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.
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.
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 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.