The Trouble With Fire

Revised July 3, 2019.

The trouble with fire is that it never stands still long enough to be seen. It’s like water falling, or snowflakes drifting down, or dry leaves blown by a gale.  But the camera loves to make them stand still.

These pictures were extracted from photos of a tiny fire I built at Kieferhaven (here at Balsamea) on November 4, 2018.  It was just a little pile of sticks and scraps of birch bark, something to enjoy for a little while.  That little fire has lasted a long, long while.

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~   ~   ~
“Enchantment is the oldest form of medicine.”
– C. G. Jung, as quoted by Meredith Sabini, Ed., The Earth Has a Soul; The Nature Writings of C.G. Jung, p. 4
~   ~   ~

If you have trouble loading all the pictures and YouTube music videos in this post, it may be that there are just too many, and the picture files are too big.  (They are big so that you can see them full-screen by clicking on them.)  Try waiting a moment or refresh your browser (reload the page).  Last ditch effort: clear your browser cache.  I’m working on alternate approaches at this end.

HERE’S THAT MOON I NEVER PROMISED YOU. The Balsamean and the moon shattering in the clouds over Moose Pond, August 2005. Click for full screen view, as with all pictures in this article.

If you want to write a song about the heart
Think about the moon before you start
Because the heart will howl like a dog in the moonlight
And the heart can explode like a pistol on a June night
So if you want to write a song about the heart
And its everlonging for a counterpart
Na na na na na na
Yeah yeah yeah
Write a song about the moon

– from Song About the Moon
Paul Simon 1981

Full lyrics on Paul Simon Official Website

Alternate YouTube link: Simon & Garfunkel Song About the Moon


When you write a song about the moon, or dance with it alone in the peaceful beauty of night, your heart may have a counterpart right there.  Mine does, and I thank the moon for never giving up on our blessed relationship, and for the fun of creating moonlit pictures, and its help engaging enchantment and fantasy for the health of my soul.

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I live in a world of turkeys

This morning while washing hiking water bottles, one of our many wild turkeys enjoyed browsing the abundant wild food near the edge of the yard viewed from my kitchen window.

This is not an unusual sight here.  Common, really.  But not for me, and not for the turkeys, since they never get accustomed to being stalked by me.  I am never common to them.

Turkey photos at Balsamea, June 20, 2018, ~7:30 AM. CLICK ANY PICTURE FOR FULL SCREEN VIEW.

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How to mix deer, campfire, tin foil stew, dog, photography and grace

oscar-deer-20140906e-notxtDeep in the woods there is a great way to ensure that you get fantastic wildlife photography opportunities.  Leave your camera home.

I’ve said before that our deer population is too high, and this year more than ever.  Among the family here, there is one deer that has learned that Buddy and I are harmless.  Harmless enough that in the woods he lets us come close enough and stay long enough to discuss life.  The deer doesn’t say much, but he seems to be interested in what I say.  Stupid things humans say to wild animals.

Keep in mind that Balsamea is densely forested, surrounded by forest on all sides, and many miles of it, with a smattering of houses.  Our deer have not acclimated to people by their suburban gardens.  Deer at Balsamea are wild.  As they should be.  Just one of them is getting too familiar with us since mid-summer.

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To Build a Fire

When in doubt, have a campfire.  It has straightened my bent condition many times.

Balsamea Campfire 200512

Yours truly tending a winter campfire at Balsamea in 2005

My favorite passage from the 1908 short story, To Build a Fire by Jack London (1876-1916):

“Working carefully from a small beginning, he soon had a roaring fire, over which he thawed the ice from his face and in the protection of which he ate his biscuits. For the moment the cold of space was outwitted. The dog took satisfaction in the fire, stretching out close enough for warmth and far enough away to escape being singed. When the man was finished, he filled his pipe and took his comfortable time over a smoke. Then he pulled on his mittens, settled the ear flaps of his cap firmly about his ears, and took the creek trail up the left fork.”     Continue reading

Thrice-Warming Wood

I love a campfire.  I like to say that having one is to “enjoy the thrice-warming wood.”

D-sit-facing-fire-2006Thrice-warming because:

First, you warm up from the physical labor of collecting the wood.  Then, you warm up from the labor of breaking and/or sawing it.  Finally, of course, the wood gives its life to entertain, console, amuse, mesmerize and warm you, in mind and body, with fire.


December 2005 – Balsamea’s First Winter

The wood gives its life for the fire?  Isn’t it already dead?  Not as I see it.  The tree is dead, but good firewood is still loaded with stored energy.  I think of that energy as the last of the wood’s life as wood, before it decomposes, becoming something else.  When that “something else” is ash in my fireplace, and pleasure for me, I am the last beneficiary of the wood’s life as wood.


Balsamea’s First Fireplace
I built it as a perpendicular extension of the rock wall, using rocks removed from the wall to make a four-foot wide passage through it (just off the picture right edge). The fireplace is about three feet wide inside. This is at “Camp Balsamea,” the fireplace closest to the house, near the camper and shed. I lived at Camp Balsamea (in the camper and at this fireplace) from May 2008 to June 2010. My Thoreauvian Experiment. It worked.

When I find a nice four-inch thick dead-fallen maple that dried suspended in the air (which happens in various ways) instead of soddened with the leaf mold and moss on the ground, it is a joy, and I am grateful to find the treasure.  I have several long pieces of maple set aside at my campsites, enough campfire wood for a long time, and good sawing exercise, because maple does not surrender easily.


When folded, the blade slides into the long back section.

I prefer four inches or less wood diameter (five to six for softwoods) because my backpacking saw handles it nicely.  I love that saw.  I’ve had it many years and used it many times, still on the original blade.  If you want a good backpack saw, look for the Sawvivor brand.

I’ve seen people embarrass themselves with inferior saws when they break or fall apart within the first ninety seconds of use.  (Always test your gear at home before heading out to the woods.)  My Sawvivor is tough, rust-proof, and a good size for serious work, but it fits nicely in a day-pack (15″).  It has a padded handle, too.  It is standard equipment in my backpack, even when I have no intention of making a fire.  It is a survival tool.

Below, find your favorite irreverent self-amused blogging Balsamean on a chilly, windy and sunny afternoon, Saturday, September 16, 2012, enjoying the thrice-warming wood (shown here in two of the three warming activities) at our Turkeyfoot Campsite.

All summer I look forward to mid-September, when Balsamea starts to seriously chill.  It is also the onset of the bulk of the autumn leaf color changes.  On average, our first frost comes around September 15.  In 2012 it came on 9/11, as solid ice, not just frost.  (See my blog post, 9/11/12: First Frost is ICE!)  I celebrated that morning with a campfire, too.  That’s right, two campfires within a week, the 11th and 16th, celebrating the cold.  Summer is my least favorite season.  Campfires feel better in the cold.

(As always, click the pix to cozy up closer.)

Yes, I do have a metal folding chair stashed out there at the Turkeyfoot Campsite.  And now and then I like to saunter around Balsamea letting my feet experience the ground as it truly is, naturally.  Hey, I’m the Balsamean.

I do not remember that it was a windy day, but it must have been pretty gusty for me to put down the chin-strap on my hat.  That campsite does catch more wind than the others.

Are you a big fan of campfires?  Enough to have them several times a year at home?