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photo (4)“It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake”—Frederick Douglass

Last night found me sitting beside fire. I have a lifetime fascination with fire: it is a force that we try to tame, to subdue, to extinguish. And yet, we coax it back into existence with careful breaths, dry kindling and faith. We glory in its beauty, heat, and primeval fearsomeness. It is among the majestic elements: earth, water, air and fire. And like my primitive ancestor, I make offerings to it—though mine are along the lines of a used paper plate, charred food that falls off my skewer, or a branch of dry pine needles to snap and flare like an angry beast.

Last night we gathered around a semi-tame fire. After a filling meal and birthday cake (my son’s birthday), we postponed smores for another occasion, but gave in and triedphoto (3) roasted Starbursts. I tried to coax out some campfire songs and in resignation, rendered a concluding verse (to the amusement of my family—not sure if it was the lyrics or me): [in regard to the ark Noah built “out of ancient barky”] “the animals they came off, they came off by threesies threesies.” More coaxing and we got a few stories—a favorite being about the 100+ year-old house my daughter-in-law grew up in. Her memories of good times and small spaces that a child likes to explore were wonderful.

Campfires (even the backyard fire pit variety) inspire stories. And star-gazing. And cuddling: the dogs were more than willing to have us scratch behind their ears or give them reassuring pats. And in some of us, campfires inspire songs. (Maybe what we needed was a guitar.) They also inspire a desire to sleep under the stars.

Which my son was determined to do. I went home with the consolation that I could still smell the fire in my jacket.

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