Day 11: On fire

Everything burns.

The first thing you have to do is set up the cabin. Logs, eighteen inches or so long and a few inches in diameter, stacked two-by-two up six or seven layers high. That’s your fuel.

Inside the cabin, you construct a teepee. Smaller pieces of wood, four or six of them, standing up on end leaning into each other. They should stand tall out the top of the cabin.

Inside the teepee, you must arrange your catalysts: kindling and tinder. Your kindling should be tiny pieces of wood, twigs, stray pieces from the logs. Your tinder can be anything that will ignite. Newspaper balled-up works well or frayed manila rope. Place the tinder at the very center of the teepee, surround it by your kindling.

Make sure there is enough space for oxygen flow into the center of the cabin. It needs to reach the very bottom of the teepee. Oxygen is essential for combustion. Oxygen is essential for longevity. You can’t smother it. You need to give the fire enough space to breath. Enough space to grow.

Apply your heat source – matches, lighter, flint and steel – directly to the tinder. Spark one side, then the opposite side. Let the fire take over the center of your design. Watch it catch, heat up, and spread from layer to layer. If it’s set up just right and conditions are ideal – no strong winds, no dampness or precipitation  – this will happen without any adjustment on your part.

The flame burns through the tinder almost immediately. The kindling catches next and burns for a couple minutes. The teepee will be a tough jump to make. If it ignites, you’re in good shape.

The teepee will burn standing for 20 minutes or so. The flames will rise the highest. It burns blue, red, orange, yellow. Smoke billows up. Ash flies into the sky. The heat is real, and very close.

The teepee will burn and some of the cabin will begin to smolder. When the teepee has exhausted all it can in its current construction, it will collapse into itself.

This is the fire working as designed.

Inside the cabin you now have the beginning of a capable fire. It’s steady and consistent. The leap from this contained inferno to the greater goal is the most difficult. The fuel logs are the thickest and the most resilient to burn. You must trust that what you’ve set into motion at the very heart of the construction is strong enough to engulf the most stubborn.

Once lit, the fuel will burn for hours. And hours. You can add more logs. Any length, any thickness.

It will all burn.

You swirl your glass of whiskey. You take a sip. You recognize the parallels of the burning sensation with the fire. You pull in the smoke.

You’ve been staring into the flames the entire time. It captivates you. It’s primal. It brings you back down to earth and simplifies things.

You realize that you are taking part in an ancient ritual. You realize the very steps you have taken, though altered with the advancements of technology, have been followed exactly dating back to men living in caves. Providers.

Fire became a gathering place. Originally for the warmth and heat it provided, it was about survival. The very life essentials we take for granted today were reliant upon a healthy fire’s construction.

Around fires, stories are shared. Memories are shared. It’s communal.

The world is black, illuminated only by the blaze you’ve created with your hands. The flames light up your face and the faces of the friends and family who have circled around. You look a little different in that light: to your neighbors and to yourself.

Fixated on the flames, you’ve dug deeper into your soul than you usually do. Something about the heat, the warmth, the energy that pulls you inwards. You think about your life. Your successes and failures. Your trials and tribulations. Your worries and fears. Your hopes and dreams.

The fire boils them down to the most basic elements.

You begin to realize all your worries and fears have been felt before. By a man in a cave, a pioneer in the wilderness, a man on a beach. Your concerns and issues have the same primal root cause. You’re not the only one. You’re not alone.

Add another log to the fire. Continue to fuel the flame.

__

DAY 10: ON CONNOTATION AND DENOTATION
DAY 9: ON THE TIME I BROKE MY RIBS
DAY 8: ON THE FOUR UNDERSTANDINGS FOR A HAPPY LIFE
DAY 7: DEAR ERIC
DAY 6: ON WHY YOU’RE HAVING TROUBLE DATING IN YOUR 20′S, LADIES
DAY 5: ON SUNRISES AND SUNSETS
DAY 4: ON PARADISE
DAY 3: ON SMOKE AND WHISKEY
DAY 2: ON HOW CLOSE I WAS TO NOT EVEN GOING TO COLLEGE
DAY 1: WHY I’M WRITING EVERY DAY FOR 40 DAYS
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