We have a chimney. It runs through the very center of our house. I like to think of it as running through the heart of our home.
I loved it the moment I saw it poking out of the roof. Of course, I didn't know then that it wasn't a working chimney. Here (above) it is in our attic, where a teeter-tottering trail of plywood boards have been laid down so we can walk from one end of the attic to the other without putting our feet through the ceiling below.
For years we have had chimney swifts in this chimney. Every June we would begin to hear the chicks cooing like little ghosts inside the wall in our kitchen corner, where the chimney is hidden behind sheetrock. And then sometime in July we would suddenly realize we had not heard those little coos for a longish piece of time, and that's when we would know they had all flown away.
We haven't had any chimney swifts for several years now, and I miss those haunting little coos very much.
Our chimney sits on top of the house right in the middle. We often wonder if the original owners had a wood-burning stove in the kitchen. Or perhaps the chimney's only purpose was to lure Santa in the winter and the chimney swifts in the summer.
Underneath the roof the chimney begins its long descent into the innards of the house.
This is the bottom half of the attic part of the chimney. You can see where some of the bricks have been removed and a grate has been added. We have no idea why. Wouldn't all the smoke from below come pouring out this grate and fill up the attic?
Or is it a window for peeking at the baby chimney swifts??
Here is the chimney in the corner of our kitchen. When we bought this house, the chimney had already been covered with sheetrock and painted over. I want to tear the sheet rock off and let the bricks stand in their full glory. We may not have enough money to do that now. Maybe next year we can reclaim the old chimney.
Also, this photo makes our kitchen look almost greenish, but it is really white, a white that tends toward the warm-beige end of the white color scale. We are going to repaint it a cool white, a white with more of a grayish or bluish tinge. (I want to paint it red, but my husband says absolutely not!)
And, for anyone brave enough to peek under our house, here is the bottom of the chimney. My husband took this photo when he was documenting the undersides in preparation for the re-leveling, which has been done, I am glad to say. Or let's just say we are as much on an even-keel as we are ever going to be, and let it go at that.
But I want to go back up to the attic and look at that grate that allows for someone to peer into the insides of the chimney. There is no sign of a nest, and, although you can't see the sky, you can "feel" the light from the sky far above.
I moved my camera closer to the grate.
And closer still.
What world is this? Whose stars are these?
It seems very fitting to be sitting at this time of the year before strange stars that beckon me to mysteries that lie forever out of my reach but fill my heart with awe.
Last year at this time I had only been through a half-year of blogging, but this year I've been through a whole year and a half, and I know now both the brightest side and the darker side of the blogging world. But it seems to be true that we cannot have joy without its opposite, we cannot have light without the dark. Try as we may.
There is no smoke spiralling out of my chimney from logs brightly burning in a wood-burning stove or a fireplace, warming the heart of my home. I will have to make warmth in a different way.
Sometimes we have to make our own fire out of the kindling of our own lives, out of the spikes and shards and fragile tinder left behind by all that has been broken. Every broken heart, every shattered friendship, every tiny splinter, is the kindling out of which we make our own warmth. It's how we burn like stars, or candles, in the night for others.
I know this is true, even though I often rail against it. But sometimes it is our greatest pain and our most painful losses that set our souls on fire. I want to find out how to set my own soul on fire. I want to learn how to take all my own ragged edges and broken pieces and splintered dreams and turn them into some kind of fire-art.
Maybe that will be my new year's resolution: to make fire-art.
Or maybe just to hold onto Anne Frank's words that "in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart."
But first, may I wish you great peace and loving-kindness, and the hope that no matter what is happening to you at this moment in time that you, too, will find a way to believe that people are really good at heart and that peace on earth is not an impossible dream.
Peace on earth!
P.S. For those of you who want to know where we are with the house, you can read the little update below.
We had our 100 ft. tall pecan tree pruned and the new shed safely put in place after the pruning. We worried the shed would look enormous, but really it seems rather small. In the photo above, you can just barely see my old scarecrow on the left at the far back. Her left arm appears to be touching the side of the shed.
The house has been re-leveled, a new stucco skirt has been put all round the bottom of the house, we have a new roof, and the house has been re-painted on the outside. Only the screens remain to be finished. Now all the work left to be done is on the inside of the house.
The past few months have been a tumult of noise, hammering, splintering, cracking, pounding, and the beat of Spanish music. During the re-leveling, we watched tiny cracks in our inside walls grow like time-lapse photography into huge fissures up the walls and across the ceilings. All of this will now have to be "taped and floated" and repainted when we start work on the inside. The power-washing outside was like running our house through an automatic car wash, with water (dirty water) splashing in through all the cracks at the window sills. I haven't fully surveyed the havoc left behind yet. Maybe tomorrow. We hope to do most of the work on the inside ourselves. My heart is willing but my actual physical strength is not cooperating.
I'm not sure if the worst is over or if the worst is yet to come.