In my house, one way to tell, without looking outside, that morning temperatures are consistently icy is the little stack of books that starts forming on the bricks around the woodstove. Later in winter, two side by side piles of reading material will likely have accumulated, and maybe even three. Yesterday was the first morning of this cold season that my morning-time books were left in this spot, and it struck me, when I noticed it later, that it is an annual sign of winter in my home.
In the early morning, when I've just built a fire in the woodstove, and the air is still crispy-chilly around the house, I stand (or sit on a stool) between the stove and this brick wall with my coffee and books, mostly books of a devotional variety since that's what I read first thing each day. And I'm so glad for this toasty little corner on cold mornings.
It's funny how, in different seasons of the year, my early morning spot is in different places. In winter, I start out my day here by the stove. In spring, I'm usually in my comfy chair, with a quilt, in the sunny corner. In summer, I either sit at a table outside on the deck or at the table in the house. And, in autumn, I usually end up at the dining room table, near the woodstove, with a quilt wrapped around my legs.
You could make a natural field guide of my morning devotional life! While my location might change with the seasons, common elements year 'round are books, journal, pen, and coffee (and, often, my grandma's quilt).
On winter mornings, this wedge of space between brick and stove is the most vied-for spot in the house (we have actually been known to race for it, such selfless souls we are). Even the animals love to lie here next to the stove. There is no warmer place in the entire house than here. When my kids were still young and at home, mornings would find us all ranged around the woodstove, chatting while we warmed ourselves and waited for the house to heat.
Anyway, on these frosty-cold mornings by the woodstove, when the stove has gotten hot enough that I can't stand still beside it without burning my legs (I end up turning gradually in circles like I'm on a rotisserie), I'll move to the table or the corner chair to settle in with my journal.
See my coffee cup on top of the books? (That cheery round mug is one of my favorites. It was hand-painted in Poland but was purchased at the outdoor flea market across from that cool, old Eastern Market in Washington DC.) Sometimes I'll forget to take my mug into the kitchen when I've finished drinking my coffee, so the next morning there will be two mugs sitting on this little shelf of brick. One empty, day-old mug and one full of fresh, hot coffee. Once I had a lineup of three mugs across the brick, but when it gets to that point, the sheer clutter of it will drive me nutty enough to put things away!
Did you notice the little icon engraving sitting by the books? That's a reproduction icon that Mike bought for me when he was on a trip to Bulgaria. I just love it. He bought me a whole collection of them, actually, including some old ones, in various sizes, of various subjects. They are done by artists who have been specially trained in the old techniques of icon art (most of mine are painted).
And just for those of you who say you crane your neck or strain your eyes* attempting to read the book titles in photos, in this morning's (pictured) book stack are: Will Mrs. Major Go to Hell? (by Aloise Buckley Heath-- hilarious and wonderful if you don't know this book; for some reason I'm always drawn to it at this time of year); my Bible; my journal; Gold by Moonlight (by Aimee Carmichael-- a beautiful, comforting book, and one of my all-time favorites, about dealing with suffering); Joy and Strength (a very old, reprinted devotional-- excellent); and The Book of Common Prayer (I've recently been praying Thanksgiving prayers every morning and will continue this specific focus through Thanksgiving Day).
*As I mentioned in comments in another post, I'm a neck-craner and eye-strainer, too, when it comes to wanting to see book titles in photos. When I browse magazines or catalogs, I'm less interested in the main subject matter than seeing what books are in the pictures! It's even better when the focused subject matter is the books. Other members of my family do this, too, and we've found some good titles this way! Anyone else do this?
And since I mentioned The Book of Common Prayer, here's a lovely prayer I prayed from it this morning for my family, who are flung here and there, far and wide, doing various things:
Almighty God, we entrust all who are dear to us to thy never-failing care and love, for this life and the life to come, knowing that thou art doing for them better things than we can desire or pray for; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.