I love my Austin house, but it is missing one thing: a hearth. It seems that every where I’ve lived since I moved out on my own has had one. Mostly not working in any of the old houses, but a mantel to decorate anyway. Some memorable mantels –

Camp Catawba – a farmhouse/boy’s camp on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Unheated and not one locking door, but our bedroom had a (scary) working fireplace with a plaster surround on which one of the previous hippie tenants had splashed bright colors. I gasped when I saw it for the first time and that was it.

The sixth street shotgun house – any house worth its beans in New Orleans has mantels. Two mantels, one with a (scary) gas fire in the bedroom. I draped the living room mantel in dead saints and crucifixes. After a while, I added dead branches. And xmas lights. This was long before the current fad of dead branch/antler decorating, but I’m sure if I would have had antlers, I would have added those too.

The 1915 house – This mantel was ruined by brick “updating” in the seventies. I had high hopes for it to eventually match the flanking built-in cabinets by restoration, but it wasn’t to be for us. The water came in and we left. For Halloween (dead branches again, I’m cheap):

The blue cottage in the woods – this house was a totally cute and totally neglected craftsmen bungalow. If I hadn’t been in exile and the heating bill hadn’t been insane (insane!), I would have been happier here. I can only hope the slumlords sold it and some crafty couple is fixing it up. Mississippi is a hotbed of cheap antiques and I filled up that mantel in no time. I also had time for paintin’ gourds:

I’m thinking of finding a mantel at one of the salvage places and just gluing it to the wall in the bedroom. I’m not sure there is room. It’s a shame those new fangled plug-in fireplaces are not attractive.

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