When we moved to the Asheville area twenty-some years ago I decided to build a fire pit by our small creek. As the yearly wood supply permits I will set campfires blazing over the course of the Spring, Summer and Fall.
Last evening I once again shouldered my responsibility as the “keeper of the flame” and gathered up my combustable materials to enhance the evening’s ambience (and also to promote the production of s’mores). With my supply of twigs, scraps of paper and dryer lint in hand I proceeded to build my small-scale towering inferno. Materials laid, match applied and in short order a fine starter fire was kindled to encourage the larger logs to throw in with the light and heat expo.
There is a soul-soothing harmony to the warm glow of the fire and the sounds of the blazing wood crackling, the flow of the creek and the intermittent call of a bird in our woods. As the twilight approached we impaled our marshmallows and set them browning while we laid a solid foundation of graham cracker and chocolate. Massive carbohydrate intake quickly ensued as the melting marshmallows were applied to the cracker base and were promptly disposed of.
The evening passed much too quickly, as all evenings wrapped in the companionship of friends and family invariably do. By the time darkness had fully invaded, our friends had returned to their home and my family had retired indoors. I’m a campfire addict and I’ll stay until the last ember is spent, ever-attempting to coax one more flame from the coals. The fire and I passed the next couple of hours in peace and solitude.
When the evenings festivities started the sky had been hidden by a light overspread of cloud. Not enough to threaten rain, but enough to obscure the revealing of the stars. The clouds accompanied my friends and family when they left and now the sky was clear, save for the typical summer’s eve mists in the Blue Ridge and a transient cumulus cloud or two.
Then I saw them. Sparks that sprang from the dying fire, sparks that lit the tails of the lightening bugs as they eased their way over the lawn and flew through the woods and the spark of stars that sprang from behind passing clouds. The physicist may ask how I can compare a spark from the fire to a star. The biologist may also question comparing the bio-electric glow of a firefly with the same star. As is all too often the case in human interaction with reality, it is a matter of perspective. The problem is that we measure the universe against ourselves rather than against the greater reality of itself.
Placed against the measuring line of eternity, even the billions-of-years life of a star is nothing but a spark. The 4 or 5 month twinkle of a firefly would be inconceivable to a fruit fly whose life span maxes out at a paltry twenty-four hours.
Or consider degrees of complexity. I am neither an astrophysicist nor a biologist, and I wonder, is the physical intricacy of star’s burning greater than the biological involution of a firefly’s glowing tail? Greater mass for sure, but greater complexity? I can’t say with certainty, but I doubt it.
This night, however, such questions require far more cerebral neuron-firing than I care to engage in. I’ll enjoy the myriad twinkles of light and realize that every one of them are sparks of majesty from the Maker’s heart aflame.
© 2011, Bruce Denton. All rights reserved.