From time to time, cartoonist and poet, Michael Leunig gives thanks for the blessing of winter, where life slips through our fingers, darkness gathers and our hands grow cold. Time to go inside he says. “Time for reflection and resonance and contemplation – a season to cherish, to make warmth and quiet”.
It takes me many months of weekends to get ready for winter, sawing and splitting fallen trees. The wood pile needs to be as high as my chin and about five or six rows deep. All through summer, wherever the pine cones drop, whether I’m on foot or in the car, I stop and squirrel them away for kindling. We have accumulated many barrels of pine cones and broken sticks.
In the winter time, the dam near our house fills right up. It is home to quite a number of turtles and yabbies and frogs. The frogs seem particularly melodious when it’s cold. Several years ago, I purchased an old galvanised iron tennis umpire’s chair from the recycle shop next to our local tip. It cost me $4 and it was very heavy and difficult to get home.
My whole family laughed at me when I proceeded to repair the wooden seat, give it a lick of paint and then sink it into the ground just above the dam. The kookaburras laughed too as they decided it was just right for them and proceeded to regularly sit and poo, marking their territory where I was hoping to sit (and contemplate).
Time to go inside says Leunig.
And as I sit inside by our warm, slow combustion fire, I watch the flames and listen to those lovely frogs and visualise my seat out in the cold. It’s a picture I have managed to mentally carry with me to all sorts of places and situations. I guess it’s become more of a sculpture than a seat.
The kindling of our fire is a work that I dearly love. I have read that aboriginal women carried fire throughout the day. The Wurundjeri people seldom remained long at any one camp-site. As I understand it, their method was to carry a piece of bracket-fungus or a banksia cone which, with a minimum of attention, could be kept smouldering until the evening camp-site was reached. Since women and children were generally first back at camp, part of their duties was to light the cooking fires.
In Celtic times, I understand that it was also women’s work. They looked upon fire as a miracle of Divine power provided for their good, to warm their bodies when they were cold, to cook their food when they were hungry, and to remind them that they too, like the fire, need constant renewal – spiritually, mentally and physically.
There are various prayers and blessings passed down by oral tradition from the Gaelic speaking regions of Scotland, reflecting on the personal presence of God:
I will kindle my fire this morning…
Without malice, without jealousy, without envy,
Without fear, without terror of any one under the sun,
But the Holy Son of God to shield me.
God, kindle Thou in my heart within
A flame of love to my neighbour,
To my foe, to my friend, to my kindred all…
To my kindred all, as you go inside this winter, I hope you will find that your heart (and indeed the country where we live) is not closet-size but rather, TARDIS-size* – where offshore seekers of asylum and onshore seekers of ‘security’ can be seen as friends and not foes.
And inside this TARDIS heart, I invite you to begin to pray for the delegates and all involved in the September meeting of Synod which occurs in the first month of spring. The theme will be Movement and Rest – signs of God in us, where we will gather together to worship, listen, speak, and pray about the significant movement taking place in the life of this church.
*(Whilst I’m not a Dr Who fanatic, by TARDIS I’m referring to the concept of interior being much larger than exterior.)