Article by Karon Arrow - July 2009
What are meeting places and why are they important? A recent family holiday has had me thinking about this.
The extended family had met at my Grandfather’s farm every year, as long as L can remember, for a collective wood cutting session. This has become a tradition and now my father heads this enterprise and the latter generations continue to ‘meet’. It is akin to an annual migration. As the family becomes larger and more diverse, there appears to be an attraction to a place and time that we all connect to. The wood gathering adds a purpose, especially as we have increasingly busy lives and making time for family becomes easier to dismiss.
The camp fire has become another tradition and a natural meeting place during these events, as it is in all cultures. I have made it my job over the years to get the fire going first thing and set the roast in the camp oven (we mightn’t get fed otherwise), while kids set off collecting the wood. My brother has taken this concept to new heights, using a front end loader to gather large pillars, ensuring the fire is still going three days later.
The lighting of the fire marks the place of meeting. All then food is cooked on it, numerous cuppas made and the obsessions of numerous pyromaniacs satisfied. Everyone automatically grabs a seat and returns to the fire. We endure the rain, sun, dust and mud rather than give up. The problems of the world are resolved, political differences debated and forgiven, problems shared and bad jokes appreciated. Marshmallows are toasted and adults gladly accept charred, gooey delights.
A meeting place can be a meeting of the minds, a daily connection through school or work; however, a traditional point of contact reduces physical barriers and connects us spiritually. The warmth of then flames draws us together, connects us to our shared history and allows us time-out from daily pressure (the only time we can walk around smelling of smoke for three days). The fire also brings adults and children together and, for some reason, we don’t feel guilty sitting around staring into the coals for hours on end.
So…. I’ve been thinking! The campfire is a cliché, but it is a very potent one, from whatever culture, time or place. It radiates warm and light, drawing all within its radius, offering an opportunity to meet and share.
Here’s a great website for those who are unfamiliar with making campfires, damper and billy tea but would like to give it a go….