Tending the Hearth: Honoring Earth Day

April 16th, 2010

istock_000000912723xsmall1“But true love is a durable fire, in the mind ever burning, Never sick, never old, never dead, from itself never turning.” -Unknown

Throughout human history, the hearth of a home has been the place of gathering. So central to the meaning of home, the hearth has become a synonym for the warmth and comfort that home offers. Whether in the preparation of daily nourishment, the capacity of welcome to strangers or the intimate connection between the inhabitants of the home, the hearth is where we meet and join.

The word “hearth” is a magical anagram, holding the heart, the earth, the art and the heat of life all within itself. Closing one’s eyes and imagining the connection that has happened for thousands of years at the edge of the hearth conjures up pictures of love in the making since the beginning of recorded time. We need a burning fire in our life both literally and figuratively.

The art of building and sustaining an active fire in your relationship is easily understood by imagining the core of your connection as the hearth in your life. Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said, “A life without love in it is like a heap of ashes upon a deserted hearth…” The very image leaves one chilled. We know at once when we walk into a home with a dead hearth. It is a cold that cuts to our core.

Yet anyone who has ever worked at tending the hearth, can attest to the work involved. Keeping a fire burning requires attention and vigilance. It isn’t something that you start and walk away from. The hearth in a home is where the real conversations happen, keeping the air flowing is crucial to a sustained fire. You never have a fire blazing with out a source of water to contain it, so it is in our relationships. You need to show up to make a fire safe. The hearth must be solid, to keep fire burning there. How you think about your fire tending means everything to the outcome.

We often measure the health of our relationships by the intensity of the intimate fire we share and, because the fire is usually what ignites the early parts of our intimacy, it is easy to misunderstand that to sustain the fire between us, we must tend the hearth that holds it.

This is the epitome of earth day in one’s home. Sustaining a fire in your daily life is the deepest metaphor we can entertain about what it means to live with equal attention to both the heart and the earth.

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