We sat around the campfire, waiting for our veggie kabobs to fully cook, as we watched the sunset bathe the Sawtooths in a pink hue. The clouds this evening appear to be light blue and pink puffs of cotton candy floating high above us, scraping the sharp mountain tops.
For me, having a fire in the summer is standard. Many nights of the week we gather here to cook our dinner, enjoy each-others company, and share some laughs. Our banter latent with silly movie quotes and the sounds of Hank Williams Jr, Hayes Carll, and Muzzy Braun.
Campfires here in the “Upper Loop”, as we call it, are truly amazing. Allowing oneself to be summoned by the laughter of future friends and glow of the fire is all you need. Campfires have the power to call others, even the unknown person, to join in the fun.
Each year there are new faces in the “Upper Loop”. This is because of the many seasonal positions the forest offers, ranging from maintenance to river ranger to firefighter. I have felt like a stranger here, as though I am in an alternate universe, because of the ever changing personnel. Many times I have thought, this is the same spot I lived last year, the same campfire ring, the same Mountain bluebirds and mountain views, but I don’t know my neighbors, the blaring rap music seems different from last years guitar solos, and everyone seems to be getting younger…
On this week day evening, the campfire has summoned a few firefighters to share in the conversation and tell funny stories. After finishing our final bites of deliciously grilled carrots and zucchini, we notice a new face walking across the sage filled space, in the middle of the many dwellings which make up this area. A new employee, a newbie to Stanley and the West.
Normally, I would shy away from this type of situation. You see, I am all for change, or I try to tell myself that, but I don’t always enjoy making new friends or talking to new people. This stretches my mind and is somewhat mentally taxing for me. My husband, being the amazing human being which he is, on this particular evening, excitedly says hello, welcomes this man into our circle, and introduces himself.
Our circle, a fire ring, surrounded by rock, which is surrounded by half a dozen stumps and camp chairs, is where we have sat for many years, with many different meals, and many different people. All of whom are close and dear to my heart. The way I feel about Stanley, the “Upper Loop” and this fire ring was explained best by Robin Kimmerer when she wrote, ‘…it doesn’t change much from summer to summer. We can put it on in June, like a faded flannel shirt still smelling of last summer’s woodsmoke. It’s the bedrock of our lives, our true home, a constant amidst so many other changes’. And here I am, in my true home, faced with opening my circle, broadening my mind, and possibly experiencing something different and amazing, or closing it off, creating discomfort and dis-ease within myself and another.
Today will not be the day I regress. It will not be the day I practice non-acceptance. I see myself in this new face. I was once new to this place, new to these mountains, and new to the ways of life in a mountain town. As I introduce myself, I feel a sense of compassion wash over me. My mind may not feel relaxed or at ease when meeting new people or experiencing various personalities, but I sense myself growing and my aperture expanding.
I believe my husband said it best, ‘it makes the soul feel good’, and it does. My soul, my heart, my being feels good. I learn each and every day about acceptance, acceptance of myself and acceptance of others. My husband is one of my great teachers in life, demonstrating love, patience, and acceptance at every turn, no matter the conflict or event, and apparently I am learning.