Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fire Therapy

Gie me a spark o' nature's fire, that's a' the learning I desire.
-Robert Burns

A place of joy.

One can lose a lot of problems in a fire. There's something fundamental about flames, it's as if they call out to the very atoms of your body, reminding them of the stars in which they were first born. We have been sitting around fires tens of thousands of years, it is our oldest companion. One can not just sit with this ancient friend, one must feed it and poke it and explore it. Otherwise it fades away. To have a fire is not a passive activity. One interacts with the fire.

In most people's lives television has replaced fire. Instead of story tellers spinning great yarns of incredible adventures, joys, and heartbreaks in the minds of their audience, people sit and watch the same stories acted out for eyes/ears only. There is no mind involved. There is no imprinting the stories with their own hopes, dreams, and fears. There is no playing with the fire.

Sometimes on has to return to fire. Playing with the flames, feeding is beautiful hunger, feeding yourself of food cooked over it's coals...these things recharge a body worn down by the days and nights of modern life.

Sunday Clark and I escaped into the borderlands for a day of fire therapy. We had both been working ourselves to the bone. It was time to relax. By 8:30am we were off the known trails, bushwhacking our way towards Spring Creek. Hurricane Ike had swept through the area as both fierce winds and a wall of water nearly 20ft high. The landscape we knew had been changed turning old grounds into a place of new adventure. Each step brought a discovery.

A fire extinguisher left in a tree after the flood waters receded.

A spider 4" long from tip to tip. These guys are all over out there. It sucks to end up with one crawling on your face because you weren't paying attention to where you were going and walked through it's web. Though it is funny if it happens to someone else...

A beaver-chewed tree.

Spring Creek.jpg
A place of joy.

We had many sandbars to chose from, but we always wanted to see what was around the next bend of the river so we didn't stop until about 11am. I built a fire while Clark lashed together a tripod to support his cooking pot. Tripods are great for adjusting the exact position of your pot, but I prefer the simplicity of a dingle-stick. I was just boiling water for some tea so I didn't need a lot of exactitude in my setup.

I can't say this enough: tinder/toothpicks/pencil sticks/finger-sticks/etc to make a "one match" fire. The tinder was a clump of dry pine needles and each layer of the fire after that doubled in diameter. The big stuff isn't put on until the smaller stuff is raging away in a good blaze.

Dry kindling can often be split out of damp wood by batoning a blade along the grain of the wood. A fixed blade knife with a flat spine can be used though here I am using my tomahawk. I like the tomahawk because it is light yet very effective. You don't want to use a folding knife for this as striking the blade will cause it to break the locking mechanism and fold up on you. A fixed-blade knife with a saw back or a sharp (or even semi-sharp) spine will chew up you striking-stick before you are able to accomplish the task, plus sawback knives can easily crack by striking their back.

Clark's tripod over the fire, my dingle-stick coming in from the right.

Hawaiian Tea.jpg
Tea from a good friend who I've never actually met. Sidenote: that is nine days worth of facial hair on my upper lip and chin.

Clark is many years removed from his Boy Scout days and his tripod wasn't quite up to par. Since we didn't want to cut any green, living wood it was made from the same dry driftwood we were using for the fire. This resulted in a flaming tripod but that was okay. We weren't out there to accomplish feats of engineering.

So fire burned, jalapeno sausages and Mountain House lasagna were eaten, Merriwether's special Brandy+X was drank, and the problems facing the world were tackled. The fire died down and was rebuilt several times.

Finally it was time to let it die for good. Sadly one can not live their entire life staring into the flames, we both had to return to our responsibilities, our families, our modern lives. But this was okay. Our spirits were recharged, our stomachs were full, and we had a long walk along through the borderlands to get back to my truck. Back home, our wives and daughters would be excited by our return, especially since we were getting back earlier than originally planed. This is a good thing. Sometimes it can be a very, very good thing!

Crossing Panther Creek. The day was only in the 50's but the sun had warmed the water up to a point where walking through it wasn't painful.

A place of joy.

Hopefully y'all are now thinking 'I need to do that". You are right, you do need to do that. Get some of your buds together, pick up a cheap patio fire pit or other fire ring, turn some logs into kindling and then into ash while talking to one another. There is old magic in doing this, but it is magic the world needs right now.

Peace be with you.


Packman said...

Hmm. Not the same thing, but I got away for a while on Sunday by going to the Jets - Broncos game in NY. Let me tell you, when it's raining and in the high-30s out, the family next to us who brought a firepit to the tailgate party became VERY popular. Literally warmed the soul - and the rest of the body. Your adventure sounds like it was much more relaxing.

On the plus side, my 8-year old goretex parka and pants still keep the water out. . .

Izzy G. said...

Growing a beard, too? I'm on day 5 of growing my own after I shaved my head cause a friend has cancer. I got you beat in quantity, I think.

bdtx said...

It's always amazing to me what's still out there right next to a huge metropolis like Houston. Not that the little suburb I live in doesn't have some tributaries (yuck saltwater though), but almost all that land is owned, and none of it is as beautiful as that. I need to do that. ;) Maybe just a random beach in Galveston and a fishing rod..

clarktx said...

The flaming tripod was a bit funny and pithy :D I appreciate you pointing out that it wasn't for the success of doing it, instead, just because it got me back to somewhere I had been before. i don't think I'll make a tripod for another few years. Anyway you were a bit philosophical on this post and I rather liked it.

Thorian said...

As always I envy your posts from this frozen hel called Missouri.

I think the temp was 9*F yesterday and doubled that to 18*F today. WHOO HOO HEAT WAVE.

Anyway I have been playing with one of those little Swedish fire steels and can usually get my fire going by the second or third try now.

and I made a video of it :D

michaelvk said...

nice interesting blog. such kind of trips rejuvenate our souls.