Let’s Build a Fire

“Let’s build a fire tonight,” she says. We are fighting the urge to go our separate ways and crawl into bed, and seek the mind-numbing solace of Netflix. It is cold outside and dark. It has been a long week and we are exhausted and empty. But, knowing it is better to be together than alone, we go.

Some blessed soul before us has stacked firewood under the porch and we deputize one of us to go down the stairs to get it and bring it up. I am the fire lighter—girl scout, missionary kid, pyromaniac. We need more matches. Our supply, in the house when we arrived, has dwindled to three precious sticks. But for tonight, it is enough. We balance wood into a teepee, put kindling and newspaper under the “tent,” and strike the match.

Soon, the blaze is bright and cheerful. “Remember how hot we were the last time we did this?” The weather has only just turned chilly, a long summer’s heat holding on relentlessly. Then, the fire was stifling, intolerably hot. Tonight we sit close to the fire and to each other, grateful for the warmth and light we have made together. Someone goes inside, returns with marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers. We use chopsticks to roast marshmallows and fill our stomachs with sugar and contentment.

In a moment of silence, she asks, “How are ya’ll feeling?” We pause, glancing at each other to see who will go first. As we begin to speak, someone puts more wood on the fire. As it catches, and the flames spark upward, I’m drawn closer in to the fire. The darkness outside our circle shadows the unknown. Everything that has been and could be and will be is frozen while the fire burns, holding us together. Here, I am not afraid.

My mind wanders as the fire fades and someone goes inside to get her guitar. We are learning songs in common, each verse we sing a prayer and a renewed commitment to the work we have come here to do.

The fire dims, and one at a time, we leave the circle. Tonight, the darkness is stronger than our small fire, but we carry the light with us as we go.

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