Terri Kaiser

Have you ever been mesmerized by a campfire? It can be the most relaxing thing in the world.

A few days ago, I started a fire with all the paper garbage we save and despite that old man winter had shown up way too early, it was comforting somehow. When I was a kid, I loved playing with fire. Didn’t burn down any structures or start any wildfires but poking at a campfire was such fun. Still is. Of course, the real entertainment comes from arranging the wood just so and stuffing paper in here and there to see what will come of it once the match is struck.

We live not far from a campground and sometimes, if the wind is just right, we can catch a whiff of the campfires blazing away as campers enjoy that simplest of pleasures. And I know, around those fires there’s laughter and comradery, maybe some music. The woody, smoky aroma brings me back to all those campfires of the past and looking forward to those of the future.

In these days of social distancing, a campfire is the one way we can still get together with family and friends and be safe. A few weeks ago, we did just that. We gathered with friends around a roaring fire, drank warmed Fireball apple cider and shared stories of old and new. We sat under the stars as leaves of red, orange, and yellow drifted to earth around us. There were a few silent moments where everyone stared into the dancing flames, comforted by the friendship felt all around. The scent of the fire filled the air and warmed us until later when blankets were brought out and we snuggled up, chuckling over the dumb things we’d done in our youth, and marveling at the passage of time.

Such a wonderful memory centered around something as simple as a fire well-tended and experiencing the warmth of the Caribbean on one side of our bodies, the Arctic on the other,

Have you ever tried meditation? I have. Doesn’t work for me. As I sit there on the floor, focusing on letting all worries and concerns slide from my tense limbs, somewhere in the background my brain is telling me there’s a load of laundry waiting, the dishes are wanting to be washed, and my little toe itches. But a fire, now that’s the closest I come to that Zen place where nothing else matters but the snap and spit of those orange flames. Truly, I could sit by a fire for hours on end and feel all is right with the world.

As a kid, we camped a lot and some of the best times were sitting around the fire at night listening to our parents and their friends tell stories of the past, laughter lifting into the night air. So many of those dear people are gone now, but the wonderful memories still linger. We roasted marshmallows and made smores with sticky fingers and faces, but the best will always be a slightly burnt hot dog. Nothing better.

Just maybe, a good campfire could alleviate some of the angst of this past year. And I don’t mean to be dismissive of those fighting the fires out west and those trying to survive them. Let’s all send a prayer for deliverance from the devastation they continue to face.

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