Keep the Home Fires Burning

The Rivendell deck

We were just blessed with a lovely 12″ snowfall over the weekend. After 2-3 winters with occasional ice storms but almost no snow, it was delightful to awaken to a white landscape. Richard took off for Roanoke right after pancakes on Sunday and got stranded there until the back roads were plowed two days later. Ron tried to make it home Sunday night after delivering pizzas. But even with tire chains on, he only made it part way in before getting stuck in a snow drift and spending the night in his car. With a book to read, tapes to listen to, and the right attitude, he was fine. The next day a snow plow came in from the Roanoke County side. Ron, however, ended up driving back to Roanoke in order to replace a damaged tire chain. After waiting another night in town until the back roads were finally plowed, he made it home on Tuesday

Joyce and I had plans to travel to Richmond on Wednesday to see Lauren and Jeremy. It took me several hours on Monday to get the car free of ice and snow, get the chains on, and bull through the deep (but fortunately light) snow out to the mailboxes to await the snow plow.  While plying the snow shovel, and hoping that Ron and/or Richard would make it home before we left, the phrase came to mind, “Keep the home fires burning.” We were keeping the home fires burning for them, while they were away, and then they’d keep the fires burning while we were in Richmond.

Suddenly, while shoveling, I realized just how figuratively I’d always taken that phrase. Keep the home fires burning. Keep things nice; keep it feeling homey. But in our self-chosen lifestyle the words have a fiercely literal relevance. Keep the home fires burning, so the canned goods don’t freeze and break. Keep the home fires burning, so the house plants won’t die. Keep the home fires burning, so the expensive battery bank that holds our solar electric won’t be ruined. If you have central heating, you just set the thermostat and that keeps the home fires burning. But as you transition toward a more subsistence lifestyle, your heat comes from the woodshed rather than an oil tank. And so you depend on friends and fellow community members to “keep the home fires burning.”

Richard got home on Wednesday shortly after we left for Richmond. He emailed us that afternoon, saying, “I made it home no problem. I’ll keep an eye on the cold frames and make sure the Rowe room stays warm. Have a good visit with Lauren.  Be well, Richard.”  The subject line of his email was, “I’ll keep the homefires burning…”