Ten years ago we installed a big black wood stove in our home. It was our first home-improvement project. We tore out cabinets and poured a concrete hearth four inches thick. While the concrete was still wet we pressed our hands into it, leaving an arrangement of handprints that grew in size. When the concrete dried we heaved our beneficent iron giant onto it, and luxuriated in its heat winter after winter (Really there is nothing like wood heat). Our intention was to tile the hearth and the wall behind the stove someday. Surprise, that someday never came.
Ten years ago I started a blog. I realized this yesterday as I considered the blog post I should be writing. Only I’ve been walking through a desert of inspiration. I realized I’m a little bit lost and the only way I know how to get un-lost is to write, and the writing I need is not the boring monologue of my journals, or some stale lines about what is going on in my studio (absolutely nothing), but writing that is raw and honest and written for an audience. Because then I dig deeper. I make myself vulnerable. And that vulnerability is maddeningly essential.
Ten years ago my kids were five and four, shimmering with child wisdom and playfulness, orbiting around me like little moons. Now they are the bright suns of their own solar systems. A different kind of wisdom envelopes them, one that challenges me in new ways. I crave their tenderness and their independence. I imagine in equal measure what adventures I will take and what my house will feel like when they have fledged.
Finally, this week, we tiled the hearth and the wall behind the wood stove. The impression of our hands pressed into concrete has been covered over. The rough gray surface that was our hearth for ten years is now polished and fresh. I wipe down the new tile and mourn the lost handprints underneath.
It’s been ten years. The kids are nearly grown. My home is almost unrecognizable from its previous state, we’ve completed so many projects. And I’m once again standing in a desert of inspiration. Is it the curse of February? The reason I started a blog in the first place? Whatever the answer, I know that it’s inevitable. Yes, it’s frustrating, yes, it will end. And yes, it’s where I am.
After ten years there’s something else I know: when I’m lost, writing is my only compass. I throw the wood on the coals, I write until I’m on fire. Once the smoke clears, Polaris hangs like an orb of wonder, and off I go, my path lit by that distant, silvery sun.