Lesson learned from making #fire

I’m getting really fired up with ideas for this project. I would never have come this far had it not been for what I learned making fire during my first solo camp at Douglas Falls.


First things first, I need to pick up a few supplies, like a more suitable tent for sleeping out in warmer weather and a headlamp for pre-dawn hikes to watch the glory of a sunrise. I need a hand-held audio recorder for the interviews I intend to do, and a couple of devices to improve the quality of my videos. My laptop and cell phone are dated, and that slows my progress on producing and uploading my work. Time is always of the essence when you are on the road.

The problem is all of these things cost money. I had three months of savings left after my walkabout. That was before I purchased my new camera two weeks ago. I also had to replace the brakes in my car before I left North Carolina. That depleted an entire month of my travel expenses, with a list of additional investments that would be wise to make. It’s enough to make my head spin and my stomach churn.

My instinct has always been to conserve my resources and only spend frugally when necessary.

Growing up poor
Fear has controlled the spending of my money for the better part of my life. Growing up poor, I knew what it was like to not have enough and how that makes you feel different from the people that have plenty. I longed for beautiful things I could not have, and I clung to the few precious little things I did own. Like the charming stationary I got for my tenth birthday, with the pretty yellow flowers and the pastel orange butterflies. I only wrote one letter on that stationary, and it was to my grandmother to thank her for her special gift. I thought it oh so lovely, and if I used it all up I would not have it anymore.

This mindset followed me into adulthood. I did not become a hoarder of things; I became a hoarder of money. I could not spend it, afraid that if something happened I would not have enough. I did not allow myself to indulge in beautiful things very often. I shopped in thrift stores to try to satisfy my urges at bargain prices. I clipped coupons and haggled over expiration dates. I scoured the clearance racks and markdown isles. People have all kinds of derogatory terms for what I did, but I thought it very wise.

In my tenuous financial situation, my gut instinct would normally be to conserve my resources, to buy myself as much time as possible. I would not have purchased that camera. I would not have decided to embark on another road trip. I would have counted my pennies until I had another reliable income established.

But making fire taught me something.



What I learned from making fire
We had a fire pit at the winery in Walla Walla and at the tasting room in Woodinville. I loved to spend the evenings in front of the fire. I had seen others make fire plenty of times, and it never struck me as all that difficult.

August found me on my first solo camp. I was in crisis, and I had come here to clear my head. It was late summer, very warm still, and making fire was not something I had really thought about. However, when I discovered stacks of wood and newspapers at my campsite, I was tickled and decided it would be a nice thing to have. I purchased a barbecue lighter from the grocery market in the closest town the next morning, along with a can of soup and some brown mushrooms I thought I would cook.

I surveyed my materials. I wasn’t sure how long I would be staying, so I wanted to use them sparingly. I wadded a little newspaper into the center of the ring, piled on a few small twigs and three small logs to get me started. I babied that little fire. I scooped pine needles and twigs from around the camp and lobbed them in to coax it along. I had to keep adding this kindling and poking around the fire every several minutes, but it kept me occupied and I enjoyed the mysterious action of the flames.

One afternoon, as I walked past the DAY USE ONLY area near the river, I saw a young family preparing to picnic. The children were dancing around and splashing in the water. A dog was running between the children and a woman I figured was mom, and she was busy dressing the table. Dad was sitting in his camp chair having a drink. The fire before him in his ring was RAGING. Oh my stars! How did he do that?!? He was just sitting there, enjoying himself. And the fire burned on.

I wanted to make fire like that!

That night I puzzled over my options. Instead of a little newspaper, I used A LOT. Instead of a little kindling, I used A LOT. I piled a teepee of wood over the top and lit the whole thing in several places. As the fire began, I fed it rapidly with MORE and MORE quick burning materials. I was anything but conservative. The flame grew hotter and higher as the large logs ate it all up. I added more logs and more kindling, stacking everything up and up, carefully, allowing plenty of air flow. BOOYAH! My very own raging fire. I felt proud and accomplished.


The lesson learned
I sat for a long while and watched this masterpiece I had created.  I ruminated over what I had learned. I had been so concerned about saving my resources – the logs, the newspaper, the kindling wood. I was able to make a fire, but it was a lot of work, and it didn’t actually provide much heat or light. To make a raging, useful fire, I needed to subdue my instinct to conserve and give it all I had.

I thought about all of the times in my life when I gimped along with very little, unwilling to spend my resources, in fear of what might happen if I did. Was I really helping or hurting myself in the process? I came to realize that there is wisdom in both. There is a time to conserve and a time to spend, a time to lay up your treasure and a time to put it to good and proper use. There is also great wisdom in knowing which to choose. Sometimes, if you really want to grow a thing – like a fire, like an opportunity – you have to give it all you’ve got.

The universe taught me a valuable lesson that day. I needed to learn this lesson to make the most of my current situation. I could conserve my resources and gimp along for another couple of months. Maybe some of my work would sell. Or, I could believe in myself, give it all I’ve got, stoke that fire, and go for broke. Both are risky. Which risk was right for this moment?

Only time will tell. But I am choosing to give it all I’ve got. I believe when you set forth your intentions, with power and passion, that synchronicity meets you, and remarkable things start to happen. Fear diminishes while faith enlarges. My mantra: No fear, I am full of faith.


2 thoughts on “Lesson learned from making #fire

  1. We spent most of my kids lives camping at Douglas Falls, admiring the 40 foot waterfalls. Valuable lessons can be taught camping. Self sufficiency, fire-building, shelter construction, and courageous self sufficiency! I am excited for you, and can’t wait to follow your journey!


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