Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Thoughts on Camping: The Fire

Isaac has 6 hands!

Last week we went camping at historic Fort Stevens in Warrenton, Oregon. My first thought upon seeing the tiny camping spots all crammed right next to each other was that we weren't going to get much privacy. My second thought was that I felt sorry for whoever was going to camp next to us.

We purchased a $5 bundle of wood back in Portland and packed it along with the 5 camp chairs, 5 sleeping bags, 5 foam/air mattress pads, 5 person tent, 1 cooler and a Trader Joe's bag full of food and cooking supplies, 2 green supply bins, 1 gas camp stove, 1 large duffel bag full of clothes and 5 marshmallow/weenie roasting skewers. It was a very tight fit.

When we got camp set up, however, and started our fire so we could prepare the 8 foil dinners, 8 corn on the cobs and 8 baked potatoes (we were camping with friends and sharing dinner), we quickly realized that one bundle of wood was not going to be enough. So Robert set out to procure more firewood.

Not long after he left, however, a cute, older couple in a Cushman-type vehicle full of firewood for sale came around the loop. I flagged them down and bought another $5 bundle and added it to our little fire. About 15 minutes later, Robert returned with man-sized load of wood that he'd purchased for $10. We now were $20 in on firewood and had more than we could possibly use in 2 days.

Even with a 6-handed kid, Robert still ends up taking down the tent by himself.

The campfire became a microcosm of a hierarchy of power. Each morning Ethan would get up and build a fire whether we needed it or not. He also built a fire in the afternoon when we never, ever needed it. And he then built a fire in the evening, which we sometimes needed and sometimes did not need. Soon, the younger boys would gather around the fire too. They loved adding wood to the fire, but not the $20 worth of wood we had sitting off to the side of the fire pit. They loved adding the found wood in the form of sticks and twigs and one time, driftwood.

Ethan kept a diligent watch on the fire (as did the other kids) and as the fuel started to burn out, Ethan discharged the boys with the authority of a 5 star general commanding a military opperation.

"Quick! The fire is burning out! Get me more sticks. Now! Now! Now!"

Never once did the boys question Ethan's authority, but ran off into the bushes to scavenge for twigs and pine cones to feed the fire and appease their leader. Seldom was there enough time to actually sit and enjoy the fire as the fire's very survival seemed to constantly be in jeopardy. And so Ethan would shout and shout and the boys would run and gather.

It kept them busy for a while.

Ethan began to offer compliments and encouragement to the most prolific stick-gatherers. And they ate it up! Soon, a competition started between the boys to see who could claim the title of best stick-gatherer. Ethan continued his shouting of commands and claims the fire was almost out, and the boys continued their running and gathering.

Finally I could take it no more. "How come you are just bossing everyone around? Why don't you go find some sticks for the fire?"

"OK," Ethan said, as if the thought had never even occurred to him. So he got up from his chair and made his way into the underbrush to gather sticks.

Jonah immediately took up Ethan's spot and began to shout: "Quick! The fire is just about to go out! I need sticks! Hurry!"

Ethan didn't last long being running and gathering and being bossed around. After he had a few sticks, he returned to the fire pit, kicked Jonah out and returned to his position of power.

I knew there were profound parallels I should be drawing from this scene. Maybe if I'd ever read Lord of the Flies I could have come up with some insights. But there was so much smoke from the green branches they were bringing to the fire, my mind felt clouded and I just wanted to take a nap.

So I did.


Heather said...

How great that the camping trip was such a success! :) Your commentary on the boys' fire was hilarious, and once again, epitomizes their characters perfectly. Glad you got a nap in, too. ;)

Natalie said...

Ethan reminds me of someone...hmmm. Oh, yes! It's MY oldest son, Nathan!

a said...

I love the way you see life; and nap; and read; and can; and study; and see life!