I don’t remember where I heard this expression. Or perhaps I never did. It may have sprung into the recesses of my mind. From a dream. A whisper from the wind. An echo from the stars. But I use it sparingly. With depth of heart. For it holds several meanings to me.
“You’re always welcome at my campfire.”
It was as though the Earth was calling to me. A pulling in my marrow to wander deeper into this wilderness. Following a deer trail up to and then along a high ridge. Into the mountains. Weaving between standing rhyolitic pillars. Mighty spires reaching towards the heavens, who bear witness to all who pass. Father Sky and Grandfather Sun hover above. Fire and Air. While the roots of the monoliths reach through the Soil towards Mother Earth’s volcanic core. Our Earth Mother, pulsating with life’s blood, Water.
It’s a surreal landscape. Starting in the bottom lands, where the creosote, manzanita, and brittlebush grow. Scatterings of cacti. Barrel, Prickly Pear, Pink Hedgehog, and Ocotillo. The “Jumping” Cholla, just waiting to snag a pantleg. It’s reticulating skeletons, diamond patterned lattice-works, strewn upon the sandy basin. This panorama dotted with Mesquite, Honey Locust, and Ironwood.
The flowering plants blazon the caliche soil with yellows, pinks, oranges, and reds. Indian Paintbrush, Thistle, Coral Bean, Globemallow. The aroma of Artemisia, the great Sagebrush, permeates the air. Intoxicating to the senses.
I am pulled like the Hawk Moth to Sacred Datura’s vanilla-white, trumpet-shaped flowers. Piquant, ambrosial, citrusy, narcotic.
Unceasing marching. Breathing. Focused inattention.
A serpentine watercourse is lined by Cottonwood, Willow, Sycamore and Big-toothed Maple. But with the rising elevation the trees shift to Silverleaf Oak, Pinyon Pine and Alligator Juniper. All swaying in the light breeze.
Continuous transitions. A shapeshifting of all life forms. Spirit embers dawning new costumes, becoming new characters to a never-ending play.
I find a perch on the ridgetop, and breathe in the expansive vistas. Lavender mountains anchored in a bluish haze span the horizon. Thunderheads loom in the northwestern sky.
The Sun hasn’t peaked yet, and the air is cool, crisp, sweet, and fragrant.
The Earth I sit upon, a sort of sandy-loam. Aridisol, cemented silicate, dyed reddish-brown from the oxidation of iron and manganese. Volcaniclastic etchings. Sketchbooks of ancient history. A geological narrative. Of eternity.
I am visited by the Roadrunner, the Spiny Lizard, Acorn Woodpeckers, and Painted Redstarts. Turkey Vultures and Black Hawks ride the thermals above. Drifting in space. Defying gravity. Frozen in time.
It’s an enchanted place. The place where I had my first Bear encounter. Bringing the message of introspection. A state of mind I now occupy as I rest. Grateful.
How many times have these scenes repeated?
A compilation. A merging of memories. A florilegium, that bouquet of sweet literary blossoms.
And there is no better way to end a day of magical journeying than to return to my campsite and build a Fire.
All of the elemental forces are at play here.
The Indigenous to these lands honored these powers and observed how they composed our very bodies. Our Breath – pneuma – filling our lungs with life-giving oxygen. Our Heat – the internal fire from combustion, calories from nutritional kindling. Our Water – filling each and every cell, miniature oceans teaming with life, the aquatic organelles once independent now symbiotic. Our Earth – mineral composition, calcium and phosphorous – our skeletal form. All elements and forces in constant transition. The shifting of energies.
From cosmic dust we are born and to dust we will return.
These four Clan Chiefs correlate to the four cardinal directions, to the four human needs, to the four kingdoms, to the four sacred medicines. North – Air, mental, animal, sweetgrass. East – Fire, emotional, mineral, tobacco. South – Water, spiritual, plant, cedar. And West – Earth, physical, human, sage.*
All of these elements hold powerful significance and are essential to life itself, but I’m turning to Fire now and the great symbolism it holds.
To the First Nations’ people there are six forms of Fire: “the Fire in Grandfather Sun, the Fire in Mother Earth’s Core, the Fire that comes from Lightning, the Fire in Lava that forms the Stone People, the Fire that burns Wood, and the Fire within each of us that is the Eternal Flame of Great Mystery and is our Life Force and Spontaneity.”
Fire embodies a direct transformation of energy. The conversion of solid masses to light, heat, gas, and ash. This represents not just a transformation, or shifting of shapes, but a purification. “Baptism by Fire” restores primordial purity by burning away the dross.
Fire symbolizes destruction, illumination, enlightenment, and passion.
Healers are the “Keepers of the Flame.” The sentinels and protectors of Life Force itself.
Our “Heartfire” represents our unconditional love, our warmth, passion and compassion for others. The conflagration of Twin Flames.
And a Campfire, or a Fire in a home hearth, is the central place of being. A place to share stories, nourishment, light from the darkness, and warmth from the cold.
My Campfire is quenchless, radiant, ravenous, resplendent.
A scintillating aura.
Sparkling, flashing, glistening, beaming.
It is a blaze of Passion.
Its smoke, thick and gray, is rich and earthy. A mellow, phenolic, chypre, musky and sweet aroma.
To share my Campfire is to share my Home. To share my Mind. To share my Heart.
After searching for words to describe its essence, I wondered if you could boil it all down to one word, what would that word be?
It’s a word from the Sioux language meaning to place and hold in one’s Heart.
It can be used to describe a special place or Soul. My Campfire is such a special place.
Yes my Campfire is a tangible burn. A circle of stones and conical piling of branches. Dancing flames and sparking embers. Billowing smoke that perfumes the air.
My Campfire is also that Fire within me. The Essence of Life. The Passion of Love.
My Heartbeat Drum.
When I say you’re welcome at my Campfire, then more than feeling the Warmth, smelling the Aroma, hearing the Tales, and bathing in the Light,
I’ve welcomed you to that Enteral Flame, into my Soul.
Photos: The feature pic is from a campsite I shared with a good friend this past fall. And all the credit goes to that friend for setting up a fine campsite. But I did help with the fire, of course. 🙂 The second pic is one from my woodstove. The home hearth. Also a place of warmth that bears the glow of stories told. 🙂
I know this is not an uncommon expression. But I only have a vague recollection of where I might have first encountered it or when I might have first used it. For fun I Googled it after writing this post and got 135 hits, including a song by Marty McCarrick, which I have never heard of. I’m sure you may have heard this phase, but perhaps I’ve added some depth to the meaning. 🙂
* The elemental nature of the planet has been universally acknowledged. The Chinese, for example, recognize five elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. And these correlate to the seasons, Wood=Spring, Fire=Summer, Earth (an in-between phase), Metal=Autumn, and Water=Winter. Also composing the five generating interactions in life, Wood fuels Fire; Fire forms Earth, Earth contains Metal, Metal carries Water, Water feeds Wood.
In ancient Greek Philosophy the world was divided into four elements associated with four divinities: Earth=Hera, Air=Zeus, Fire=Hades, and Water=Persephone. These root elements are said to comprise the physical body and our spiritual essence.
The Celts saw three sacred elements: Earth, Water, and Air. The Indian Chandogya Upanishad names Earth, Water, and Fire. The Norse: Fire, Ice, Wind, and Wave. The Achaemenid Zoroastrianism in Arabic lands: Earth, Water, Fire, Plants, and Metal.
The Babylonians saw five elements: Wind, Fire, Earth, Sea, and Sky. Medieval Alchemists recognized eight elements: Air, Fire, Water, Earth, Aether (ether- the non-terrestrial substance filling the Void), Sulfur, Mercury, and Salt. The Japanese envisioned five elements: Air, Water, Earth, Fire, and the Void.
The Hindus and Buddhists appreciate five elements: Vayu (Wind or Air), Ap (Water), Agni (Fire), Prithvi (Earth) and Akasha. There are some differences in the interpretation of “Akasha.” In Vedantic Hinduism, Akasha is the first element from which all others derive – “the basis and essence of all things in the material world.” Whereas in Buddhist Philosophy, Akasha has two parts – limited space, Akasa-dhatu, and endless space, Ajatakasa. In the Pali Canon, in Theravada Buddhism, the four primary elements are recognized, but two more are added – an Internal Space element (ākāsa-dhātu), and a Consciousness element (viññāṇa-dhātu).
In Jainism, its five basic elements of “Astikayas” (Reality), are Soul, Matter, Space, Motion, and the Arresting of Motion. The Digambaras, a subdivision of Jainism, add a sixth element – Time.
In the symbology of Tarot Cards we have Pentacles that are the Earth, Cups are Water, Swords are Air, and Wands are Fire. In the Thoth Tarot, the card of the Hierophant holds an image in each corner. Luke, the Bull, represents the Earth. Mark, the Lion, is Fire. John, the Eagle, is Water. And Matthew, the Angel, is Air. The Hierophant is a teacher. An interpreter of sacred mysteries. A bridge builder between deity and humanity.
There are many more examples, and it’s interesting how commonplace these philosophies and symbologies of Life span the Globe. Perhaps there is some wisdom there that we may glean.