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Stoking the Fire, Feeding the Soul

 ~ By Hanna Elizabeth

There is something synonymous about fall, cookouts and bonfires.  Perhaps it’s the cooler temperatures, the leaves changing, a myriad of bright colors or the bright stars overhead. Standing around a bonfire this past weekend, I started to wonder if it wasn’t solely the weather but possibly something more. Something deeply rooted in our collective psyche; perhaps some tribal memory or, maybe it was just really cold and we all needed the fire to stay warm.

What I saw was how people reacted to the fire, even the children and especially the animals. Animals are instinctual, they know not to get too close, but they also want to be near the heat. They long for a pack so, as the only pack around, humans fill that void quite nicely. Our host’s six month old Shih Tzu Walter, greeted everyone enthusiastically, watched us all closely and then after some play, fell soundly asleep beside my chair.

Children, if they haven’t learned to fear fire, love to get as close as they can and then go running off, so full of energy, adults merely look on in awe. Adults on the other hand, sit or stand, encircling the fire. We share stories – not just the spooky ones, but every day stories of who we are and what brought us together in the dead of night to stand or sit in a circle around a fire. Before my very eyes, we were no longer strangers but we were transformed into a tribe. Nobody littered, it was taboo. Everyone kept their voices down. People remarked here and there about how many stars there were shining above. iPhones were tucked safely away in pockets and when it came time, someone always fed the fire, usually (but not always) a guy. When I think about what it must have been like when fire was the new hot item that every tribe of people had to have, I think about how it was used: in ceremony, in celebration, to cook food, and encompassing all those things, in the gathering of people. It was so sacred, an ember was kept warm and was carried from place to place by the tribe. Even now, autumn is the season of gathering what we’ve sown and sharing our bounty and celebrating the shortening of the days. But it does something more, it feeds the soul. It prepares us for the long winter nights ahead.

In our modern society, fire connects us with the world in a way that technology has yet to fully mimic. And how can it? We are primal, we are alive and when in the presence of fire, we can’t help but honor the tree that gave its life to be our fuel, the fire which sustains and warms us and the animals that gave up their lives to nourish us. We look to the stars and are grateful that they’re shining down and maybe we even realize how small we are on this little blue planet in comparison to the grandness of the cosmos. We treasure the time spent with our newly formed ‘tribe’. We protect a child who’s not our own. We share food and drink. We share stories. We are a tribe and when it’s time to leave, everyone is grateful for having shared the experience and maybe, like me, everyone feels the magic that lives all around us.

No matter where you are, city or country, cold weather or warm- I urge you to build a fire, invite some friends and share some food. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy and the fire can be anything from a big blazing bonfire to one contained within a new-fangled fire pit or even some torches scattered throughout your yard.

You too can experience the continuity of the human race.