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Home Fires Burning (01/25/2009)
By Janet Lewis Burns
“Our soul is an abode, and by remembering houses and rooms, we learn to abide within ourselves.” -Gaston Bachelard, from “The Poetics of Space”

It’s possible to be your own best friend as well as to venture beyond a self-imposed comfort zone. Dare to discover rejuvenating spaces, new to you. Don’t hesitate to get your feet wet or to freeze your cheeks. Thawing out by a restorative, flaming hearth is well worth the adventure. Not merely one-dimensional, the soul, when acknowledged, can be the wind beneath our goals and our dreams, a symphony swelling to serenade the loves of our life.

How many homes does one inhabit in one lifetime? Apart from wood frame, mortar, windows, doors, furnishings, and material possessions, “home” is heartfelt, a door to the soul. There are those who refuse to recognize the soul as a viable, intricate extension of mind and body, or one of three human dimensions to be nurtured. How lonely that must feel.

I once read this adage, indicating that one who seeks the light of truth to guide them on life’s journey forever sings praises to God. “A bird doesn’t sing in a cave. Only when he spreads his wings and frees himself from the darkness does the songbird find its song.”

Home is the essence of comfort a mother can bring - to sibling unrest, guilt, heavy hearts, and disappointments, by the tantalizing aroma of bean soup simmering on the stove, or the sweet anticipation of chocolate chip cookies baking, her head bent in prayer, and through her vigilant silhouette held by a street light as she waits and listens for footsteps in the hush of night.

A mother’s silent embrace eases troubled minds and broken hearts to resilience and hope. The homespun lilt of a mother’s nurturing spirit guides her busy hands as they glide across piecrust, dusty mopboards and ledges, freshly laundered, air-dried bedding, and a child’s unruly hair. With ingrained, maternal motions a home breathes with all the love and caring a mother brings to it.

I’ve visited the folks who reside in our Lewis family home, having raised a sizable family there and taken loving, nurturing care of our old homestead, two doors

from the school. As I scanned, room-by-room, my sentiments were aroused, but in a practical, tangible manner. They’ve maintained this, remodeled that, added a deck, and that handsome, varnished wood trim and banister have endured.

The lump in my throat wasn’t from mourning physical alterations to the body of the house I knew as a child and a teen. It was the burning thought of the people, my family, who are no longer there, that pried old moments from my heart.

For many years I nursed this recurring dream, where I would walk through every room and hallway of that house on Fremont Street in the moonlight. I was stirred by the image of that timeless satellite flooding through the screen door, across the windowed front porch and down the shiny wood floor leading to the dining room. As my bare feet were coaxed inside, star gazing and whispered conversations were left to the crickets, fireflies, and the owl in my tree. I have not ventured far from that first home. Pat and I have lived in our hometown for the 43 years of our marriage. In fact, my homestead is nestled very near, across the elementary school playground and baseball field, just beyond the site of what was a 12-grade school back in our heyday. As I walk along the backyard border, where Mom and Dad’s abundant garden had spread its feast before our kitchen window, where we played tag and softball and lifted fragrant clover to tanned noses, the spark of familiarity seems to breathe life into nostalgic remembrances … but the old home breathes with souls unfamiliar to me now. One day our children and grandchildren will look to their childhood spaces with sentimental regard. A Bible verse has been going through my head as I wrote this.

John 14:2 says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” The soul keeps home fires burning … everywhere.

Janet Burns lives in Lewiston. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com.



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