The Ambiance of Campfire Smoke


While the focus (pun intended, sort of) of the weekly photo challenge is – go figure – photos, this week’s theme of “ambiance” reminded me of a post I wrote 3½ years ago for one of my prior blogs. I’m posting a portion of it here. With photos, of course.

From July 2012:

… As we approached our camping destination, my daughter and I began to see signs on the road advertising campfire wood for sale. We stopped at one location, where a trailer was parked next to the road, holding wood that had been packaged into bundles.

A lock box for collecting money was secured to the trailer, and a sign listed the price per bundle and also advised us that we were “on camera” (apparently in case we intended to defy the honor system). We paid for two bundles of wood, loaded them into our car and continued on our way.


After pitching our tent, we wandered around the camp for a while and as it grew cool in the late afternoon, the mosquitoes began feeding. It was time to build a fire. I set about the task, scrunching up some newspaper we had brought, loosely placing scraps of kindling wood over the top of that, and selecting a few of the most promising pieces of firewood to set on top.

I touched a match to it and watched as little flames consumed the paper and made their way onto the kindling. Most of the flames burned out within a couple of minutes, but one tenacious little flicker remained at the base of one log. I sent it good vibes, willing it to spread.

My daughter watched me standing there staring at the flame and asked, “Have you done this before?” I realized that I hadn’t. “Aren’t you supposed to do something more to it?” I assured her that it just needed a little time to get going, and I continued to watch as the flicker dwindled into a wisp of smoke.


More paper, more kindling, a lot of rearrangement for best combination of air circulation and proper wood contact. More matches. More attentive scrutiny, and finally we had a fire. Mission accomplished.

Throughout the evening, as we sat watching the mesmerizing flames and talking, we would pause to consult as to whether the logs needed to be pushed together, whether it was time to add a log to the fire and if so, what the proper placement should be. What had begun as an initial chore to get this whole campfire thing rolling was turning into a continually evolving process of the ebb and flow of flames, the balance and timing in feeding the fire… a delicate dance with nature’s elements.

And, lest we begin waxing too poetic, a lot of smoke in our eyes. It was absorbing, in a good way. And fun.


After returning home from our trip, I conducted a Google search on campfire building which yielded over 7 million results. Techniques, tips, step by step instructions, words of wisdom from scoutmasters and even from Smokey the Bear (I had a crush on him when I was a kid).

I had not thought to look up any of this information before setting out on our trip because it never dawned on me that I didn’t really know how to build a campfire. Had we been on some sort of survivalist outing in the Alaskan wilderness in the dead of winter, this oversight wouldn’t have been a good thing. But as it was, it was refreshing to figure something out on our own, with a little trial and error, a little contemplation, a cooperative effort, and yeah, probably some sheer luck thrown in.

Maybe I need to learn to trust myself a little more, to savor the process in activities rather than only focusing on the outcome, to stop and smell the… smoke?

I’m looking forward to the next time. Maybe we’ll discover something else we didn’t know we couldn’t do.

The Daily Post weekly photo challenge: Ambience

About Maggie C

Stained glass artist, writer, respecter of life.
This entry was posted in nature, Photography, spirituality, weekly photo challenge and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Ambiance of Campfire Smoke

  1. This is great. I’m convinced that nowadays people resort to too many instructions. Saying that, I was so impressed when the first thing amore did when trying to fix my father’s car’s headlights is to look into the manual. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s