BLOG: Connecting Around the Campfire

A warm, smoky fire crackling bright orange hues. Flames dancing up towards the stars. An invitation for people to gather round and enjoy the comfort and solace of its warmth. The fire master with the large stick minds the fire, keeping it at the perfect level of heat. The kids poke marshmallows and hot dogs into its flaming arms. The others pull up their chairs in allurement. Everyone ready to relax and take in one of nature’s marvels without distraction.

The true magic of a campfire comes in is that it is not an opportunity for any kind of interaction with technology. It's everything that technology can't and will never be. We all know how consumed and distracted we've become with our electronics. My fellow Door County blogger, Tim Guckenberg, even mentions in his camping post here. The mere idea of going without one of our prized pocket possessions is daunting. The moments we create to remove ourselves from this crutch become invaluable. Perfect example, gathering around a campfire. The connections you make around a fire are more sustaining than those made through social media. The time spent entranced by the fire or enjoying a weekend camping in Wisconsin or Door County have the potential to connect you deeper to yourself, family and friends, nature, and life.

The golden rule of camping for our family was "No gameboys." Back in the 90's gameboys were all the rage and devices like these were not allowed on camping trips. Our parents made it to be our break from the things we had all the time for at home. Instead, they taught us to explore new things we could find outside. We played in the dirt, collected caterpillars, splashed in the rain, and swam in the lake. We used all our senses to experience the world.

Today, you might as well replace 'gameboy' with 'smart phone'. Even the smallest kids know how to operate tablets to play games. Stripping them from their hands allows them to open up their eyes to the real world around them. Camping is a sensory overload, one that is ten times better without technology distractions. For any age, removing technology from the picture allows us to open up to the people physically with us. It gives us the ability to focus our attention on the present moment. When camping, the best place to connect is when everyone comes together around the campfire.

When little, my sister and I didn't really care about the conversation around the fire. We were more concerned about how many s'mores we could eat before anyone noticed. But while we'd sit roasting marshmallows to perfection, our parents would have conversations with each other that focused around family, struggles, happiness, and life. Overhearing those words engrained in us the importance of being able to connect with other people. By removing distractions of daily life and inviting nature into the scene, we can get to the root of what it means to be a healthy family.

Thought the years Door County continues to be our top place to vacation with our family. These lessons continue to engrain themselves into the hearts of my sister and I. Whether camping or not, we still center round the fire. We came together as family to be silent together, staring at the fire. Or to have conversations, about everyday things or important life things. And whether we knew it at the time, taking the time to be together became enough to strengthen our family. It taught my sister and I the power of stepping away from busy life and coming back to the connections that mattered most.

These connections and conversations never ended. Even now, each time we gather around the campfire, I become a little older and a little smarter to start adding my piece to these conversations. I carry with me those lessons and they contribute to my values of real relationships. The connections we make face to face in the physical presence of our family and friends are the ones that enrich our lives the most. Giving children the chance to learn this and practicing it often is the key to a happy, healthy and successful social life.

Fire is the symbol of life. In the Psychoanalysis of Fire by Gaston Bachelard, he describes its power as "...intimate and it is universal. It lives in our heart. It lives in the sky. It rises from the depths of the substance and offers itself with the warmth of love." The power of fire to unite us in a warmth so vibrant it breathes love into our hearts makes it no wonder, then, that we pull our camping chairs around it to connect to those we care about most.