Before my dad passed, he published a book. It was meant to be the first in a series of outdoor/camping books, but he never got to the rest of them. It was called How to Build a Campfire with One Match. Growing up, we heated our house under the redwoods with wood, much like our little house here. 

Making fire in the wild was one of the first survival skills we were taught, with the mandate that they should start with a single match or with flint. Last week, our daughter asked to “camp in the woods” and I took the opportunity to give her the first fire building lesson.  

We collected dry deadfall, birch bark, oak leaves and pine needles, we discussed what burns well, and what will not.

Carefully we made the fire lay, and as his book dictated, started it with one match.

No paper allowed either.

Sitting on a snow covered bog, next to a crackling fire, I reveled in the familial tradition I had brought with me from the redwood forest to this place so far from home. Remembering that a warm hearth is often the greatest comfort in times of cold and dark. 

Our daughter ran through the woods; looking for tracks, climbing trees, talking to critters, and drawing medicine wheels in the snow, returning to me to warm herself, before setting out anew. 

I have always been a fire tender, I can think of few tasks that have given me more wisdom than building and maintaining safe flames. I am grateful for this practice that has given me so much, and honored to pass it on. First with the boys, and now the youngest. This way they will have the skills to warm themselves in the middle of frozen woods, even if they only have a single match.  

Be well and stay warm.

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