In Jane Austen’s day, the hearth was the center of family activity after dinner. The hearth, with its warmth and light, was the place to relax together after the day’s work was done, a bright, comfortable, cheering atmosphere that pushed away the dreariness of their non-electric lit nights. The ladies did their needlework as conversation took hold. Someone might have read aloud or played an instrument. This place, the hearth, warmed their heart, soul, and body. It was the way these people enjoyed companionship and kept their souls knitted together.
In our day, this might seem quite foreign with so many screens that keep us self-involved. Even many of our houses are designed with far larger bedrooms (for individual use), and smaller common areas! This hearth-side tradition from the time of Jane Austen is a worthy custom to forge again, whether it is centered around a fireplace or another common element that a family holds dear. This could help us grace each other with attention and delight, and strengthen the bonds of familial love. In fact, this is a work of love.
The British tradition of afternoon tea is also always a work of love. Consider the beautiful teacups, the steaming and fragrant pot, the miniature, edible works of art to enjoy, and, the leisurely time spent with another person. “The principle form that the work of love takes is attention,” says M. Scott Peck. Taking tea together is one form the work of love can take, giving another person the gift of your attention and unhurried presence.
Humankind has always needed this, but most especially in times of isolation and fear. Some of us are enjoying virtual teas with others, because of the need for physical distancing, but whether your gift is given over the internet, in person, or is simply a leisurely phone conversation, it is still the gift of your attention and presence, and is a gift of love. This is the glue that binds us together, so needed in this moment! The bonds from shared joy are truly priceless!
What new traditions have you found that help create stronger bonds with your loved ones during this time?
Yours for the return of Grace, Civility, Beauty, Gentility, and Excellence,