Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Gift from the Gods

Earth.  Wind.  Water.  Fire.  The Four Elements.  I am particular to wind, because my American Indian ancestors believed wind is the whispers of all the souls who have gone before us.  There is wisdom in the wind.  But my favorite element is fire, because it is the only one I can create.

I can't make dirt, nor would I want to.  I suppose I could blow air out of my lungs and create wind, but it would be a pathetic attempt to mimic God.  I can't make water either.  I've never figured out how to combine hydrogen with oxygen at home.  I don't even know what hydrogen looks like, but I'm pretty sure it's not in my kitchen cupboards.

But fire is the one element I can create.  All I need is oxygen - hey, isn't there lots of that in the air? - heat, and fuel.  The fuel is the key to my bonfires, because cut firewood is expensive, so I have to get creative in finding wood.  I love my bonfires.  They bring to me a sense of peace, of everything being right, and warmth on a cold day so I can still be outside.

Ancient people believed that fire is a gift from the Gods.  I feel the same way.  God provides me with the other elements, but He lets me share His power to create fire.  It brings me closer to God.  As always, with power comes responsibility, and I am aware of this as I worry about setting the garage roof on fire.  It's a little close to my bonfire pit, so I monitor my fires very closely.  I really do not want to set my house on fire.

I take comfort in the routine of starting a bonfire.  Starting with dryer lint packed tightly in an empty toilet paper roll, I build a tepee out of twigs, then use my ax to split a piece of wood into kindling, add it to the tepee, and put two pieces of split wood over the structure.  I have two of the three ingredients needed now; oxygen and fuel.  I just have to create heat.

Courtesy Google Images
Courtesy Google Images
I know how to use a bow drill to create a spark.  But at home, I cheat with a Scripto clicker lighter, because who has time to make a bow drill and patiently wait for enough heat to generate to cause a spark?  If I were lost in the wilderness for days with no provisions, I could start a fire.  I choose to be prepared by always carrying a Scripto and a box of wooden matches when I hike.

There is something satisfying about the initial whoosh! of fuel catching fire.  Standing over the fire, waiting for more wood to catch so the heat intensifies and spreads out.  Heat from a bonfire is more encompassing than an electric heater.  Food cooked on an open fire tastes better than that which is prepared in my kitchen oven.  Sitting on a log, hands wrapped around a cup of coffee, and staring at the flames evens my breathing, slows my heart rate, and lets stress melt away in the heat of the flames.  It is my ahhhhhh moment.

What fire gives, fire can take away.  In Spring 2012, the Duck Lake fire in Michigan's Upper Peninsula devastated a once dense forest area, destroyed homes, and handed the area is most crushing blow by burning down the Rainbow Lodge.  An icon for decades, the Lodge was the only stopping point for fishermen and snowmobilers in the U.P.'s northeastern quarter.

I hiked the entire Duck Lake Fire grounds in October 2012.  The silence was complete.  No birds chirped, no animals skittered in the undergrowth.  There were no places for creatures to find shelter or food.  It was eerie and it made me sad.  The cost of a forest fire is enormous, not just to the wildlife, but in the form of dollars spent fighting it.  The following link explains the hidden costs of wildfires:

The Duck Lake Fire also will result in a blow to the area's already struggling economy.  Without the Rainbow Lodge, where will visitors go?

My Bonfire

Whether at home, a campground, or in the wilderness, I am always very careful with a fire.  I have tremendous respect for its power and the responsibility that comes with unleashing its energy.  But I also am mesmerized by it.  As my fire dies down, the coals glow white hot.  The energy shifts and darts like a living thing.  A bonfire has a distinct personality which taunts me into believing I have power, then laughs at me for the foolish notion.

I find any excuse to start a bonfire.  As these winter days stretch on and on, my fires keep me outside, swinging an ax and hauling split wood up the hill to the courtyard outside my kitchen, where the fire is usually burning and guests are always welcome.  It is a gift from God.