Our house was built
by a sister and two brothers for their mother.
It has an open, sunny kitchen
where she tended the hearth
like the Goddess Hestia.
She baked bread in the oven
and stirred tomato sauce on the cooktop.
She dusted her nick nacks
and swept the oak and tile floors.
she served her family dinner at
a polished table in the dining room.
After she left (as mothers all must do),
the children mourned the warm center of her world
Without her to care for it
they had lost their sacred home and maternal sanctuary.
When we moved in,
the house embraced us as she might have.
And I think of her when I smooth my
own mother’s fine linen tablecloth
on the dining room table,
and set it with her bone china
and treasured silver cutlery.
It is our house now,
but my soul is a wild one.
I am not the mother that it honours.
And neither was Hestia
for, in truth, she had no children.
She was a vestal virgin,
whole unto herself and as wild as Artemis.
I dry nettle and mugwort in the pantry.
I burn sage and leave water in a bowl under the full moon.
I tincture black walnut and brew oat straw tea.
I planted a hawthorn tree on the front lawn
and cultivate bee balm and echinacea in the back garden.
And what I love most about this house
is not its cozy kitchen
or its spacious dining room,
but the wildness that lifts and settles
when spring air flows through the open windows
and summer sunbeams warm the oak and tile floors.
I thrill to the fierce rhythm of autumn rains
that drum on wet leaves outside our bedroom window
and I am soothed by the muffled silence
of winter snow that settles like a blanket on our roof.
It is time to let the domus be wild once more.
This poem was inspired by author Sylvia Linsteadt who points out that our idea of domesticity has been influenced by our patriarchal need to control the earth (and women). Sylvia suggests that the hearth, as governed by the vestal virgin Hestia, is not simply a place of domesticity, it is a “nexus of origins” where women bring the wildness in and honour it but can never control it.
*Sylvia Linsteadt (Oct 2020) Εστια – Hestia: A Mythic Craft Essay. Published via Patreon.
Photo: Diane Perazzo 2020
Music accompanying reading: The Walk home by the Bills from their album Let em Run, 2004.