Posted in Different Moments, Uncategorized

S’more.

I sit back in my generic blue camping chair, admiring the flames as they begin to crackle. Their orange tongues just barely flicking up the surface of the larger wood now. Within a few minutes, the logs are completely engulfed in fire, preparing the logs for the process for which they’ve been set ablaze – s’mores. But everyone knows you don’t cook a marshmallow on a raging fire. You cook it slow, roasted while carefully hovering over the surface of the coals that have seen enough fire to whisper their memories to the sweet sugary fluff suspended over their heads.

For now, we wait and we watch.

We listen to the sounds of cicadas bellowing overhead, inviting us to incline not only our ears, but our eyes in their direction. So up we look, gazing into the overarching umbrella of the upper leaves, swaying to and fro with the evening breeze. The cicadas, are there tens or thousands? Loud enough to drown out the worries of an earlier hour, and yet also loud enough to keep you from thinking clearly about tomorrow. All we are allowed to be aware of is this present moment. The sunlight flickers from some distant dusk still trying to promise it will return again tomorrow, but the light is too quiet to hear above the shadows of this moment.

We take a deep breath, and close our eyes.

Sight becomes unnecessary for now, as the sting of the smoke begs us for some brief respite. We smell the fire, and think for a split second about the need to do laundry later. We push such thoughts aside – they are not helpful here. Exhaling slowly, eyes closed, in this moment we’re able to enjoy the cool breeze tempered by the rising flames nearby. We feel warmth, even as we are cooled. The cicadas screaming such a noise that anywhere else would be instant annoyance, and yet here and now it is a late summertime symphony, with front row privileges.

We turn our attention again to the flames.

The wood is dry enough to embrace the fire quickly as family, welcoming the flames deep within, and crackling in ways that evoke a thousand previous campfires all at once. A sound that in many other moments would stir fear and rising anxiety – here in this place, finding a glad reception as memories of gathering close to beloved friends and family are stirred. Turning through pages of mental Polaroids, the album turns to reveal bales of hay with more friends than should be safely balanced, somehow comfortably positioned with smiles warm enough to make the pumpkins seem spiced.

As time passes, the mature coals beckon to be used as God intended.

I load the marshmallows, fatherly skills expertly developed for such a moment. They are loaded one at a time, two, three, four for this round. I watch the youngest child too excited to let dad help, plunge her mallow straight into the flames, with shrieks of delight. She doesn’t care for culinary perfection – she wants to see the flames, taste the burn among the chocolate graham, and return to playing with fireflies in the grass. Her older sisters have learned to trust their father, and the value of a well-roasted marshmallow. Turning my tines slowly, almost too far from the source to be perceptively active in my endeavor – nevertheless, heating from the outside in. Showing no external signs of heat absorption, time passes. The white turns slowly as I consider the source of heat actively. After a time, you notice the mallow begin to droop, until it seems destined to fall right off the metal fork. Dipping dangerously close to the heat, I caramelize the exterior just enough to give a roasted identity before offering one to each of my girls who stand nearby, plates ready. S’more one. S’more two. S’more three. One mallow left, and no more plates beckoning to be filled. Smiling, I gently remove the expertly roasted marshmallow myself – no graham or chocolate required.

I’ve discovered my mouth is large enough to fit an entire roasted Jet-Puffed Marshmallow safely.

I enjoy the thin shell-like exterior on my tongue, before closing my mouth slowly. The gooey center oozing in every direction, I examine it slowly to satisfy my pride. Yes, I determine. It was roasted fully to the center, leaving no solid center behind. I smile, slowly enjoying the sweetness until all has been swallowed. The cicadas are now singing a song of appreciation for such adept roasting abilities. The sun has disappeared long ago, and the bats are now noticeable in the dancing light of the flames still leftover. I place another log on the fire, breathing slowly while the smoke flows momentarily in another direction. Tomorrow there is more to do.

But for now, I believe I’ll have s’more…

Posted in Uncategorized

campin’

Last week we took the family “tent-camping” at Warren Dunes State Campground, just over the south-western border into Michigan.  I grew up visiting those dunes, and frequently took trips even in college.  It was a special trip I’d been wanting to make with our girls for quite sometime.  Here are a few highlights:

campin1. Conquered the Rain-Fly.  Seriously, we all know the number one pain of all tent-camping is getting the tent to fit back in the bag.  The number two pain?  Figuring out the rain fly.  I patted myself on the back every time I looked at our tent those 3 days.  Even hung some Christmas lights.

2. I let my wife plan meals.  That means, instead of eating Pop-tarts for breakfast and raw Ramen for dinner…we had “hobo dinners” and scrambled eggs/sausage.  Sure, it meant bringing quite a few more supplies than I would’ve packed.  But my mouth and stomach weren’t complaining.  You’ve had S’mores; but have you had a roasted banana filled with peanut butter, chocolate, marshmallow, and sprinkled with crushed Golden Grahams?  Also, if you’ve done the “meat/cheese/potato/onion/carrot” thing for hobo dinners…next time try “polish sausage/sauerkraut/carrots/potatoes”.  It was crazy good.

3. Sunscreen works, everywhere you apply it.  We spent most of Friday at the beach, with me in the water.  You could see visibly where my hands couldn’t reach on my back….bright red.   My 5 year old said, “Dad, next time I’ll put it on your back.”  And on Labor Day….she did.  Gently…daddy still hurts.  Thankfully our girls have mommy’s skin.

1269373_10151572183671339_365288859_o4. Disney Movies happen every day.  I climbed a giant sand dune with my two oldest daughters.  When we reached the top and looked back, mommy was staying with Ruby about halfway up.  At 4 years old (daughter, not mom), she was struggling hard..naturally.  They were going to turn back and wait for us at the bottom, but I wanted the family to enjoy the top together.  So I ran halfway down, put our daughter on my sunburned back, and hiked her up the rest of the dune on my hands and knees.  The cross-country team gathered at the top began applauding, and I heard inspirational music in the background as I carried her all the way up.  I’m pretty sure I injured something, and completely sure the picture was worth it.

5. Sleeping outside can surprise you.  There were definitely raccoons that waited for our site to get dark each night.  We heard them explore our picnic table after we went to bed.  We took turns having knee-jerk reactions to what we thought was 1167669_10151572184541339_2050085235_oan animal in our tent at 2am…both times smiling at how silly we were reacting to a clingy little girl sleeping next to us.  It’s great being “alone” with my wife in a world of little people camping.  So many things that brought smiles to our faces…I love sharing life with this woman!! 🙂

6.  God’s Creation sure is good.  We sat on a blanket as the sun began to lower, reading a kids book on sand and how it’s made.  We climbed giant dunes, and looked out over miles of forest one direction, and miles of lake the other.  We hiked through thick woods to use the restroom, each time stumbling as a daughter would pause the world to appreciate the beauty of a fallen leaf’s colors.  I held a giant inflated tube as it coasted over small faef33f2128411e3af571231390ef217_7lake waves, as my 4 year old daughter soaked up the sun, falling asleep far away from shore – simply because she trusted her father.  Our girls oooh’d and ahhhh’d over hundreds of rocks, as we searched for petoskey stones, reminding me that God’s beauty is in so much more than we’re looking for…

Oh yeah, and this happened on our way home…