Our wood cook stove is the queen of our home at this time of year. From cat to corgi, we can all be found cuddling up to this large sculpture of cast iron and stainless steel that heats our water, warms our house, and cooks our food.
There is nothing as comforting as radiant heat, especially when I lean back in my rocker and prop my cold toes on the oven door. Besides all the normal functions I expect from our stove, one evening I discovered another role my warm friend can offer.
I was trying to knit a gossamer lace doily as a Christmas present for my parents. Mainly I ripped and reknitted as I muddled over a mistake I kept making on a certain row. I fumed as my cotton thread stretched and grew dingy and limp. Staring at the mess in my lap, I knew that no amount of bleach and starch would restore the lace to its intended delicate state. I could plod onward, hoping to figure out the mistake and knit the remaining hundred rows, or I could give up.
Now, I am the type of person Winston Churchill would approve of, for I've only given up on two projects in my adult life. One was an octagonal stone house that my husband and I began in the third year of our marriage. Using slip forms, my husband and I managed to complete all of the stone walls for the earth-bermed house. At that point, our enthusiasm waned, and we decided to build a smaller post-and-beam house.
My other doomed project began 10 years ago, when I cut out miles of bias tape for a hand-knit Shaker rug. After I had stitched, ironed, and rolled the tape into balls, I began knitting narrow bands just like the ones Shaker children used to knit. But knitting eight stitches back and forth for a seven-foot strip was boring, so when I had just enough bands to sew into a rug large enough for my feet to step on, I quit that project.
Eyeing my limp lace that evening, I knew that this doily would haunt me if I merely stuffed it into a box of quilt scraps. Every time I searched for the perfect yellow calico, I'd find this unresolved project and be reminded of a time when I gave up and allowed frustration to win.
I looked up from my work and saw my stove, and realized the solution to my problem. I slipped the lace from my thin knitting needles, marched over, lifted a lid, and threw the mess into the fire. While the lace turned into ashes, I gloated over the decision and my stove's ability to solve my problem.
Since that moment, I have found that my warm friend is useful in other situations.
When form rejection slips sent by editors flutter from envelopes, I toss them into the stove and set the kettle to warm.
Though most of my paper is recycled, there are those rewarding moments when I crumple up a rough draft of a manuscript and feed it to the fire. There is something satisfying in seeing the flames lick those false starts.
I know that tomorrow, I can start afresh and not merely try to edit those recalcitrant words.
As long as my cook stove heats our home, I know it will accomplish its intended tasks. But like the comforting warmth that radiates from it, my stove will also continue to banish frustrations and fire my heart with renewed hope.