Yesterday was the 33rd day of the עומר (also called Lag b’Omer), and one traditional activity on that day is to set a bonfire. There are a lot of different interpretations for setting the bonfires, from thinking of it as a day of light and celebration, to coronate it as a Jewish holiday as was done in ancient times, and others.
I wanted to reflect in this post on MY experiences with bonfires and camp fires!
Although I have not always been a very outdoorsy person, camp/bon-fires have always been good times for me. This is in spite of, even when I was younger, my Asperger’s syndrome. There are a few examples that I would like to share, and let’s see where it goes.
When I used to live in Fort Dodge, we had a large back yard, and a garden behind the fenced part of the back yard, in clear view of railroad tracks. At least a few times, we started a bonfire near the garden, together with a few of our neighbors. The specific details of these now elude me, but I remember not being very enthralled by them. I have had a case of pyrophobia, but it has lessened for intentional nondestructive fires.
During my time in Hebrew school, we took a field trip to Roca Berry Farm each year, often in late September or early October, perhaps as a celebration of סוכות (Sukkot)? The trip often ended with cooking hot dogs around a “camp” fire, but back then, I was so particular that I would only eat hot dogs when they were steamed in beer on the stove. Not one of my prouder moments of honesty 😉
Also, another not-so-proud moment of our family. Shortly after moving to Nebraska, Dad started a bonfire again (I think he was burning compost). Unlike in Fort Dodge, this is prohibited in Lincoln, so the smell of the fire created some concern in the neighborhood. I don’t think that the fire department actually appeared, but this could have been a really bad situation. I was in the basement (which had a walk-out to the back yard) playing Nintendo at the time.
In sixth grade, our class took a field trip to the Camp Kitaki retreat at the end of April (specifically, April 29-30). On the night of the 29th, we walked to a camp fire area, and enjoyed the fire, singing songs (though I can’t remember any of these songs that we sang), and I THINK that there were S’mores, though I didn’t toast any of the marshmallows if there were any… pyrophobia again! Two of my previous blog posts have mentioned the scattering of light that I noticed around this fire on a somewhat foggy evening (respectively, explicitly and implicitly). The second post which is not linked right here will be mentioned shortly!
After we moved to the acreage that my family still holds, it became non-problematic to start fires. This time, it was often with dead tree branches or shredded paper. There was even once when we started a fire in the middle of December, which was fun for toasting marshmallows and keeping warm by it.
Fast forward all the way to 2008, when I was in Halsey National Forest with my R.E.U. group. After some hiking through the forest during the midday and heading to the river for a few minutes after dinner, we started a camp fire, and enjoyed conversation, math jokes, a-cappella singing, S’mores, and more. It was certainly a bonding experience, and made me start to realize what fun these social situations can be. In fact, let me dig out an old picture (unfortunately without the fire in view):
As my social skills improved, the next time that I was around a camp fire or similar thing was in the summer of 2011. You guessed it if you have been reading my blog since the beginning: the Bedouin Tents! There were no S’mores (but since there was a meat dinner, the chocolate used would have been dark if there WERE S’mores). It was a great bonding experience, and singing various songs around the fire made for a great night. It was maybe a little uncomfortable in the tent, but at least I managed some amount of sleep that night!
Since then, I’ve been to two ל”ג בעומר bonfires at Northwestern–two of them that were scheduled got rained out. Both involved bonfires (duh), S’mores, and chatting around the fire. Additionally, there was singing, though last night, I didn’t do much singing, as I was engaged in conversation with an Israeli post-doc regarding the job search… a still-intimidating topic.
Three years ago, I journaled about it, mentioning that the songs we sang strongly reminded me of both Israel and the High Holidays: we sang עוד יבוא שלום עלינו and על כל אלה. The former I had learnt in Israel, and is one of the songs which links me to the trip. The latter had the same tune that we had used for כי הנה כחומר on the evening of יום כיפור (Yom Kippur). I don’t have a video of US singing this song, but I might as well link them here:
And though I’ve never sang the following song around the campfire, the association of the High Holidays that I mentioned with על כל אלה essentially requires me to give this one too: the song that is sung on holidays during services. (The “campfire” version of it has been removed, however… but this one is from the same group.)
What are your favorite memories around a campfire or similar?
Today is the eighth day of the fourth round of M.A.P.L.E. That makes one week and one day.
היום ארבעה ושלושים יום–שהם ארבעה שבועות ושישה ימים לעומר
The countdown to “D-Day” is 24 days.