This I Believe

Hal - Homer, Alaska
Entered on September 3, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
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The Kindling of Friendship

I believe in bonfires and in my neighborhood. On a country road in Alaska, we gather around the Promethean gift, regardless of rain, snow, wind or cold. There has never been a cancellation- or a postponement. People always come; a testament of assembled tolerance. Both the spark of fire and the kindling of friendships draw us together. It is now a tradition.

The grill we still use over the burning spruce is coated from years of use with the remembrance of fresh salmon, steak, chicken, scallops, moose meat and brats. On these festive nights, other specialties are soon ushered to the table: deviled eggs, German potato salad, Vidalia onion pie, rhubarb crisp, fresh blue shelled mussels or oysters from across the bay, baked beans, wild lingonberry sauce, and the freshly baked bread.

I believe in potlucks for they bring to us a harvest of ourselves, a part of us we are willing to share and celebrate with others. Like a good year that makes a good wine, the monthly bonfire under the birch trees gives an already good year something impossible to duplicate for each is different in its own creativity, caritas and thanksgiving.

I believe in the commonality of man, where each of us is caught up in the comparable mysteries, complexities, struggles and celebrations of life. The enduring glow of the fire helps me share my own personal story as much as I enjoy being a personal part of the reflections of my good friends and their journeys. I like to think the magic of the flame entices us to trust the warmth and glow and vortex of our own hearts. We have our children, our grandchildren, our politics and religion, our divorces, our medical worries, our 9-5 careers, our untested jokes, and our personal misfortunes, just like any other normal cross section of American life. Yet, on these special evenings, on any given night, the bonfire extends an uncommon gift to our more normal selves.

As the evening wanes, we begin to depart and say goodnight to one another, each of us going home our separate ways. The glowing embers begin to fade as entropy mandates the fire’s fate. But we have temporarily escaped the disorder of things. We have come to reconnect from the grind of daily living–our pilgrimage simplified for a few hours. And for that, the world seems to make a bit more sense, and for me at least, a little more reassuring.

I believe our early, primitive ancestors must also have found it easier for them to gather, to share and speak and relate to one another around a fire than not and so too for us. The benevolence of being with the birch trees and the fellow- feeling of sharing a fire with friends, have its own grace for me. When Prometheseus boldly went forth to deliver us a torch from the sun, maybe this is partly what he had in mind.