Cooking Over an Open Fire
It is growing late, and it is raining. Levi bends over the fire pit he dug with our trowel. In his hands he carefully arranges a bundle of “baby fine”—the ultrathin twigs that come off of the low dead limbs of hemlocks. He knows that he probably only has one shot at lighting this wet wood fire, and that if he blows it, he’ll be spending another twenty minutes gathering kindling. The flick of a lighter ignites a single piece of crumpled paper. The flames lick the bundle and the wet twigs smoke. He holds his breath. Suddenly, the hemlock bursts into flames. Levi quickly grabs the next bundle of slightly larger sticks, holding them over the flames until they smoke and then catch fire.
For the next four hours, the students diligently feed their fire. They aren’t roasting marshmallows and singing camp songs. They are boiling water, cooking dinner, and baking rolls in a frying pan. The relationship to fire changes when it is used for basic needs—in this case, calories and warmth—instead of entertainment. The students take turns gathering wood, attending to the pots, and feeding the flames. If they were to abandon their posts for just five minutes, the flames might die and the coals wither in the rain. To top off dinner, Ella dishes out the rolls. She carried the bread dough all day, kneading in the water and holding it on her belly while she hiked to make the dough rise. The rolls are perfectly cooked, brown and crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
This is why we go outside.