Way out here at Walkers Ranch we have a fire pit we like to use quite often. We feel privileged we're able to simply walk out back and enjoy a nice campfire whenever we want.
Campfires are medicine for the soul - mesmerizing, even intoxicating.
What is it about campfires that are so great, though? Why to they seem to have such deep, meaningfulness in their flames? Why are we drawn to them? Are we any different than moths?
Talking with family and friends, cooking dinner over open flames, making s'mores for the kids and the warmth that campfires create are all great - but what about the actual fire itself?
Is it just logs, flames and coals, or is there more?
I see the fire trying to tell a story.
Not just any story though, but one from deep within the Earth. Or maybe from before time began. Or maybe it's God himself trying to communicate with our souls in a language we can't quite understand. Maybe that language is ancient, long forgotten, or could it be futuristic and yet to be developed. Who knows?
But if we sit and study the fire long enough - learn the language, so to speak - maybe we can catch a glimpse of a story that is being told in the unknown language. Maybe it's even the story of who we are, who we once were or who we will be.
Just so we're clear, I'm not talking drug induced hallucinations or anything like that. They only thing we get high on way out here is life.
Anyhow, to me the entire fire itself is like a book, its cover being the iron grate or perhaps some special volcanic or river rocks that contain it. There may be clues to what story might be told in the iron grate or those rocks, but then again, you never know. You know what they say - don't judge a book by its cover.
The campsite, your backyard or wherever you may be might set the scene for the story. Then again, you may be swept up in a fictional dream world that only exists in your imagination - and in the fire. You just never know. That's one of the cool things about a really great story.
Once we open the book and look into the fire, we may begin to see the plot unfold right away or we may have to "read" on for a while and let the flames speak to us at their own speed. As with anything, a good story cannot be rushed.
As the story unfolds before our eyes, we may not completely understand it because, of course, the language is unfamiliar and fleeting at best. Simply take the story in and let your subconscious mind translate for you.
Every log is a chapter that may burn quick, intense and sparkily, or long, slow and complicated. They will overlap, intersect and combine. Sometimes another even starts before the last one ends. This is most definitely a characteristic of the unknown language - perhaps too complicated for us to grasp just yet.
As chapters burn down, we are in charge of putting the next log onto the fire - in effect beginning a new chapter. How do we know when the time is right? Let the fire tell you. Remember, the story tells itself. Don't try to manipulate it too much. Just coax it along a bit. We are mere conductors of fate.
Every flame is a sentence that we can read as it burns and the story continues on, always moving forward. There are always more flames and new information being explained.
Every coal is a word that has already been uttered and a pile of embers sometimes coalesce to make new sentences, moving the story forward in an ever-changing and swirling direction.
Sometimes we may even see images emerge from the coals and flames. They may be actual faces, places or people, or they may be abstract depictions that are only understood in the deep recesses of our minds. Either way, they are there, acting out the script as the story is told.
Much like dreams, stories told by the campfire can be jumbled and hard to understand. Every once in a while though, you can gain great insight and understanding because truth lies in the fire. As always though, it is so close, yet so far away. If only we could grasp the flames and harness the unknown language, perhaps we could even learn the secrets of life!
Is this column a little way out there and weird? You bet it is, because it was told to me in the unknown language as I watched the campfire late one night.
Burbank-area writer Erik D. Walker, author of "In Pursuit of the Perfect Burger," can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.