11 July 2007

On Returning to the Bustle, Thinking of the Campfire

I'm back, and the raccoons have never had it so good.

A week at 3000 feet on a bump in the Appalachians was good for me -- mostly pleasant weather, good canoeing, and a never exasperated campfire putting the heat on a grill filled with veggies and mush. Good camping, indeed.

Let's get one thing straight right off. Camping takes many forms, but in its truest form (especially in the communal form where there's a kids' tent) it is the art of sharing -- sharing the woods with the animals that are of course more permanent residents and sharing space and food and conversation among friends and family. Even when the trip is undertaken alone, one soon senses that 'alone' is a futile notion (usually around midnight when the owl begins to call his cautious summons and the denizens of scrap-eaters wander on-site).

I'm planning on closing out this week with a couple posts about camping and eating. I think that's worth writing about. At its most essential of course, camping is really just celebrating one's ability to subside. And this gets to the heart of the matter.

Further, camping brings out something of the nomad in me. In the last thirteen years, I've had nine addresses; however I've been at the current one for the last three years. Camping gets me back out there into different surroundings and I think that's got everything to do with its appeal. MJ and I have camped from California to Massachusetts and set fires and tarnished grills all the way across this nation. The camp and the campfire represent the stops along the road where the abstract notion of space and country were superceded by the more intimate and personal acts of cooking, eating, and resting.

There is something holy about eating and sleeping and living outside of walls; and it centers around that campfire. The campfire is the hearth of the camp. It's the source of warmth on a damp morning and the source of light amidst the howls of the late-night coyotes of wilderness; it is stove and artwork and entertainment. By its presence, it teaches us that all of these things are interconnected and one; it breaks down the categories we love to encumber things with. The campfire is the most simple physical reminder of humility. Without it, we perish.

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