To Build A Fire

One of many fires in our Coleman outdoor hearth

My first intention for this post was to actually detail how to build a fire. But as I wrote about dead limbs and twigs, bark, leaves, grasses, weeds, anything dry and thin and small for kindling, I came to a stopping point. Do I emphasize my preference for log cabin construction over tee-pee techniques? Then it struck me that if an adult does not know how to build a fire, well, so be it. One should know how to do almost anything today, because there is an internet video showing how. Or thousands. So, I began pondering why to build a fire in the first place. Originally used for warmth, safety and cooking, all three of those reasons have been supplanted by modern means, including home furnaces and water heaters, electric lights and stoves. So why build a fire today? First, it is a social event in which everyone present can participate, whether it is adding wood, adjusting the structure as it burns down, or roasting weenies and marshmallows. Second, it can stimulate conversations you might not have in everyday situations. Talking about work and politics and sports might begin the evening, but once the fire gets to burning and creating a coal bed the topics will eventually move on. Dreams and aspirations, remembering loved ones who have passed, reminiscing over good times and bad, discussing current and past relationships, all pour out as the night continues. What is it that makes one open up and talk about so many things normally kept hidden away? The magic is you are all absorbed with looking at the fire, not at each other. You give a glance at the others occasionally while making a point, or for emphasis here and there, but the flames are working their enchantment by now. By using the fire as a sort of mediator, you talk to it as much as to the folks around you. A kind of trance can set in, and you are now saying what you really want to, as does everyone else present. You have been transported to a way of conversation with others that has existed for thousands of years, but is almost forgotten in the modern world. As the evening winds down, the flames burn out and everyone goes their separate way a tranquil feeling lingers. All this is why you will build another fire, the sooner the better.