It’s the week after Labor Day and my husband and I are camping on the shore of Lake Superior. We come every year at this time for a reunion with his two sisters and their companions. After busy days, we gather around a campfire.
Tonight, there’s a cold wind off the water and we pull our canvas chairs closer to the warmth. My husband has cut up a big pile of driftwood which we take turns feeding into the flames. I watch the smoke rise through the pine trees into a starry sky—and feel deeply grateful for this simple pleasure.
I am not alone. At almost every campsite, I see flickering red flames. I also see some little blue electronic screens here and there. But the people who are having the most fun aren’t connected to the Internet. They’re connected to each other, in real time and real space—in the warmth and light of a fire.
My husband is talking about his childhood and his sisters are disputing his facts, everybody laughing. I’ve heard this story before and am grateful for the retelling. This is how history happens—in our families, our friendships, our world. It’s called the oral tradition. It’s not called texting.
And it happens around a fire, our first technology. Maybe our best.