July 02, 2012
I have often written that campfires can have particular significance for people who spend time outdoors. Our ancient ancestors ended each day with a cooking fire, a campfire. Today, though, too many folks never experience a fire site (even a gas-stove cook site), except for shorelunch prepared by a fishing guide. Even then, it's often the best fish they've ever eaten and one of the most memorable parts of their trip.
Not that it always has to be fish on the fire. Almost anything tastes better cooked over an open fire when you're good and hungry, as anyone knows, and especially after some serious exercise and fresh air. But fish caught that day, harvested selectively then cooked over a campfire, somehow perfectly complete the circle of life we're living out there.
There's an important connect for kids, here, too. Taking kids outdoors and introducing them to fishing is one thing -- a big thing. Further guiding them towards the ancestral experience, a part of being outdoors for as long as humans have been humans, is quite another. Food was the original reason for being outdoors -- fishing, hunting, and gathering. Even for most of our grandparents, time spent outdoors wasn't leisure time but meant serious harvesting for the table and the winter pantry. Many families still count on fish and game to grace the freezer each season, are still harvesting from the wild, though most sport fishermen are content harvesting and consuming just that day's catch around a good fire with friends and family.
When you're planning your next trip, don't forget those old timers -- shut-ins a little past their prime outdoor days, or disabled friends of any age. Is there a way you and a few friends could get them out fishing and around a fire at least once yet, this year? Spending time out in nature is a treat in itself and, for the oldsters, even a fresh meal of fish might make their day, generating memories (probably some good stories, too) about fishing adventures in their younger days.
For campfires, we just have to take time, an hour away from some other activity, even one hour less of fishing. We just have to make time, though our fire be no more than a campstove on a picnic table at a busy state park site. Let's gather there again around that fire and bring along a few others, while we're at it.
Good fishing, a friendly fire, the finest of times. Gracious and simple things to share.