The light and the warmth and smell of a campfire gather people in. A fire reminds people of when they were younger, perhaps of singing together and making music, or of telling campfire stories. A campfire is also one of the oldest ways to cook food.
Almost everyone seems to have a recollection of eating something delicious cooked over fire. People feel strongly about campfires. Building a campfire at Wekiva Falls with your friends and family will become one of your favorite memories.
A campfire is such an old sign of human gathering that even today its power to signal community is undiminished. Wherever there is a campfire, one knows there are some people nearby. There also seems to be an ancient etiquette common to all cultures, that allows strangers to approach a fire. One can’t come right into the circle but one can draw near. At our park’s campfires, there is sometimes a whole second tier, an outer circle of passersby standing back a little way, just watching the fire for a while.
A campfire is less private than a picnic barbecue. For that reason, a campfire in a park is very suggestive of what is possible among strangers. It may be that most people living in cities treasure their privacy and their distance from one another, but for almost everyone that privacy sometimes feels like loneliness. For some people, the occasion of a campfire may make the awareness of bonds that have been lost more acute, for instance, if the fire evokes memories of village life in a different country.
But at the same time, many people, when they draw near a campfire, seem to feel that they can talk a little to the strangers near them, perhaps about some overlapping memories of other campfires. Even when there is no talk, but rather, a reflective silence — people staring into the flames — the campfire seems to make a connection between those around it, although they may never have met before.
Because a campfire in an ordinary city park is so unusual, when people come across such a fire they are surprised, amazed. They may feel that tonight, in the dark, they’ve seen something worth thinking about. It reminds them that their park, and perhaps their city, is beautiful. It may even make them boast, the way the young guys who use the basketball court beside our park’s fire circle boast: “Nobody else has a park like this one…nobody!”