“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” —Aristotle


Autumn has been meandering here in Southern Maine. In the orchard at my bigger boy Jonah’s school, the yellow jackets have hung around well into this colorful season sampling the plentiful apples. The leaves have transformed into magnificent shades of tangerine and amber and burgundy even as our winter jackets have remained tucked away inside. It is only in the last week that cooler nighttime temperatures have allowed for us to feel justified in lighting a fire in our wood stove, not just for the first time this season but for the first time in several years. In winters past, I’ve blamed our lack of a home fire burning—in this snowy, cozy place—on the diminutive size of the stove, on the lack of a window to see how the fire is faring, on protecting the little ones from hot surfaces. The truth is that there was something more holding me back.

Sometime in late summer I began to know that this would be the year that we would strike the match at last. I could feel embers simmering in the core of me. In anticipation, I shared with my husband thoughts of lowering heating bills, of warming our home with a deeper, more resonating warmth. I talked of getting in the habit of using the stove and describing how then it would become a part of us. These too were ideas dancing around the real reason that I needed to bring this fundamental, earthly element with all of its heat and passion and warmth into my life, into the lives of my children.

I lit our fire somewhat unceremoniously the first time. My husband was trying to leave to run an errand and I told him that I was going to light a fire and asked him did he know which way the handle on the side of the stove was supposed to be turned so that the smoke didn’t come billowing into our home. He said, “no” and went upstairs to get his socks. I think I needed to light that first fire in that way for the same reason one might pull a bandaid off quickly. I needed to just do it and see that I could. I didn’t really understand all that it was tied to for me at the time. I did know how I would feel once it was lit. That first fire did not disappoint. Within moments my two beloved boys and I were cuddled up around it. With the surge of the flames, I felt an inner warmth come alive inside of me. I felt Jonah and Adrian settle down into themselves, eyes fixated on the flickering wonder. I felt grounded and capable and secure—all at the same time. There was nothing wrong with the size of the stove and the doors could be easily propped open with a screen so that we could take in the golden blaze.

For years now, weekends have been a time of reunion with my husband for both me and for our children. I have been reticent to take time away by myself to refuel wanting to create memories of the four of us together, wanting to not put that pressure on my husband after a long week of early rising and late nights. But lately, with a chronic medical condition flaring, it’s become less of a choice for me. It was for this reason that I found myself being dropped off at home by my husband and two boys on a grey, Sunday afternoon. I didn’t know whether to cry or drink in the silence as I walked inside. I put down my things and headed straight for the wood stove. I pulled on my stiff gardening gloves and opened the creaking, cast iron doors and began gathering together logs and kindling. I took off my gloves so that I might better ball up a couple of sheets of newspaper and tuck them between the wood and the kindling. I leaned forward onto my knees, rolling back the igniting mechanism of my lighter, then pressing down, listening to the clicking sound as I moved it forward into the stove. The papers were lit and the flame quickly spread from newspaper to birch bark to wood. Despite the afternoon hour, the room felt dark and I sat back on my heels opening my chest, opening my heart to the firelight. It was then that I knew. It was then that I knew what had been holding me back from this glorious experience of this essential element. In that moment—my inner glow expanding—I experienced a fleeting memory of a time in which I had surrendered myself to motherhood, a time in which I had surrendered myself to my marriage, even. There with the warmth of the fire bearing down on me, a sensation traveled through me, reminding me of a time when I had convinced myself that I would only loose myself for a short while. That this would be ok. I convinced myself that I would only give myself over completely, temporarily. It was with this realization that I was reignited. A part of me that I had given away—albeit small—rejoined me then. It was the part of me that lights fires, of course. It was the part of me that makes art. It was the part of me that has time. It was the part of me that makes time. Attempting to savor that feeling was like trying to catch a snowflake in a gusting wind. It hasn’t mattered, though. I’ve remembered. That’s all it takes. Even on warmish days, I have found reason to light a fire in our home and I plan to do so until winter is no longer.



7 thoughts on ““Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” —Aristotle

  1. loulouloves

    A truly lovely post. I believe that taking care of yourself first, is the best thing you can really do for your family. Like on an airplane when they instruct you to put on your oxygen mask first before helping the children. Sounds like bad advice but really, it can save you.

    1. meghannathanson Post author

      I couldn’t agree more. It hasn’t always been my way but I am learning the value of deep self-care as a way of ultimately caring best for my sweet boys. I so appreciate your taking the time to comment loulouloves 🙂 sending you much love, Meghan

  2. Heidi

    That was a very inspiring post for me. I have two children ages 18 and 14 and right when I was about to get to the point where I might have some personal freedom from the responsibilities of motherhood, I got pregnant again and then again. Now I also have a four year old and an eighteen month old. During that last pregnancy I really struggled with the realization that I had to once more give up a little more of who I was to ensure that this child could discover who they were. I am still not in a place where I can take that back just yet and some days I do wallow in a bit of resentment for the lack of ‘me-time’ (I’m human not superly so). But lately I have been forced to go for massages and chiropractor visits for me – to help recover from three back labors and a twisted pelvis from them. This has forced me to take some ‘me-time’ and I cherish it, as the pain in my back subsides I will still take the massage time, at least, but I am also feeling better, happier. I hadn’t realized how much energy the constant back pain was sapping from me. Even down to taking the energy to write. I have since started writing again and just having a story floating around in my head fills me with such joy. It is good to remember who we are even in the midst of being mothers and wives and all those other things we become for others. Thanks for the post and sharing your experience so that I could share mine.

    1. meghannathanson Post author

      Dear Heidi — I am so moved by your story and so grateful that you were able to share it with me, here on this page. I feel an exciting energy swirling around you and can hear that something exciting is brewing within you. I encourage you to follow that story and put it to page – even if one sentence at a time. Your children will notice the light in you expanding as you find a few moments here and there to bring your dreams to life. Feeling your joy (and your pain) with lots of love, Meghan

  3. Alicia (@culinarybliss)

    I have often reflected on the painful process of becoming. It necessitates that we leave something behind, and we mourn.
    I’m realizing that I need to model the self-care and self-love that I want for my daughter. Taking time for me, especially in her presence, nourishes us both.
    Meghan, I just love your blog. Thank you for writing, and all my best to you and yours.

    1. meghannathanson Post author

      I think this modeling of self-care is especially relevant to the mother’s of daughters so that we may end the cycle of endless self-sacrifice so common for so many women/mothers today. I am trying to model it for my boys as well so that they may also know a woman’s need for balance in their future lives as men. Thank you again, Alicia, for your thoughtful comments. With much love, Meghan

  4. Pingback: “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” —Kierkegaard | Mindful Mothering

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