Bon fires are one of my favourite things about summer. There is something so mesmerizing about staring at a crackling fire; the lure of the glowing orange ambers, beneath the white stars, while slowly turning a sharp pointed stick in your hand with a gooey marshmallow on the other end, getting it just the right shade of brown. Ah, this is living. Too bad I’m not a man.
Only men are allowed to build bon fires, you know. They are also the only ones allowed to tend to them. It is the law, based on sacred rituals originating from the days of the cave men, where fire meant survival. Now it just means “my fire is bigger than your fire.” When it comes to a fire pit, men are down right primeval. Ladies, if you doubt this fact, at your next bon fire opportunity try this: pick up a log and say these words, “Can I just toss this one in?”
Great flocks of bats will fly over head. Crickets will be silenced. The earth may, in fact, rattle. Somewhere in the distance, Gregorian chants will begin like in a horror movie, getting ever louder. Clouds of thick smoke will billow. You will know you have crossed the sacred men-only bon fire line. Drop the log. Step away from the fire. Slowly, carefully keep moving backwards.
Men can’t help this. They don’t mean to be so over-protective of fire. It’s part of their DNA. If they love you, they might let you gather sticks. Think, “me Tarzan, you Jane.” Jane never picks the right sticks. Did you know there was a science to kindling? There is. Stick gatherers have to know the kind of wood, its dryness factor, age and approximate location of origin. For instance, not any stick can be a marsh-mellow stick. There has to be a bendable factor in the twig, which has to be more like a branch, but not quite as thick as a branch. Spider dogs require the right strength and significant buoyancy, and the length should be adequate to be held at arm’s length from the lawn chair you’re seated in, mindful, of course, of the spitting sparks that could set your bare-feet on fire.
Then there is the master craftsmanship required for the pre-lit fire building. Kindling must be placed at just the right trajectory. Newspaper, (if you are so lame as to need such tactics), must be twisted and coiled, not simply balled up and bunched, (as if). It takes the right amount of wood, which only men know the exact calculation for, and it must be lit in just the right places or else it will be a dud.
If the fire is a smouldering pot of ash and thick white smoke, be very, very careful not to comment. You are talking about the fire-starters manhood here. Be kind. Be guarded. Pretend to like the smoke. However, take my word for this, you should never dance in the smoke like it is pretty, to lighten the mood. Not wise. Also, if an accelerant is ever brought out in a can of say, lighter fluid, find an excuse to be far away and do not say something stupid like, “what, couldn’t make the fire start by rubbing sticks together?” I learn late, ladies, but I learn fast.
For an extra good time, sharpen the carefully gathered, fire-starter approved sticks to a fine point and hand them over to young children, who will run with these sticks really close to the open fire pit. Then feed those children lots of chocolate and marsh-mellowed sugar.
Ah summer! I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Writing has been my passion since I learned how to hold a pencil (which I still cannot do properly). Despite my father’s insistence that I would starve to death in this career, I remain well fed and eager to write more. They say you should do what you love: I love to write.