The Shepherd's Heart/Throw another log on the campfire

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Ahhh.

The clear night skies. The smell of Oak and Walnut burning in the fire ring. The melodious symphony of a pack of coyotes singing in the woods. The wind whipping through the trees.

These are a few of my favoritest things -- things that come as part and parcel of the first family camping trip of the year.

Gas prices and time constraints kept us relatively close to home. We managed to make it out to Van Meter State Park for the weekend. And though the evenings were cool and windy, we enjoyed our time together.

On Saturday, friends from church dropped by to share the dinner hour, and later another family came by to share the campfire. We sat and talked and relished in each other's company until the hour grew late and the evening grew damp and cold and our guests departed for their homes in separate communities not too far way.

I'm not sure what it is, but there definitely is something about sitting around a campfire with family and friends that makes a body feel at home -- no matter where that fire may be.

A few years ago, near Bryce Canyon, we sat on picnic tables and watched shooting stars race across the southern Utah sky for half the night while the campfire made from Juniper and Pine crackled nearby. A week before that we sat by the fire and shared travel stories with new acquaintances at a campground near Old Route 66 in Arizona. We shared coffee and friendly greetings with fellow travelers in Durango, Colo., that same summer.

Nearly 20 years ago we slept beneath the stars -- with only our sleeping bags to warm us -- somewhere near the New Mexico town of Santa Rosa. That night, before we retired to stare at the black, starry sky, we shared the fire with some older folks who were reminiscing about the time, many years before, when they had made a similar move across the country in an old blue converted school bus with their three little girls. Watching us drive up in our old blue bus took them back to those wonderful days when their children were young and most of their own lives were ahead of instead of behind them.

We were thankful to share those moments with them, and thankful for the words of encouragement they gave us as we sat out on our first major pilgrimage. They had been there, they said. They had left the comfort of family and friends and home to journey across the country in search of whatever it is we all search for. And they had made it. They had survived. Their children had grown up safe and sane and pretty much as normal as any other kids. We were glad to hear it. In fact, I savored those assurances and carried them with me along the way.

It just seems that there are no strangers around a campfire. There seems to be -- somewhere -- an unwritten rule that says, "Your stories are safe here. You can share your life with us and we will enjoy it, we will laugh with you and cry with you, and we will share our tales with you, and then we will get on our way -- memories and smiles in tow."

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