Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Catharsis and Zen of a Good Bonfire



I like to have bonfires in the back yard now and again.  Sometimes they are just small fires to clear debris, other times we stack up old furniture or branches and yard waste and make a weekend of it.  I never found the benefit in this activity until I bought my current home.  It had never occurred to me before to burn my waste. 

When I moved into this house, I found myself with a considerable pile of debris out front, and the county did not want to pick it up.  There would have been a fee for them to take it away.  My neighbor suggested burning it.  That seemed like a ridiculous idea to me, but my zoning allows it and the area layout made sense, so that was my first bonfire. 

There was a catharsis to that fire that I never had realized before.  When you put your debris on the side of the road, it becomes someone elses problem.  It does not "go away", but it goes elsewhere to be dealt with.  Fire is a complete consumption of the debris in that it no longer exists.  You can go clean up your yard and rake your leaves and put them in cans and bags and wait for the men to carry them away on garbage day...but they will still exist. 

There is a mental state achieved by making the debris just cease to exist.  Yesterday, I stacked old broken fencing and yard debris on top of an old pallet.  Once I got it burning, I collected all the fallen branches and twigs from my property.  I then got a rake and gently raked the contents of the yard to the fire.  It now no longer exists...no cans, no bags, and not filling the dump.  I threw all my shreddable documents on the fire, and all the other items I did not want to exist any longer, like old credit cards or other sensitive items. 

I take great pleasure in the days I can do this, whether by myself with a dog or cat by my side for company, or with 70-80 good friends over to enjoy it as well.  There is a primal thrill to consuming beer, having a bite to eat, and throwing everything in sight onto a burning pile. 

At the end of the event, if you keep stirring the ashes, they eventually just turn to a very small pile of dust.  No muss...no fuss...no remains.   

In the years that we have been having bonfires in the back yard I have come to appreciate this feeling of catharsis, and look forward to the days spent eliminating the waste from our presence.  It is a calming, relaxing activity that leaves one with a very satisfied feeling afterward.  I am not sure I would ever be happy living in an area where we could not enjoy a big fire in the back yard.  It has spoiled me for sure.     

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