The smell of smoke is all around me. I can feel it entering my body and filling me up. My entire being will take on the scent of the fire with a smoky smell. I can see the embers slowly floating away and fading in the darkness, their lives extinguished by the cold air. They burst from the fire with an excitement about them, as if they are off on an adventure and then, just as quickly as they began, they are extinguished, no longer on their journey.
The heat is, at first, a pleasant and calming experience. As time goes on, it becomes more difficult to withstand and I must move farther away from the flame in order to feel the comfort of the fire. It is a constant balance between the cold layers, which lie too far away from the flames, and the blazing heat in the fire’s core. There is a place, somewhere in between, that offers a peace where the fire gives its warmth and holds my thoughts without seeking to do harm to my body. There is a crack, and then another, as the wood rumbles in its fight to maintain itself for a while longer, while the fire seeks to consume all the fuel that is offered. I see the blue tones beginning to form down deep in the low areas of the fire where the logs have been burning for the longest time and now make up the hottest temperature in the pit.
The smell of the juniper begins to permeate my pours as it mixes with the flames to become a part of the earth once again, turned to ashes by the fire. Thoughts become confused as memories of past fires come in to my being and a parade of friends file past me in their dance around the ring. I can see distant canyons and snow covered peaks, slick rock vistas and skies with infinite stars. I hear talk of the days’ hike and wonder what tomorrow will bring. I think of lovers in days gone by and the innocence of my children and their fixation with the fires that we have shared. A slow silent inner peace begins to consume me as my meditation now shifts to my own satisfaction with the warmth and beauty of the fire. Then a playful moth is drawn to the flames and cannot resist the light to which it is drawn. It darts toward the flame and its death. This process is repeated over and over again as each new moth can only follow it passion to embrace the light, the light that can only end its short life.
There is a feeling of distance as if no one is around and I am alone with the fire. Another pop and I am brought back to the reality of the fire’s heat and power. It continues to burn up slowly, always reaching higher and higher, but never getting any higher than some level above it that seems to always stop it from burning up to the heavens.
My skin is getting warmer and dryer as the flames continue to burn. Tightness now surrounds my body as I am warmed more and more by the heat. There is a brittleness about me that I begin to feel as I grow hotter and hotter by the fire. I need to turn and let the warmth reach my backside while my front cools by turning away from the flames. I can smell the odor of my own body, now accentuated by the heat from the flames. Any dampness in my clothes is now gone and their dry texture gives off a strong smell of smoke which will stay with them for a long time.
The flames begin to die as the wood turns to ash and there is little fuel left for the fire to feast upon. This is now the silent dying of the fire that lasts all night. I sit and watch as the embers take on a heartbeat of their own, pounding a steady beat as a soft wind blows intermittently from the West. The glow brightens and fades and brightens and fades with the patterns of the wind. The fire is a friend that I will miss when it finally dies and becomes, once again, a part of the earth. It is a slow death, however, and this departure of the flames will last long into the night. The fire will be hiding in the depths of the ashes when the light of morning rolls around.
“The longest journey begins with a single step, not with a turn of the ignition key. That’s the best thing about walking, the journey itself. It doesn’t much matter whether you get where you’re going or not. You’ll get there anyway. Every good hike brings you eventually back home. Right where you started.” Edward Abbey