In the Northwoods, especially on chilly nights, I look out my cabin window and see the flickering quality of a campfire. I see a fire reflected onto the lake, shimmering on waves, or a lick of flames hiding in the trees. Taking the uneven path, I make my way to the most promising fire. I learn to love the crunching sound my moccasins make on the worn pebbles. I always find huddles of people sharing campfire snacks, or stories, jokes, and simply conversation. The combination of all of these elements creates a great atmosphere, my favorite part of a fire.
On a pleasantly dark and nippy night, I found myself in a gathering of assorted campers. I was with my best friend, and we squeezed onto logs between people we did not know well. As conversation progressed I noticed how everyone was becoming more and more genuine. I heard a wide range of stories about old times, some about that day, and others so inspirational I finally understood why people have hope.
Everyone at the fire felt warmth and a prominent sense of acceptance and equality. I felt emotionally connected to everyone else. I could feel the end of a story, warranting another, and I also became a more effective listener. There were no interruptions, no awkward silences, and no pointed remarks. No one brought up sensitive topics, and no one was excluded or felt alone.
Then I began to wonder why I was not always this comfortable. I was with the same people as I had been for a few days, but I felt closer to them. I realized, gradually, that I believe campfires erase judgments, encourage bonding, and give a sense of acceptance to everyone present.
People have always been drawn to fires, seeking comfort, warmth, and companionship. Around a campfire I do not lose who I am, but lose what I am thought to be. I reveal my pure personality. The untainted form of everyone around the fire draws them nearer to each other. The bond created is not one of friendship, but of a new kind of deep appreciation that radiates out of the flames.
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