat to see! Thank you for sharing your love and warmth and wonderful photos! I hope your Xmas Zoom meet-ups goes well. We’re definitely staying at home too and if I’m feeling much better will host a quiz night after the Big Day itself which could be fun!

    Sending you much love, light and laughter across the oaks and oceans between us, Deborah.

    1. December 23, 2020 at 1:07 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Deborah, I’m sorry you’ve been sick so long. As with my own persisting inner ear symptoms, I feel we need a long stress-free rest in a stressful world. Sometimes getting sick is the way that happens, but may you heal and may the weather be less fierce. I love hearing that you are healing inwardly. My dreams are more cheerful and hopeful than my outer life. I always miss Vic who was calm and supportive in a crisis, but more than ever during this wild world storm.

      When we have deep snow here, the cairn shows its goddess side. It was exquisite to finally get there on a cloudy dreary day as my snowshoe trail got closer and closer. (Snowshoes are lots more demanding than walking.) We changed the date of our family Zoom meeting to December 24. It’s fitting because we always celebrated on Christmas Eve because it made Vic’s Italian mom happy if we followed her family tradition. I hope we’ll find a way to laugh at old family stories. I’ll have the candles ready and a funny hat. Blessings, patience, and healing to you.

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