Common Ground |

Common Ground

Our neighbors up the street put on a block party last week. Some gathered inside the house while others stood around a good-sized fire within a metal fire pit in the backyard.First let me say that my neighbor Mark does this right. He gets a burn permit. Should anyone see the flames or smell smoke and call 911 out of concern, the bases are covered.There’s something primal about standing or sitting around a fire that is unequalled in human experiences. It is built into our human genes, this ritual that is as old as our first human ancestors.Though fire may conjure up images of free and unfettered wildness, there are rules that should be followed in this seemingly simple human act of starting a fire.I’d better get it over with and say “please don’t try building a fire in your house,” as a disclaimer for those who don’t have a woodstove or fireplace in their home. It’s best for a writer to not take anything for granted.The first rule for outdoor fires having been established – that they be outdoors – we can proceed to rule No. 2: Obtain your wood legally.Removal of wood from public land requires a permit. Taking wood from private land means asking permission, and scavenging wood from building sites is no exception. There are many ways to start a fire. There is the John Wayne approach. Throw wood on the ground, pour gasoline or charcoal lighter over the pile and light with a match. This is not recommended under any circumstances unless you want to end up meeting John Wayne on the other side.I prefer a Zen-like method of preparing myself for starting a fire by treating each match like it was the last one on earth. That’s probably due to having read Jack London’s “To Build A Fire” at a very impressionable age.Once you get the fire started there is the “don’t let the fire go out until you’re ready to put it out” rule. Seems simple but it’s not.There are a few people on God’s green earth who are over endowed with the “let somebody else do it” attitude. They will let a fire die before figuring out they need to put on more wood.By the time your fire is crackling and throwing off good heat it’s time to relax and enjoy your creation.For me campfires are the best thing about being outdoors. They cause me to think about life and contemplate my existence more than any meditation I’ve ever tried.There is something peaceful about a cozy outdoor fire that has me thinking we should build more of them. Why not conduct meetings around a fire?Everyone would have to help gather wood. Standing only, no sitting. Can’t leave the meeting until needed decisions are made and the fire is dead out.Last rule. No electronic devices allowed around outdoor fires … no cell phones, pagers, boom boxes, etc.Wouldn’t that be something?Writing from 25 years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories with readers every other week.Writing from 25 years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories with readers every other week.

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