Living on a lake in a small town in New York, I can’t help but think about winter and warmth and living through the cold. When it’s 10 degrees and even my wood floors are cold, I long for an old country house in Kizhi that I saw when visiting the Church of the Transfiguration, a remarkable wooden structure built in 1714 and constructed without a single nail because nails were too scarce and too expensive. Located on an island on Lake Onega, Kizhi is now a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site.
The church, indeed, is transformative, but so, too, is the little village that surrounds it. Inhabitants in previous centuries endured harsh Russian winters in cozy cabins that also housed their animals. I am charmed by a cradle suspended from a hook that slides from point to point in the main room. I like the idea of an open living space and wonder why, even today, so many people feel compelled to divide their homes into different rooms. Why not share more time with those around you? Too soon, they will move on to other things, out to other homes, colleges, cities. Most attractive to me is a multifunctional fireplace. Food is cooked and heat emanates from the burning logs at the base of the fireplace. Young children and grandparents would sleep on blankets on top of the fireplace during the winter.
That’s the place I would claim no matter what my age, and the type of fireplace I long for now as I face a long cold winter here in New York.