Letter Re: Easy Fire Starting

HJL:

Once upon a time after the passing of my father, I told my wife I needed to go on a hike. Being the good woman she is, I went with her blessing. I loaded up early in March and went to a park near Silva, North Carolina, near a place known as Stone Pile Gap. I was drawn to the site because of that name and my fascination with the ancient custom of first building a cairn in the memory of a loved one and subsequently for travelers to add a stone and say a prayer. That people have been doing that in a spot for a couple millennia is just aweing to me. It is very human and attached at our most spiritual level.

On that hike in the leafless forest, I came upon a shoulder where a rather large family cemetery was located. You could see quite a distance because of the season. I offered a prayer that day. Later, after having traveled down one ridge and following back on another, it grew late, and I was nowhere near a prepared campsite. Randomly, I turned up into the woods to set up camp near a curious pile of stones. It turned out to be what was left of a chimney– a homestead location undoubtedly tied to the cemetery and the family it represented. I could not see it from a distance. I did not see the chimney ruin until I had climbed a bank.

When you strip away all the sounds and confusion of civilization, you get in touch with the spiritual side of life that many city dwellers can never find. The experience makes your faith in God unshakable. Alone, I confronted all the demons associated with my father’s death. You see, he called me half a dozen times before my office assistant got in touch. He held on until I arrived, and then he had his heart attack right then and there. It is hard not to second guess your actions. Much good passed between us. Was saying goodbye giving up? It is as if his passing made room for me to become the man I am in full measure. I know that I made him proud and continue to do so. His words of wisdom come from my mouth when I am raising my children. (They also know that beans are the musical fruit.)

Starting a fire always makes me think of that outing. There was a wind downed cherry tree there at the chimney. It was wet and cold that day and the bark on the bottom side of that trunk had sap settled into it and dried. I used that to get the fire started. It was the sweetest smelling fire you could imagine. It’s something I will never forget.

The rain turned to sleet and freezing rain the next morning. I packed it in and hauled it out of there wet, cold, and terrified as the rain froze in a slick coating over the gravel road. Every step was a risk with my gait limited to just a foot. I was shuffling and not hiking. It took forever, but I was delivered safe.

All this stuff we do is about resilience, both physically and spiritually. – RV

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