After pitching our tent, we wandered around the camp for a while and as it grew cool in the late afternoon, the mosquitoes began feeding. It was time to build a fire. I set about the task, scrunching up some newspaper we had brought, loosely placing scraps of kindling wood over the top of that, and selecting a few of the most promising pieces of firewood to set on top. I touched a match to it and watched as little flames consumed the paper and made their way onto the kindling. Most of the flames burned out within a couple of minutes, but one tenacious little flicker remained at the base of one log. I sent it good vibes, willing it to spread.
My daughter watched me standing there staring at the flame and asked, “Have you done this before?” I realized that I hadn’t. “Aren’t you supposed to do something more to it?” I assured her that it just needed a little time to get going, and I continued to watch as the flicker dwindled into a wisp of smoke. More paper, more kindling, a lot of rearrangement for best combination of air circulation and proper wood contact. More matches. More attentive scrutiny, and finally we had a fire. Mission accomplished. Or?
Throughout the evening, as we sat watching the mesmerizing flames and talking, we would pause to consult as to whether the logs needed to be pushed together, whether it was time to add a log to the fire and if so, what the proper placement should be. What had begun as an initial chore to get this whole campfire thing rolling was turning into a continually evolving process of the ebb and flow of flames, the balance and timing in feeding the fire... a delicate dance with nature’s elements. And, lest we begin waxing too poetic, a lot of smoke in our eyes. It was absorbing, in a good way. And fun.
A Google search on campfire building yields over 7 million results. Techniques, tips, step by step instructions, words of wisdom from scoutmasters and even from Smokey the Bear (I had a crush on him when I was a kid). I had not thought to look up any of this information before setting out on our trip because it never dawned on me that I didn’t really know how to build a campfire. Had we been on some sort of survivalist outing in the Alaskan wilderness in the dead of winter, this oversight wouldn’t have been a good thing. But as it was, it was refreshing to figure something out on our own, with a little trial and error, a little contemplation, a cooperative effort, and yeah, probably some sheer luck thrown in.
Maybe I need to learn to trust myself a little more, to learn to savor the process in activities rather than only focusing on the outcome, to stop and smell the… smoke? At brain school they call it mindfulness. I’m going to call it a fun camping adventure with my daughter, and I’m looking forward to the next time. Maybe we’ll discover something else we didn’t know we couldn't do.
Here's to soft beds,