Fires that Burn


Life was suffocating, painful and unfair. I didn’t deserve what was happening to me. If I could just escape and go build a campfire that would wrap me in its warmth, the flames would empathize with my plight, soothe my heart, and console me. Oh, man … I could see it in my mind, the cold air against my face, the warmth of the fire soaking into me, as if it was listening to my every thought, closing my eyes and taking a long deep breath.

There was just one little problem - open fires are against the law. The western states are known for their catastrophic fire storms and the death and destruction that they bring. I began to wrestle with the ethics of really wanting to get away and soak up the warmth and comfort of the fire and trying to disregard what I knew about laws regarding open fires.

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“You know what, it doesn’t really matter, I’m a responsible person, and I can build a small fire, control it, enjoy it while it’s burning gently, and then put it out when I’m ready to. I’ve done it before without any problems and I know I can do it again.” I thought for a moment, “There, I’m morally justified."

As I’m preparing to head out, I know the exact spot where I can go, it’s perfect for small campfires and I’ve been there many times before. I’ve got my gear packed, and l certainly don’t want to forget matches … haha. NO matches, no fire!

As I begin to gather the stones to build the fire ring, I think to myself, “I’ve used these stones before!” Wow, I love the familiarity that I’m feeling, these stones have held my fires before. It’s kind of like they know me and I finish building the ring that will contain the flames and emit the warmth and satisfaction of the relationship I’ve built with them. It took awhile, but I’ve been collecting a bunch of kindling, it’s all stacked up neatly next to the ring of stones.

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As I begin to lay the dry old kindling into the ring of stones, I find myself assigning those things that have been going on in my life that are unfair and hurtful to each piece of dried out old wood. There’s a bit of comfort as I build “the story” within the fire ring. It’s cathartic to know that I’m going to use those things that have hurt me to now warm me… and I strike the match and place it where I know it will catch the easiest.

I sit back in my beach chair and take in the glow of my small fire. The kindling is burning gently and begins to emit the warmth I so desired. I continue to toss in the rest of the kindling as the fire catches and looks sustainable. With each piece I say, “oh and this happened and that happened… can you believe it?” And the fire continues to burn. As the hours pass, I realize it’s time to go and the fire is dying down to the coals anyway. I get up and pour the water I brought along with me to be sure that the fire I started was put out. Knowing in the back of my mind that this was all illegal, I brought extra water to be sure every coal was extinguished!

Remember, I’m a good person and I certainly don’t want to create a problem for anyone. I’ve been too hurt to want to be the source of problems for someone else!

The next morning I see on Facebook posts from friends that a fire is raging out of control with mandatory evacuations in effect. Over the next days the fire has jumped from its original starting point to other towns miles away. One news outlet has reported that thousands of homes have been destroyed, lives disrupted, and it’s far from containment. I respond to my friends’ posts that I’m praying for them and to let me know if there is anything I can do to help.  

Sadly, the fire continues on for weeks, burning and destroying everything in its path. Eventually over time it is finally contained and put out. The fire is gone, but the destruction and the memories of the fire remain.

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Some time later, investigators find the source. It was a small fire ring made of stones. Apparently, the individual who built the fire didn’t observe that when they poured water on the fire to put it out, there were coals still burning, hidden underneath some of the now very hot stones which had absorbed the heat of the fire, and later that night, those coal embers blew in the wind into dry grass just a few feet away.

I thought to myself, wow… how careless and destructive could someone really be?


The stones are my friends

The kindling is the fodder of gossip

The match is my tongue

The water is my self -righteousness

The coals are the byproduct of my unforgiveness

The law is Gods word

And I … I am the arsonist

“And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity, it sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” James 3:6

by Ed Apffel, TerraMica Chairman, Board of Directors

by Ed Apffel, TerraMica Chairman, Board of Directors

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