We lit a fire in the fireplace tonight. What took 50 years to grow we burned to ash in 50 minutes. It warmed our faces, hands and inner parts.
Once as a teenager, in my hunter-gatherer days, I tracked a wounded deer for hours into the evening and darkness in the Hills (mountains most would say) south of Oakley, Idaho. With my young cousin. We walked many miles. We came in sight of the animal once, but my hurried shot missed. Twilight stopped us; I knew pitch darkness and dangerous walking was close and set us both to gathering firewood. The rule is—gather twice what you think you will burn, then gather twice more. That will be the right amount. This is analogous to many other situations in life, like investing time in children, or your marriage. Four times what you think you need.
The stars turned electric-bright in the dark night. For all we knew, we would be out there until morning, so we had a lot of firewood stacked ere the sun set and the afterglow darkened to inkiness. The fire took our minds off our fear, as many things were moving around in the night, but not coming within our circle of light. Occasionally we glimpsed the reflection of bright eyes staring at us. Later we learned they were cows; but not until later. Meanwhile we gave ourselves to the hypnosis of the flickering flames. Especially whenever fear threatened to overwhelm us. A few times my young cousin whimpered and shed tears; I bade him to look into the fire and the whimpers ceased. I stayed dry-faced, to shore him up.
My dad and my uncle found us about midnight. My uncle, who survived many an island firefight as a marine in the Pacific Theater in WWII, saw us safe within our ring of light and remarked that you could endure anything so long as you had fire. I figured he knew what he was talking about.
Now the domesticated fire in our living room hearth is crackling and fading, the heat a soft push against our skin. The memory of fire a soft push against our primordial stash of fear.
You can endure anything so long as you have fire.