This I Believe

Sharon - Jacksonville, Florida
Entered on January 20, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
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This I Believe

Just a hint of wood burning in the air, and I am transported to a shady clearing in a pine forest. I believe there is magic in a campfire.

It is a glorious, early fall, Friday evening. Like bumble bees released from a jam jar, Cub Scout troop, 169, lazily fall from the minibus. Within minutes they are buzzing about the clearing, exploring, and all fighting for the same spot to pitch a tent. Sites closest to the campfire are prized and defended. Being a grown up, I pull rank and claim a prime location. A soft carpet of pine needles and foliage, several inches thick, make a luxurious foundation.

Tents and kitchen are set up, now for our favorite chore, firewood! One doesn’t have to work hard in these generous woods. It is as if Mother Nature was expecting us and laid out a banquet of dry logs and kindling for our enjoyment. The boys scream with delight as they uncover a skink from his moist dark refuge, an abandoned wriggling tail being the only evidence that he was ever there. No creature will be safe for the next two days! Soon our campfire is raked out and our kindling is stacked, ready to come to life.

What is the magic of fire? As the scout master strikes the match, all eyes are transfixed on the bright yellow flame glowing in the blue grey dusk. It takes but minutes and the fire is burning in all its glory. White smoke bellows up into the canopy of longleaf pines, filling the clearing with an intoxicating, musky aroma. It transforms us. We abandon our sensible, civilized identities that carry us through the week, and become wild instinctual creatures of the forest. We are Indians. We are wolves howling at the moon, and deer leaping over fallen pines, fleeing into the undergrowth. We are savage and hungry, dirt in our food, dirt in our hair and under our fingernails. Our faces are blackened by the campfire smoke.

There is no sleep like the sleep by a campfire. As I lay, face down, hugging the earth, like a child clinging to his mother, I feel peace, and surrender to the earth. I am pure white campfire smoke, floating up, up, up into the orange glowing canopy. There is magic in a campfire, this I believe.