[Apologies to those of you with whom I’ve already shared part of this…]

My newest purchase is a vintage, caked-with-grime, metal 5’x5′ folk art item called a TREE OF LIFE, featuring branches for five fat candles. It is festooned with birds, and the other day, after hosing off and scrubbing,  I managed to mount the thing on my bedroom wall, filling in the giant holes left by the previous tenant for THEIR art with toothpaste. 

The item has six detachable arms which makes transporting easy but installation a teeny bit precarious. I’m sure the whole thing or parts of it will continually fall off, breaking an object or two below. Anyway, I love it. This way if I croak in my bed, I tell myself, I can be looking at it. 

Putting my house in Tucson together, and tending to it, is part of how I order my life and day–a massive labor of love. Though I live alone and work alone, the house is not really for me, or not only for me. It’s the shelter and sanctuary from which I prepare my heart to welcome the world in–even if the world never comes!

Ora et labora, as the monks say: prayer and work. Thus, I do my own housework, happily (not that I’m great at it). I shouldn’t own more stuff or inhabit more space than I can comfortably keep clean and cared for. And for me, the filling of the birdfeeders, the replacing of the batteries in the string lights, the polishing, scrubbing, wiping down, re-arranging, neatening, are all part of some larger, beautiful purpose, of a gift that’s been given to me.

I want to put a little of my body and blood into these rooms where I live my life, where I work, eat, ponder, and pray. Consequently, all of that goes into my work, or is a preparation for my work, or more accurately, IS my work, or part of it.

I want my house to be a place of welcome–not a showpiece, but at the same time not an incidental, untidy hovel either. I want to be more or less ready so that in case someone were to drop by, I’d be able to invite them into a beautiful, cleanish space and be able to fix them a good cup of coffee and a bit of a snack.

Since I’m real friends with only two people here, and am acquainted with a couple more, this is a highly unlikely possibility. But that’s not the point.

so I think a lot about St. Therese of LIsieux’s “To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul” and of Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade’s“Save all of yourself for the wedding though nobody knows when or if it will ever come” and of Dorothy Day’s “We are sowing the seeds but we are not living in harvest time.”

Meanwhile, I’m going to look for some candles for the Tree of Life, the holders of course being a very irregular, inconvenient size.

Isn’t it cool, though?

18 Replies to “TREE OF LIFE”

  1. Very, very cool!!!

  2. Very cool. 🙂

    Lovely St. Therese quote.

  3. Teresa Kleber says: Reply

    It is beautiful. I bet the previous owner hated to give it up.We have a smaller metal tree hanging on our front porch. No candles, no birds. Trees are the best!

  4. Ruth Ann Pilney says: Reply

    I do love it, Heather‼️

  5. It is flourishing there on your wall. They say birds of a feather…or is it birds of a Heather?

  6. Anonymous says: Reply

    Hi Heather,
    I appreciate your thoughts on the spirituality of housecleaning. I actually enjoy doing laundry and washing dishes. I need to remember to offer these actions to Jesus with a grateful heart.

    I have three vine-like wall hangings with glass votive candle holders. They give a certain garden-like feel to the room. Jesus is the vine, we are the branches; may we never be separated.

  7. It’s fantastic. I love finding and refurbishing pieces such as your tree. It’s fun to see the quality in older items.

  8. Bruce Schwenck says: Reply

    It is beautiful! Is it really 5” wide?? Seems bigger! Thanks for the Dorothy Day quote! I had to laugh at your creative use of toothpaste!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      I’ve read that prison inmates use toothpaste for glue, which is what gave me the idea…thanks, Bruce! And it’s five FEET wide and high! That’s why hanging it was a bit of a thing…

  9. Catherine Burnham says: Reply

    And that so just hits the nail on the head of the mystical, tragicomic life, eh?

    The offering of every moment, the keen awareness of the ripeness of every act, every movement… the acute attunement of the potential for connection through a dusted window sill, the upright pillows on the couch, the stunning tree of life artwork and the toothpaste-filled wall holes – and then not knowing if the connection, as we imagine it, will ever happen.

    Or if all of those we hold in each of those moments, all those suffering, who you mysteriously hold inside of you and inside of your house, so consciously, will they ever know you held them so tenderly ….

    That’s so authentically… motherhood.

    To live right in the crux of that – honestly and soberly.


    Thank you so much for sharing this.

  10. Mary Lee Frisbie says: Reply

    Yes, it’s lovely. I like your goal for a “cleanish space”. Sounds good to me.

  11. Anonymous says: Reply

    I like it too! We’ll done on your find, and thank you for the thoughts about keeping your home a welcoming place

  12. Such simple thoughts of our daily lives brings the breath of the Holy Spirit constantly into my mind which helps me stay focused on Christ. Heather thanks for helping us stay connected.

  13. Heather, I really enjoy your blogs so much. They lift up whoever reads them. You welcome strangers into your home with your writing. You and Dr Tom Neal (I know you are good friends too) are daily gifts to friends ready to be unwrapped whenever you gift us with your writing! Paulette Renaudin

  14. HEATHER KING says: Reply

    I just knew you people would be on board with my salvage-decor efforts…Thanks, all, so much–love the glass votive vine and branches …right, motherhood–but HOW???…yes, Tom Neal is a wonderful man and blogger…as you all “got,” the main thing is sort of St. Therese of Lisieux’s “Little Way”…not even so much tht we can do little things for love, though that’s true, too, but that we don’t need to have some remarkable, noteworthy set of skills or talents or gifts…whoever we are, wherever we are, we can participate in the Kingdom of God, which is like yeast all through the loaf…love to you!

  15. Heather, I loved your piece in the January Magnificat on Jerome Lejeune. I met him when fourth baby was five weeks old. She is my fourth, and born with Down syndrome. Dr. Lejeune was the main speaker and he was so incredibly kind. We had just gotten Kelly’s karyotype which showed she had not one, but TWO extra 21st chromosomes and I was still in shock. I had gotten the full press on me from the geneticists since I was 42 when she was born, but had refused the amnio.) I waited in line to talk with Dr. J and when I got to the front of the line just handed the karyotype to him. He scanned it and broke into a beautiful smile. “Do not worry, mother! It will make no difference, no difference at all!” A miraculous moment. My husband and I went on to found Down Home Ranch, a camp and residential ranch for people with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities. Thank you for your beautiful website and inspiration. I too was late getting to the Table. It was because of Kelly that my husband and I did. TBTG!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh Judy, your ranch sounds incredible–what a story and what a gift you are giving to the world. And I must say anyone from the Lone Star State who styles a brush cleanup “The Texas Chainsaw Manicure” I consider an instant friend. A recent NYT piece pointed out the huge amount of errors in prenatal testing–I, too, was very moved by Jerome Lejeune–would that we had more doctors like him. How beautiful that you were able to meet him–and that Kelly brought you and your husband to the Church. Such is the power of the weak and the vulnerable: both inside and outside of ourselves. Bless you–just knowing of you and your work makes my day. “Do not worry, mother! It will make no difference, no difference at all!” is going to be my new mantra…


Discover more from HEATHER KING

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading