Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wherein I Create Fire

This Week at Canyon Ranch said it best.  Last Wednesday, I learned how to coax a hot coal from hand-hewn sticks with this most exciting of outdoors skills.  It really is a true Aha! moment as you connect with the primal thrill of creating fire.

No, one of the sticks was not a match.

Yes, it would have been just as easy to carry a lighter.

But neither a match nor a lighter would have been as much fun.  My face was in a permanent state of grin for the rest of the day.... and the class began at 7am.

Yes, I set the alarm on my e-cation.  I set the alarm for 6am, to be precise.  Our room, a fantasy suite with room for a family of 6, was at the top of the property and the lobby meeting place was decidedly downhill.  I was fine, navigating the paths with my hiking poles, as long as I paid attention.  I wanted to be sure that I was fully alert before I ventured forth. 

I was the only participant.  I have no idea why anyone would rather sleep in (which can be done anywhere, anytime, at my stage of life) rather than learn to make fire, but apparently I was a minority of one on the 6th of June.  No matter.  Randy, Canyon Ranch's outdoors maven, who would write the great survivalist text but they've already been written, was happy to teach me.

We set up on a bench, atop gravel, far away from overhanging branches and invasive plants.  Randy showed me what we'd be using (his handy dandy knife, with the comfy covered handle and perfectly weighted balance), what I'd be borrowing (the bow and cord) and what I'd be creating (the top and the bottom
and the stake.
The significance of borrowing those pieces became apparent later on.  In the beginning, I was too busy being overwhelmed.  Using a knife?  I was confronted, once again, by Daddooooo's reluctance to teach a girl any boy skills.  Brother always had a pen knife, a pocket knife, a tool of some sort.  I was directed to G'ma and the sewing machine.  In the wilderness, there are no Singers, with or without a foot pedal.  In the wilderness, I use a knife.

Apparently, I have mad skills.  Yes, I was sure that I'd never tried to drill a hole in a piece of wood before, either trying or not trying to go all the way through to the other side.  But, there I was, early on a Wednesday morning, making holes and pie slices and whittling a point on each end of my stake. 

The wood was soft, the teacher was supportive, and we worked in companionable silence until a road runner joined us and we had to stop and stare. It may have been on the grounds of a 5-star resort, but in the moment, I was deep in the woods, with my knife and my weird looking bird.  Primal?  I'm not sure... but definitely connected to something.

Once all my pieces were carved to Randy's satisfaction, I was instructed in the art of twisting my stake into my string.  Deceptively simple in the master's fingers, in my reality the stake took its own sweet time before deigning to join me in the task at hand.  I spent more time than I want to tell you chasing the thing across the sidewalk. 

Coordinating the top, the bottom, the stake and the bow took some doing.  Being somewhat unstable on two legs, even eighteen months into my rehabilitation, securing the bottom with my sneaker as my wrist pressed into my calf required serious thought.  My muscles have atrophied, and so have my brain cells, it seems.  I had trouble telling my lower half what to do.

Randy just laughed along with me, assuring me that everyone had issues at first.  Without another student, I compared myself to myself and found the right amount of pressure from my hands and my hips and my feet and then the bow was going back and forth and back and forth and the stake was making three turns with each stroke and all of a sudden there was a mound of smoldering black crumbs in the bottom, tumbling out of the pie piece I'd sliced and falling into the tinder resting below the opening.

Gently, every so gently, I nudged the rest of the coal into the center of the puffy pile of flammability.  Softly, carefully, I folded the sides up and over and, holding the pile over my head, I began to exhale.

Randy said that holding it overhead would keep me from inhaling the smoke.  I'm sure that is true.  For me, that morning, with the sun peeking through the leaves and the fruits of my labor lifted toward the sky, it felt as if there were a larger reason to hold it up to the air... to the sky... to whoever or whatever might be up there or out there.  It was a sun salutation, a thank you for the gift of warmth and light and toasted marshmallows...

...and then the coals became redder
 and then there was a poof
and then there was fire. 
 I created that fire....
right there in the sunshine.

"Why doesn't everyone want to do this?"  I couldn't stop asking... I couldn't stop smiling.... I couldn't wait to show TBG what I could do..... and then I realized the wisdom behind borrowing the bow and the cord.  If I had the whole set, I'd have gone right back to our room, dragged TBG out of bed, and made him a fire.... and, with the wind in the right direction I might well have burned the whole place down.

Instead, I spent the day carting my pieces around in my nifty Canyon Ranch tote bag, taking them out every now and then to inhale the scent of the burnt end of my stake.

I'd created fire.  I had the proof.
Amster says that Mr.6 is asking about making fire..... I do so love little boys, and moms who trust me not to burn down their houses.  


  1. Thank you, Lynda. Obeisance is unnecessary... admiration will suffice :)


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