Books at the Fireside - Sept. 12th


I came across the threshold of the front door, in from the blistering cold, having just cut a few cords of wood for the fire. Tireless work, but a necessity when one lives miles from the town center. The wind lashed out from behind, catching the door with its full impetus, I toiled to push back the door closed. Flickers and ribbons of powdery snow skittered across the floor, twisting in vortices, before gathering along the edge of the rug. Maria looked up from her knitting with a piercing stare of dismay. For as much I loved Maria, she had a capricious disposition that kept me on guard. She was chiefly of a gentle nature, however liable to moments of irritation. Of this, I knew and tried to let pass those moments as I knew they were not about me.

“I do hope that you are able to make haste and clean that up before it soaks into the rug.”

“You know I will need to take off my boots first.”

Taking a seat on the small wooden bench near the door, I began to unlace my boots as she went back to her knitting. With the door closed and latched, the warmth of the interior made its way to my face and hands. Struggling with the laces of my boots, it took some time before I was able to free the frozen knots and slip the boots from my feet. Reflecting on this briefly, I should have dispatched my coat and sweater as I was now sweating beneath the layers. As one might suspect, by the time I arrived at cleaning the snow that had drifted in, it had long ceased to hold its frozen state and was now one with the fringes of the rug. This was most disagreeable to Maria, and she was not hesitant to show this.

When winter locks you, and you share but one singular room in a remote cabin with another being, there are sure to be moments of tense unrest. But she was my raison d’etre, and I could bare these small moments for all the rest. As I knelt with a rag in hand and began to soak up as much moisture as I could from the rug, she smiled gently. Rising to her feet, she brought over a heavy woolen blanket, draping it over my shoulders.

“Worry not my darling, that will dry shortly enough. Come join me by the fire, I’d like to continue where we left off.”

Between chores and everyday life, we sat near, by the fireplace, and read to each other. On this occasion, we were but a few short chapters into the recently published novel, Jane Eyre. As a general rule, we would take turns with every other chapter, but on this occasion, given the female narration, I insisted that she read. She was much better read than I, and much more fluent in her articulation. Though she would never say so, I felt she was always let deprived of total satisfaction when I read, and stumbled my way along. Though I do suspect that after each chapter, she gained much pleasure out of our discourse of the material.

That evening, we read through the heartbreaking ninth chapter. Even with the chilling and haunting nature of its subject, it still left a degree of warmth in my soul. At its conclusion, we sat and took the remainder of the evening for ourselves, but in each others company. And as the light outside dimmed to blackness, we let the fire die down before retiring to bed. Tomorrow, should the weather permit, we would take the team and sled into town.