The Heart’s Heaven

The following paragraphs are taken from the editor’s introduction to perhaps one of my most treasured books, Leaves Of Gold. A cooler summer (though there’s still plenty of time for our usual summer simmer) has me casting my eyes towards the autumn chill. Not wanting to wait until late September our family has spent more than a few nights in our backyard around our firepit. We sit staring at the flames, making smores (and re-enact the famous smore scene from The Sandlot) and telling stories. Buster the Beagle has often greedily snatched the wayward marshmallow fallen from a stick, and the yard echoes with the laughter of our family.

*****

The Heart’s Heaven

Civilization had its beginning around an open fire. Here at its warmth gathered the family group to find safety, comfort, and companionship. Trace the origin of our word fireplace and you will find it definitely related to the Latin word focus. There is the explanation of what home has always meant; for home is the center of life,–no mere residence of the body but the axis of the heart; the place where affections develop themselves, where children love and learn, where two toil together to make life a blessing.

To picture in a word the depths of want, we say of a man that he is homeless. True, life is a journey, and we are all on a pilgrimage. But when distance has lost its enchantment and the ardor for adventure has cooled, when danger has been bravely faced and wonder satiated, hearts long for a resting place and find in the ruddy glows of the hearth-fire “the charm from the skies” that hallows life and gives refuge to man’s tired soul.

*****

You do not need a fireplace (we don’t have one) or even a firepit. That’s not my point. But as I told my oldest a week ago when advising him to invite over two of his closes friends before they all journey to their separate universities, military posts and post-high school lives:

You need to remember to celebrate. Not just life’s victories, but life’s experiences. We neglect to mark those moments when we’re younger and take them for granted. When we’re older we wish we had slowed down to savor them more. So too it is with community. We assert rugged individuality and sacrifice a shared communion with family and/or friends. We take each other for granted.

That’s my point.

He thought it over and decided to heed my advice, hosting his friends Monday evening for dinner and ultimately a few hours around the fire at twilight. Late the following afternoon I posted the following to Facebook:

While Nolan, Sam and Ryne were together last night at our house celebrating their four years together on and off the baseball field and high school I couldn’t help but think of their much younger selves as young boys. Each now young men about to each go their separate way: one to UNL, one to UNK, and one to the USMC. Time flew by so quickly. I sent a text to Ryne’s dad that said in effect “I’m not a fan of these three boys growing up, yet it’s pretty damned cool” and he replied with his agreement. But this is what we do and what we hope for as parents: to prepare them (and ourselves) for the nudge (kick) out of the nest and hope they remember to flap their wings. I thought of the recent experiences of dads I know like Chris and David who this spring (and just this weekend) have sat in the back of a church dressed in their tuxedos recalling the birth, first steps, scraped knees, ballgames and graduations of their sons Ben and Ethan as they were about to be wed. All while watching all the joyous madness of planning, rehearsals and photography go on around them. And I realized that, as in all good things, the best is yet to come.

And when it comes the odds are you will find me sitting near a fire, basking in the warmth of the memory whose reflection dances in my eyes as we make another smore.

Pass the ‘mallows.

firepit

*****

A lurking beagle hunting for dropped smores.

A lurking beagle hunting for dropped smores.

*****

A lurking beagle hoping someone drops a morsel of the bacon-wrapped NY strips I grilled for the boys.

A lurking beagle hoping someone drops a morsel of the bacon-wrapped NY strips I grilled for the boys.

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