May 25, 2006

Flame

fire

Memorial Day weekend is perfect for campfires. The weather is usually still a bit cool, and the mosquitoes in the north country have not yet hatched. As soon as the sun begins setting, the sky turning a spectacular red over the bay, we will began gathering around the firepit, fighting over chairs and dragging over the benches from the picnic table. We often have more than twenty people, and that’s a lot to fit around one fire. With-a-Why is still small enough that he can just claim someone’s lap – and the skinny women in the family will often sit two to a chair.

Few things are more relaxing than just gazing into a fire. People’s faces are sort of hidden, and a teenage boy dressed all in black with a headful of dark hair will disappear into the shadows altogether, invisible until he speaks up to tell a joke or begins to play the guitar or harmonica. My father tells the same stories every year: we hear about his first car, which was a ’36 Ford with a pop-out windshield. My mother will talk about her childhood summers spent down at the Jersey shore or on her Aunt Jane’s farm.

We play the same games every year: Twenty Questions is an old tradition. The newer tradition is a game in which a person yells out a word, and teams have to sing a line of a song with that word in it. My father, who is in his late seventies, often challenges some of the songs the young people come up with. He is always saying, "What? That’s not a song. I never heard of that one."

Firelight creates an easy sort of intimacy. You can join in the conversation if you want, but you can also just stare into the flames and listen, leaning against the person next to you, passing the bag of cookies around, petting one of the family dogs, or snuggling a small child. Eventually, the small kids fall asleep, and older family members go off to their tents for the night. The teenagers disappear to the teenage tent, and I take one last look at the flames before pouring a bucket of water on the fire, and watching the smoke rise to the night sky.

22 comments:

plainjain said...

What an amazing picture! We have taken many campfire photos, but none that give you that mesmerizing feeling of looking into a real fire.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

In Annie Dillard's "The Living," which is set at the turn of the last century, she talks about how one of main characters doesn't let smoke chase him around a fire. I always thought that conjured up a laconic, stoic figure...

Love the photo!

Oldman said...

For 26 years we lived in a house with two fireplaces, and I miss them greatly. When I grew up, there were fireplaces, and often after dinner we would just sit and stair into the fire for hours. There is a book “Disenchanted Night : The Industrialization of Light in the Nineteenth Century” that talks about firelight. Worth looking at if you can find it.

RageyOne said...

What a nice photo! Have fun this weekend. Can't wait to hear the stories you have to tell about the campfire.

peripateticpolarbear said...

awesome photo (in the true sense of that word). Have a fabuloso weekend.

liz said...

I love that photo. Do you folks ever play Botticelli?

Not Scott said...

Hey,
The photo is not "lovely" or "mesmerizing" or "nice." It is "awesome," but it certainly isn't a view of a comforting, cozy hearth. This photo bespeaks an engulfment by fire, the cosmos devoured by flames racing across. With no defineable edge, no context, the flames threaten to leap out of the screen, burning through laptop, monitor, coaxial and fiber optic.

It looked even better as it was loading, before the code turned the background white.

Bridget said...

beautiful photo- and your writing is making me homesick and familysick- the good kind, not the disgusted kind. :)

YT said...

Have fun! It just sounds wonderful. Often I wish we lived nearby so my kids could hang out with yours.

Seeking Solace said...

This is one of the coolest photos I have seen!

Friday Mom said...

Beautiful picture. Have a great time this weekend.

listmaker said...

What a great photo. Have a good weekend.

sb said...

Great pic.

Dr.K said...

You've posted lots of nice photos on your blog before, but this one is special. Like anything, fire's significance is contextual--sure, it can get out of control and be a force of wreckage, but the image here is inviting, drawing the viewer in through the flat industrial screen towards the fulfilling, surrounding comfort of the heat and the musky fragrance of the warm smoke and dancing flames. Just don't get too close! That's a good lesson from fire, too. Like a soft, purring cat that can scratch or the hangover that poisons you after one too many smooth glasses of Bordeaux, fire has to be indulged with the distance born of respect for its potential to burn.

sheepish said...

At first the pic looked liked flames on the surface of a black pool of water to me. I love the effect.

Anonymous said...

I have to echo what others have said about the allure of that picture. Simply amazing. Plus, I would love to be somewhere in the country where one could build a fire at night without dying of heatstroke.

As it is, I live in a place where the lows are nor in the 70s and the highs are in the 90s. Blech.

SuperB

kate5kiwis said...

y-e-a-h
and did yas play ZAP??
:o)

zelda1 said...

I envy you for the closeness you share with your family. While I come from a large family, only my older sister and I are close. This Memorial day, My older brothers and my older sister and I and our families are having a cook-out. My other three sisters are angry about something, who knows, it doesn't take much. I expect this is the last time I will see my next to the oldest brother, he is dying of emphysema.
I like the fire, I felt the warmth just looking at it. Have a good weekend.

Elysia said...

As always, your posts are very heartwarming. Thanks for sharing.

jayfish said...

great picture! and a wonderful post.

halloweenlover said...

Wow! What a picture! And I totally agree about campfires. They make any moment special.

cloudscome said...

You remind me of how good hot dogs taste with sand in them... and burned marshmallows.