Close your eyes and come away with me for a moment. We are sitting by a campfire. Flames are flickering and leaping, sparks flying off into the cold night air. Heavy logs are burning slowly – and then crumbling in a heap of glowing coals. The smoke seems to keep finding us no matter where we sit. People talk, laugh, remember, dream – and sometimes just fall silent, gazing into the flames. You gaze at those around you, their faces half-hidden in the darkness, and feel happy to be part of this campfire community….
Since early man (and woman!) first huddled around a fire, campfires have enabled communities to flourish. All right – I realize that in these days of electricity and all the wonders of technology we are pretty much removed from the reliance on campfires for providing our very basic needs. But we can still take the gifts of the campfire and build them into our lives, our communities.
As I sit by the fire, here’s the gifts I see:
• A sense of safety. Sitting in the glow of the fire, we feel protected from the darkness around. Who knows what wild animals, fierce beasties and the like may be out there? But around the fire, all is light and warmth and companionship.
• Campfires are used for ordinary, everyday activities. Cooking, boiling water for drinking and washing, clearing away rubbish – they let us carry out the day to day tasks we need to do to keep ourselves alive and well.
• Hopes, dreams and fears are shared. There’s something about a campfire that breaks down barriers, and encourages us to share more of what’s on our hearts. There is an Indigenous word – Dadirri – which implies s a deep listening , a being present, a sensing into what’s below the words. All this takes time. Campfires encourage this.
• Everyone is equal around the campfire. Everyone is in the circle. The fire’s gifts are available to us all.
Campfires start small. We begin with small leaves, twigs, kindling – gently breathing life into them, and then watching to see when to add the bigger sticks and logs.
• Campfires need attention. We need to be watching them, knowing when to put on more logs, when to stir things up, when to let them die down a little. And we need to use good, hard wood – no point putting on rubbishy stuff and expecting good coals.
• Campfires are for remembering, building and passing on our shared story. Jokes, stories, songs, tales of family, theories about life – this is the place to share them, to keep them alive.
• And marshmallows – don’t forget the marshmallows. Campfires remind us to savour the sweetness of life…
Campfires are made by people, for people. You are probably not sitting around a campfire. Maybe your campfires are few and far between, as mine are now. But those things the campfire provides are still essential for us to thrive. So I’m going to take those gifts of the campfire, and think about how I build them into my community, my “campfire circle”. I’m going to tend it carefully. And allow myself to be nourished by it.