As the days get shorter and the evenings are cooler, I am rediscovering the peaceful enjoyment of the firepit. There is something about watching the flames and smelling the woodsmoke that creates a bone deep contentment and releasing of tension.
Maybe it goes back to the days of living in caves, when a fire was the ultimate barrier against predatory animals, having a crackling blaze created a sense of security, allowing mankind the ability to relax and rest.
I just know that as the fire dances and sparks pop, I can actually feel muscles in my neck and back unknot as tension from the day seeps away. The colors and movement are almost hypnotic and as I sit there, recalling other fires from years past.
My grandpa had an old woodstove in his machine shop; it had the grates where if you stood at a certain angle you could just see the fire between the metal slats. Not only did it keep his little shop warm, he also used it to roast the peanuts he grew. The smell of machine oil, roasting peanuts and sassafras wood smoke brings a sense of contentment and companionship from long ago as a young girl, I sat on a high stool watching him putter about in that shop.
4-H camp was the highlight of the summer from the age of 9 until high school graduation. Evening activities always included vespers around the campfire when the weather was cooperative. Ghost stories, silly skits and songs were the typical fare as we huddled together in mock fear of the dark woods around us.
Camp councilors were quick to assure us no one had ever found the kid who left the campfire to go back to the cabin during vespers. It was a delicious, shivery feeling as we sat on the enormous logs on the back row around the fire pit. As sparks popped and snapped into the pitch of the night, it created an intimate feeling with fellow campers — and making every ax murdered/ ghost story we were ever told suddenly possible.
The house we moved into when I was barely a teen had a woodstove in it. It was the sort meant to be more decorative than functional. Squat and square with red ceramic bricks outlining a metal plate on top, we would fire that thing up as hot as we could get it to heat our home since the house did not have a furnace.
In wintertime, the bathroom would have ice in the bottom of the bathtub and upstairs; we slept with multiple layers on to stay warm. In the evenings, we would sit in the living room, wrapped in blankets and throws, playing UNO or Crazy 8’s; whoever was nearest to the stove had to keep an eye on the fire through the glass plated front, tossing in chunks of wood to keep us warm and lumps of coal to prolong the warmth prior to going to bed.
In college, it was not uncommon to attend parties with a campfire, music and “liquid refreshment”. We would dance, goof off and have a wonderful time under the stars. We were young, dumb and clueless about what life was going to bring our way.
I remember those nights fondly and a degree of sadness for those friends who have either passed away, or who have faded from my life. The lyrics “Don’t you forget about me, I’ll be alone, dancing you know it baby…” echo in my memory along with laughter and the smell of cheap wine coolers and the smoky haze of damp wood smoldering. In those moments, we knew everything and were going to change the world, becoming wealthy in the process. Time presented a different reality.
So many flames, with different scenarios. So many different people, emotions, and moments. Still, the fire beckons and like an old friend invites you to be still and embrace the moment. I listen to the tree frogs, crickets and night birds, fireflies dance in the distance and the moon rises. I am alone even as the ghosts of nights gone by flit about. The flames turn to embers, then to ashes. Another memory of a fire is born.
Written and submitted by Sarah Roush for The Circleville Herald. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.