I grew up in Oregon on the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains which is a fairly-cool, rainy region. We heated the house solely with wood using a nice “heatilator” type of stove which had a sheet metal shell spaced away from and surrounding the cast iron firebox. The shell seldom got uncomfortably hot and a fan in the back constantly moved warm air across the firebox toward the front of the stove, making it very nice to sidle up to. As the family grew and my father divided the house into more and more isolated rooms, the heat didn’t always make it to all corners, even with the fan pushing it. Mom would always start a fire when she first got up to fix Dad’s breakfast, and my preferred practice on cool winter mornings was to jump out of bed and run out to stand in front of stove in my underwear, enjoying the breakfast smells and warming up until Mom shooed me back into my room to get dressed for school. On lazy, rainy Saturdays or when I was home sick, I would often sit in a chair in front of the stove, prop my feet up on the shell and read…sometimes for hours at a time. My butt would fall asleep and I would occasionally have to stand up for a while. I would lean against the front or, once I was tall enough, hitch one leg and one cheek up on the top of the stove, half sitting on it, and read in that position. Eventually though, I would have to move away…sometimes at my mother’s insistence, sometimes being displaced by a sibling wanting the warm spot. Despite how good of book I was reading at the time, and even with my mind lingering on the pages, it always felt good to get away from the heat and engage in something different for a while.
While walking my rented dog this morning and relishing the feeling of the Florida heat and humidity enveloping me like a comfortable fleece blanket, I realized again that it is time for me to move away from the stove; time to get out and engage the world. Writing, which may have been one reason for coming back to the warmth of Florida just as reading was a good reason to sidle up to the stove, is becoming a habit I will carry with me now, and we all need balance in our lives…physical challenges as well as mental and spiritual ones. I have indulged myself long enough.
It also occurred to me that we all have a tendency to hug the stove in some respect or another. We find a place or a person or a situation we are comfortable with and we sidle up and settle in…often sitting there long after our butt has gone asleep and it’s obvious we need change. Inertia builds up, our butts grow numb and we become so engrossed in the story we’re in, it’s tough to break out of it.
Stagnant water slowly evaporates; pools and ponds gradually fill up with algae and weeds and other materials blown in, eventually becoming nothing more than fertile areas for plant growth…dirt.
Flowing water can also pick up all kinds of material—desireable and otherwise–but either breaks it up against the rocks it flows over, mixes it with oxygen to neutralize it or deposits it along the outside of some slow curve. Running water tends to be pure water. Movement reduces the evaporation rate, and rather than dispersing into individual molecules, streams meld into one another to become larger streams, then rivers and eventually they all join together once again in the oceans they came from.
Obviously not everyone is in a position to hit the road, and that’s okay since travel isn’t required for us to leave our comfort zones. It’s important to remember that change is good. In the long run all water returns to the source, and plants need the fertile soil that water collects and leaves in low places. There is a place and a purpose for everything; a time to be still and a time to be active, but if you feel moved to do something different, or the universe seems to be pushing you in a new direction, don’t resist! It’s probably time to get the circulation flowing again. Even if it looks stormy out, get your butt off the stove and get out there! You’ll be glad you did. (Hmmmm…I think I’ve heard my mother say that a time or two!)