Campfire Magic

September 20, 2014 at 3:54 pm | Posted in Australia, Culture, Experiences, History, Nature, Philosophy, Society | 9 Comments
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I wrote this a couple of evenings ago as my husband and I camped by a creek in the Border Ranges between NSW and Queensland.

IMG_0638 IMG_0639

There is something primitive about sitting by a campfire in the wilderness. That’s where I am tonight, and the experience takes me back to several different pasts.

I imagine the ancients huddling close to a fire they have only recently tamed, building it high to keep away the fearsome and ferocious predators that would otherwise prey on them.

I feel their awe as they gaze into the roaring flames that hungrily eat up the branches tossed into them. I feel their fear of that hunger if it should escape. How easy is it to imagine their veneration of this awesome power, a magical force which they have managed to harness for their own protection.

Campfire 01

What were their thoughts as they later stared into its dying embers, watching the occasional flicker of a flame as it flickered and died? Did they wish they had collected more fuel to feed the fire? Or were they relaxed enough to ponder their own next meal, the mate they would lie with, or how the hunt had gone that day?

A campfire from a less distant past also comes to mind. One set up by a river or in the bush, or by a huge monolith in an isolated southern continent. Images of the wondrous vault of the sky, undimmed by any city lights, filled with uncountable stars. Thoughts of indigenous people sitting by their clan fire. I see them as self-sufficient and self-reliant, yet filled with awe as they contemplate the unknown and create their Dreamtime origins.

Later, I see the early European explorers by their campfire, uncertain of what is out in the darkness, yet eager for discovery of what is to them a new and unclaimed land.

Campfire 03

It’s not just the far distant past I see in my campfire this night, as I remember my own experiences in isolated Central Australia, knowing that I could walk hundreds of miles in any direction and not meet another human being.

I also wonder how many children today and in the future will experience the thrill of their own campfire. Will they ever feel the thrill of the unknown, the fear even, of a night far from home. Far from their electric lights, TVs and computers, from the comfort of their soft beds and the security of their four solid walls?

It is sad that so many of them will miss out on that more primitive experience of life. That they will never see a campfire flare and flame, as the darkness presses against their frail light, then flicker and die to embers. What a loss that is.?

(c) Linda Visman

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  1. Very nostalgic. There is nothing quite sitting around a bushfire. One thing you left out was the aboriginal corroborees which were celebrated around the fire. I guess they were imitating the dances of the flames. Flames seem to be so hypnotising (sp) as the move about.

    • Paul, I was tempted to write a lot more about the Aboriginal experience, but didn’t want to get carried away.
      Their corroborees were celebrations of various aspects of their lives, celebrations of seasons, initiations, success in hunts and so on, as well as a telling of the Dreamtime stories. I would like to have seen them in the old days – though I was involved in an initiation one time, as much as a woman was allowed to be. 🙂

  2. The idea of someone never experiencing a campfire is a sad thought to me. Over the years I had such joy with my own family with a riverside bonfire and weinie roasts on the fall field fire. With my own children we’ve had many a campfire in Scouts and on our family campground on the river. Such joy being with family and friends roasting marshmallows, drinking wine, playing guitar and singing and shared stories…wonderful times…I wish everyone had the opportunity to experience it.

  3. I’ve never sat by a campfire, Linda, but I can imagine it would be a wonderful experience. I remember staring into the bonfires on Cracker Nights of long ago. 🙂

    • Do it some time, Margaret. In a place away from city lights, if possible. It is a wonderful experience. 🙂

  4. Lovely piece Linda, three poignant reflections .

  5. Ah yes, a campfire is a magical experience – our boys have loved making campfires out in the woods over the years. I do agree, it is so sad that so many children will never know this experience.


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