Where were YOU last Sunday morning? As the day dawned, the clouds over the mountain yawned – breaking open to expose various shades of sky beyond their shroud blanketing the morning. Soft grey waves curled over the crest and wrapped around the peaks on violent wind gusts thrashing the new green growth below.
Imagine…birds are chirping over the roar of Mariah in protest or defiance of this late blast of Mother Nature interrupting what had been spring’s warm welcome. Hooray hooray it’s the firsts of May and the forecast is a high of 50 degrees after overnight lows of a chilly 37 degree rain. This now after having seen record-breaking 70s in February and 80 degrees several days since.
Ah…the fluctuations of spring. With this awakening comes the want, on this Sunday morning, to climb back under the covers and hunker down. However, while the wind wildly whips our towering 30 foot plus blue spruce tree and all the other new green growth from tentacles of wisteria vines to our precious peach tree and fragile red buds, we ascend to the kitchen and talk about building a fire.
Yes, building a fire. With only one fireplace, I have not succumbed to the instant gratification of igniting fake logs or worse a digital image of a burning fire. Albeit I am not the one venturing out into the elements to retrieve the wood from the stack of fragrant local pinon on the side of the house. Nor am I the one shoveling the ashes to make way for a well-ventilated new pile perfectly placed to assure a good burn.
But I did painstakingly sit cross-legged in front of the fireplace for hours that turned into days breaking tiles in sturdy zip-lock freezer bags with a hammer and fit myriad shards into place creating this wild art-piece that is the focal point of our family room.
We didn’t have a mantle nor did we have a surround. We had found a tin mantle to affix to the wall at one point and later three resin plaques to mount beneath it on the painted sheetrock face creating an attempt at dressing that end of the room. But it never was quite right, never brought joy and every changing season resulted in compounded frustration for this unsatisfactory situation. The shoemaker who has not shoes was I, the designer with a sadly neglected fireplace with no design.
After more than 15 years, the day came when I enlisted Enrique Jimenez to finally make yet another of my dreams come true. With barely a breath of space on the window side of the fireplace protrusion available for a mantle return, he took the measurements and delivered a few days later a nearly fully assembled mantel and trim.
Once painted glossy white by dear John, the space surrounding the firebox opening begged for a finish material. I considered the usual suspects – granite slab, harlequin glazed ceramic and glass mosaic when the whacky thought hit me – go nuts with fragments of color using treasured pieces I had collected over the years. From a shard I picked up off the street on Peace Valley Lane the weekend of Matthew’s graduation from Stuart to little flowers and birds leftover from samples we commissioned for a donor wall at the Albuquerque Community Foundation by artist Meg Butler to chucks of Mexican Talavera and brilliant colors from other pieces and places the palette and random pattern began to take shape.
So the hours and days sitting cross-legged on the floor paid off as this multi-seasonal mosaic of color makes me happy and brings as much great joy in May as it does in December. It is a fireplace for all seasons and a happy finished product and satisfying solution to years’ old dilemma.
So here’s to the first day of May (last week) that came in with a chilly blast belying spring’s arrival giving us the opportunity to have a cozy Sunday by the flames of a real fire flashing from the happy mosaic of our a bit frantic, but friendly, family room fireplace.