There's Something about a Fire

As the leaves and temperatures begin to turn and fall ushers in winter, a campfire seems even more special than any other time of year.  Now don’t get me wrong, a campfire is an essential part of the state park experience even when the temperatures are hovering at the 90 degree mark, but this time of year they perform like no other.  The chilly nights and brisk cool mornings make it a no-brainer as to if you should build a fire or not.  Yes, there is something about a fire.

As I write this month’s column I torn between which fire I like best: the morning fire, or the evening fire. Both have their merits, but they are indeed very different.  There’s something about a fire. So just what makes a fire so special and endearing to us?  Let’s see- the dictionary defines fire as “a state, process, or instance of combustion in which fuel or other material is ignited and combined with oxygen, giving off light, heat, and flame.” I prefer Henry David Thoreau’s thoughts on a fire best.  Thoreau writes: “The fire is the main comfort of the camp, whether in summer or winter, and is about as ample at one season as at another.  It is as well for cheerfulness as for warmth and dryness.” Whichever definition you prefer, we can all agree there is indeed something about a fire.  Campfires are for quiet moments, for laughter and stories, for marshmallows and tin foil and memories that will last a lifetime. 

Now back to that debate, morning or evening fire.  I do love waking up early, slowly sticking my head out of the tent first as if dipping my toe into the water in the summer to see if it’s just right.  As the boldness of the morning air greets you, you realize that it is indeed a little chilly. The rest of your body follows your head and slowly you make your way out of the tent and into the new day.  Soon you are out gathering the necessary ingredients for that morning fire. Oh there’s sticks and kindling, a few logs, and of course a cup of coffee. I’m not sure it helps with the fire itself but it does seem fitting that the coffee starts when the fire starts.  As the fire begins, the smoke signals in a new day and the warmth provides you with comfort and security.  Then, there’s the best part of a morning fire- the quiet. Just you, the fire and the dawn of a new day.  The sounds of silence are interrupted by pops and crackling from the fire that seem to compliment the quietness rather than compete with it.  It’s you, the fire, and a cup of coffee that nestles into both your hands and provides the extra warmth needed to keep the fire going.  Time for reflection, until the sounds of silence are broken with others awaking to the smells of a morning fire. While others gather around the fire they too seem content to let the fire do most of the talking.

While quiet seems to be the overriding theme of a morning fire, the flames of an evening fire appear to attract to more conversations and laughter.  There's the darkness, the magic of the embers and the flames that have even the quietest people telling tales and recapping the events of the day.  The evening fire is soon surrounded by stories, questions and laughter. The evening fire also procuresfood found no other place but under the watchful care of a campfire.  The delicacies cooked in tin foil full of food that can be prepared in any kitchen but seem to taste better under the stars in front of a fire.  Then there’s those treats that can only truly be enjoyed by the fire: s’mores! Regardless of the meal it’s the fire that is the center of attention.  I’m not sure what’s more impressive… the glow of the fire or the glow on someone’s face as their smile is highlighted by the dancing embers of an evening fire.The evening fire brings with it the all the right elements for conversation. 

So what’s your favorite type of fire?  The one that wakes you up on a crisp fall morning and ushers in a new day, or the glow of an evening fire as the stars shine down from above? Which one is my favorite?  Well…it depends on the time of day!  Chilly nights and cool morning are finally here. Time to check out which campfire you like the best.  There is indeed, something about a fire.

See you in the parks!

Phil