As part of Jessica May’s birthday celebration, we held a small blaze in our freshly constructed backyard fire-pit. Standing at the flame’s edge, my mind wandered back to the last time we’d had such a gathering: at our old place of residence, a year, and a lifetime, ago.
The momentum of memory didn’t stop there, however. I recalled the summer evenings, in my youth, when I would listen to the flat and broken tones of my grandfather, singing along to some maudlin cowboy tune while staring into the smoke and sipping at his hops. Then, further back, a recollection of my own father, before his death, stoking high the fire, and warning my seven-year-old clumsiness against getting too close.
Captured by the sequence, my mind’s eye went even beyond – to the tales of bushwhacking and lumber camps that my mother’s father had imparted from his own adolescence, and to the lonely embers my father’s father must have gathered about while still a boy himself, when the land had yet to be cleared for farming.
There are few common threads that run through the course of human history. If you were to present a bungalow, gas range, or memory-foam mattress, to a traveler from a previous age, they’d little understand their provenance – but, lead them to a simple fire, and they’d recognize an ageless, and universal, hospitality.