It flickers, in an enchanting and mesmerizing way, and as it flickers, it crackles. Its flames extend to pointed tips, which rise and then fall as they bow to the whims of the wind.
The crackling forms the background for conversation—conversation in which we talk of inconsequential nothings, reminisce about the past, and tell stories we’ve all heard before but don’t mind hearing again. We tell the same jokes and laugh in the same places.
Sometimes we don’t talk at all; instead, a hush falls upon us and we gaze, transfixed, at the flickering flames and the brightly burning coals. In the distance, a loon flies by, its haunting call echoing across the lake.
Someone pulls out the guitar for music—music that mingles with the crackling of the campfire and blends in a sweet harmony that can’t be replicated anywhere else on earth.
A log settles and we snap to attention—time for s’mores, and an accompanying discussion of the merits of burned marshmallows. A marshmallow inevitably falls off of a stick and lands on the coals, it oozes and expands and then turns to ash.
Then the wind changes direction and the smoke obediently follows. Because campfires mean smoke—a signature fragrance that follows you home, clinging tenaciously to the cotton fibers of your clothing, keeping its scent in your senses for hours or even days to come. We scurry to shift our lawn chairs away from the smoke, quietly rearranging our circle to avoid the onslaught of the smoke, settling down again in new places with peaceful sighs until the wind changes again.
Of all the simple pleasures we find in the magical month of September, surely the humble campfire is among the most memorable, because campfires cultivate camaraderie and a sense of belonging. For those fleeting moments as we gather in a congenial circle of congregated solitude, time seems to stop and the hustle and rushed frenzy of the day slips away into the call of the loon and the crackle of the flames.