Drawing near the hearth

It’s gotten bitterly cold at night. I can’t wait to be back in my basement office at Azalea.

The temperatures there plummet every winter. The corner where my desk sat was the coldest square footage in the entire house.

Using a thermal gun, I learned that this corner was 10 to 12 degrees colder than Tom’s office. I poked around and found that those two underground walls around my desk are not insulated.  Tom’s office is insulated by the adjoining laundry room.

The cold became an enemy that I barricaded myself against.

I spent three years surrounded by old, ugly bed comforters that I hung on the walls around my desk as insulation.

The floor was bare cement foundation with just a very thin indoor-outdoor type of carpet – no padding. I bought a heating pad and rested my feet on it while I typed. I put down extra rugs and thought about re-carpeting – seemed like just too much hassle and cost.

I hung dark, heavy insulating drapes over the sliding glass door and the stairwell, bubble wrap on the glass, brown curtains over the windows. To ward off the cold, I closed up the room like a tomb.  I rarely saw the sweeping view of mountains and trees, which is the best feature of the room.

I looked into getting insulation blown into the walls, but it was expensive. I finally picked the company with the lowest quote and then their truck couldn’t make it up the mountain roads. Oh well – at least I avoided the risk of mold from the inevitable condensation in the walls.

I considered taking the walls out completely so that I could have foam insulation put in, but that would be expensive AND a mess. An insulation guy finally took pity on me and said, “Look, don’t do it. You’d spend a lot of money and your office wouldn’t be that much warmer.”

That’s when it came to me: My office needs more heat, not just less cold.

I got estimates for installing zoned heating so that I could crank up the temp just for my office, but that was really expensive because it required new ductwork.

Finally one of the HVAC guys came up with the solution: a propane wall heater.

When the office was being refurbished after the water damage, I got a plush, well-padded carpet, and added the wall heater. With its high efficiency, this heater can put out enough BTUs to heat the main floor of the house too.

The first time they turned on that heater, I felt like my entire life was changing. My office – finally warm. My brain could thaw. My fingers wouldn’t freeze.

Best of all, it has flame.

That primal pleasure of fire, brought into the midst of my work and art, will surely illuminate my thinking and inspire my creativity.

My room has a hearth.

I was so excited to have it – but by then, it was mid-April, and the earth was warming up again. So I’ve never even had the chance to use my heater.

Next month, for the first time in 10 winters, I will not be cold in my office.

Maybe I can get some work done now.

Today’s penny is a 2013, the year I nailed comforters to my office walls.