Bonfire season got off to a good start this year. There was just enough rain in September and early October to keep a bonfire from burning down the neighborhood and the wind would become still after dark. Most of the tree leaves fell off in three brief periods which also helped minimize risk of an out of control fire. Warm days, almost summer-like, faded into cool evenings. It was nice to get several evenings of having bonfires and not feel guilty about incomplete yard work.
November is starting out in its usual Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde self. Sharp temperature swings, gloomy skies and strong winds prevailed the first few days of the month. Now, the dreaded “s” word (snow) is creeping into tonight’s forecast, although some areas north of the metro area have enough to turn grassy areas white. Strong winds and a lack of rain the past week or so made having a bonfire impractical and dangerous.
We are the only creatures that have mastered making and, for most part, controlling fire. I have not seen any raccoons with Zippo lighters or squirrels with matches yet. Without fire, modern civilization would never flourish. Wood and stone can only build so much. Building an automobile or a computer requires fire for smelting metal ores or restructuring aromatic hydrocarbons to make polymers. Ancient civilizations thought of fire as one of the essential elements. Cultural mythologies had stories of gaining control of fire by theft from the gods or a gift from an animal. Fire gave humanity the ability to keep wild animals at bay, to harden the sharpened points of wooden spears and arrows, to cook food, and eventually, to make metal. Perhaps that is why people generally are fascinated with fire. Fire also gave humans the ability to make paper, plastic and ink which the glut of candidate signs from this year’s mid-term elections will confirm. Not every advancement is perfect.
And yes, fire can warm up a bitter cold day and light up a dark night. Cooking hot dogs, toasting marshmallows or making S’mores are an added benefit, of course. Fire is also the perfect document destruction method and is much more fun and faster than running a shredder. Gathering friends and family around a fire on a still autumn night is very relaxing and quite fun, even for the fire tender. Watching someone with a lot of camping experience keep a fire pit maintained and smiling ear to ear is one of the many benefits. There is something primal about fire, but not in a fearful way. That separates us from other creatures.
There will be some breaks in the weather and I am certain that a few more fires will burn before it is too cold to stand outside for any length of time, or the snow is too deep to trudge to the woodpile. Until then, enjoy a cozy fire and the company of loved ones.