You arrive at the woods after a storm, the air is clear and the sunlight filters through the leafy branches. Everything is fresh but wet, very wet! To get that desired cup of coffee and feed three hungry rascals, first you need a camp fire; functional, essential but more importantly the heart of the camp. Now you could bring with you some paper, fire lighters or a disposable barbecue but where’s the fun in that when nature has provided everything you need?
To start you lovingly prepare your tinder, curls of silver birch bark carefully peeled and feathered while you wander back to camp. Kneeling as in prayer you offer up a silent plea for the dry bark to catch the spark. You arrange your tiny fire, the smallest driest sticks stacked ready to go, the damper big branches piled close in the hope they’ll be dry enough by the time they’re needed.
Another whispered prayer, ‘please light, please light, please light!’
You gently poke that tiny magical bundle of bark into the centre. It’s time. With slow tentative strokes you slide the blade down the flint marvelling at the dancing sparks as they jump off and disappear before they touch the tinder. Stronger now, more purposeful, you adjust your position and strike once more, coaxing, caressing the sparks down the flint to the tinder below. Breath held, you see the slightest wisp of smoke rise. A minute orange glow catches, then dies. You sigh and start again. With each strike your hope rises and fades as the sparks dissipate to nothingness.
Tirelessly continuing, that coffee seems so far away. Then it catches. Bending close to shield the tiny flame you cross your fingers. It flickers and dies but you strike again, urgent and insistent, you focus all your energies into willing that spark to be the one. It catches – a silent cheer – you shield the flame gently rolling the feathered bark across it, nurturing its birth. A second flame leaps up, a third, gingerly you place the little twigs, careful not to starve it of oxygen. You lean in close and gently blow. The heat rises, the glow intensifies and the fire consumes the dry twigs. It’s a balance now, a race to feed the flames, to build the fire but you’re determined.
The fire takes a firm hold. You rock back on your heels, a smug grin curls your lips. Hands outstretched to feel the heat from your labours, you breath in and appreciate the swirling smoke that now billows above.
With deep satisfaction you fill the kettle and sit and wait with your roaring fire.
Original artwork by Christine Southworth @bearprintstudio