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Wednesday's Whim

Wednesday’s Whim: Fire

As far as I can tell, there is the potential for dangerous or paralyzing weather wherever one might live.

I grew up in a region of Central New York that gets lake-effect snow.  Cold Canadian air blows across the warm(er) Great Lakes and creates fingers or bands of constant snow when the wind is right.  Driving on the interstate, it can be sunny one minute, blizzard-like for the next fifteen, and then sunny again past the snow band.

We only heard tornado sirens a handful of times during our four-year stay in Kentucky.  And while we were lucky, I have friends who were not.  Tornadoes are like creatures – monsters – with their own minds and wills.  They come and go, jump, grow, shrink, and disappear.  They can obliterate one house and completely ignore another right across the street.  The sirens alone are enough to send chills up my spine.

Fire is different.  The forest and the land need fire.  It is as life-giving as it is destructive, or at least it can be.  And unlike snow and tornadoes, it can be manipulated and stopped.

North Peak

I have a lot to learn about fire and this fact was never truer than last Friday.  For the second time this summer/fall, Camp Stevens received orders to evacuate for wildfire on or adjacent to the property.  Of the myriad thoughts and take-aways I have from the fire, two stand out in particular:

1) Things.  As a kid I used to play games like “you’re deserted on an island, what one thing would you take with you?”  Most of us have heard (or been told): “she who dies with the most toys still dies” or “the best things in life aren’t things.”  I’ve sort-of-but-not-really thought about what things I would save if I had 15 minutes to start grabbing, but until Friday (and every day since) I didn’t really take the question seriously.  Now, a list hangs by our front door with three priority levels and I’m left to wonder what our list says about us.  What’s on your list?  What does it say about you and your priorities?

2) Home, Optimism, and Realism.  Not long after the fire, one of my colleagues here said excitedly that she was looking forward to her next Outdoor Education group.  The new fire provides an excellent opportunity for environmental education – Camp Stevens now has fresh wildfire area, area burned five years ago, and area that hasn’t seen fire in several decades or more.

The glass is half full.

In her enthusiasm for teaching, I was struck by the absence of fear which had been shadowed by hope, optimism, and realism.

Learning is exhausting.  Wonderful, but exhausting.  Thankfully, we are surrounded by teachers: human teachers and those found in nature.  Whether learning about fire, math, construction, or a camp system 60 years young, hope, optimism, and realism are most certainly our best tools.

Although Friday, the best tools were shovels, chainsaws, aircrafts full of water and fire retardant, and the men and women behind it all!


Whim: “sudden idea.”  This weekly post promises a number of things: personal thoughts and reflections, showing off Camp Stevens’ programs and staff, announcements for upcoming opportunities, and answering questions or responding to comments “from the audience.” If you have a topic or question you’d like addressed, just e-mail Beth!


3 thoughts on “Wednesday’s Whim: Fire

  1. I noticed that your only reference to fear was in terms of its absence. Thank you for your enlightening and insightful view.


    Posted by Cindy Shamel | September 26, 2012, 12:25 pm
  2. I can’t even imagine. Lake-effect is about all I can handle. Glad you are all safe.


    Posted by martha bojarski | September 26, 2012, 1:41 pm
  3. Thanks Beth for sharing your learning experiences. We will all enjoy learning through your insights and new experiences. Here is an idea… have someone do a photo story of the recovery of the fire site. Take lots of photos from designated spots. They should range from landscapes to close-ups. Then, repeat at intervals over the next few years, repeat the photos to document the transition from burned area through the various stages of new growth. It will be a great teaching tool. Maybe even take kids/adults to the site and then take them again when they return next time, to see what has happened… A reason to return.


    Posted by Blair Shamel | October 3, 2012, 9:50 am

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