Wisdom by the Fire Barrel | JIM FURLONG

It was circumstance that brought the stars into that configuration and alignment that night. It was a May evening, six or seven years ago, when because of circumstances, my scattered family came to one place and time together.

The wife of one of my three sons was away on business. Another son (they are a twin) had his missus gone to visit her grandmother. So, it was the two boys came back to spend a night at our place, the old homestead on the edge of the woods in Topsail. My third boy, taking a break from Ottawa and work and the rest of the world, was home for a week. There we were all together in the same old half century old house in the forest for a night. They all slept over. Two were in bedrooms preserved as shrines by their mom who is my wife. Mothers do that sometimes, don’t they? They remind me of cargo cults, those native groups in the South Pacific that after World War II constructed fake landing strips and planes made of wood in hopes of attracting back the engines of war that had brought them material goods during the fighting. Moms, maybe even your own mom, sometimes do that preservation ritual. A room kept and a bed made, and little trophies set out in the vain hope that somehow things can be like they used to be in the simpler times. There is something nice about it. It speaks well of parenthood with all its complexities.

We had dinner, talked and we revisited an ancient ritual of civilization. We had a fire in the back yard. It is the country, and it was spring, so forest fires weren’t an issue. It is the way of the woods with its own structure. Don’t have fires on washday and don’t burn when the wind is blowing in the direction of the neighbours. Don’t burn plastic or old shingles or anything like that. In other words, respect your neighbours and their lives.

There was lots of dry wood and a fire barrel with a screen. The flames licked into the night sky. There were nice canvas chairs with cup holders around the barrel and there was Scotch and some Irish whiskey and lots of beer on ice. The night wasn’t cold, and the skies were clear, and we watched the faint winking lights of planes high in the sky on the trans-Atlantic routes just like we did many decades ago by another fire whose ashes have long grown cold.

Somewhere in the fire and the talk and the smoke was an unspoken wisdom. In old tales of childhoods gone we understood something that there was no need to even voice. Some eternal truth that only comes by a fire at two in the morning. Perhaps we will do this again sometime on a nice night when there is just us and we will revisit the old days and tell old stories. Then again, perhaps not. The world is like that.

You can contact Jim Furlong at [email protected]