We’d been too long in the city. Our showers were regular. Our routines well-worn. Our dreams increasingly circumscribed by what we could search for on the Internet and click to from our social media feeds.
So when our old neighbors texted that there was a cabin up for grabs at their annual gathering in the woods, we didn’t hesitate to claim it.
We drove up Thursday night, and I planned to do a bit of work on Friday before unplugging. My search for ‘coffee shop with wifi’ yielded a McDonald’s, casino restaurant, and a truck stop. Perfect. It’s increasingly more difficult to get out of range, and strangely, I was gladdened to drive 40 miles from camp to a regional ski town with Internet and thoughtful egg sandwiches.
The more technology and social media networks connect us, the further apart we also get. This is the paradox. A good broadband connection gives me the ability to videoconference with LA and North Carolina, but also keeps me from being with my neighbors around the campfire.
Driving south through Seneca Nation at sunset, we made our approach in the dark. At the turnoff to the park, the road changed. It was plowed, but not with the same vigilance of a road used to get somewhere. These roads were for people whose intentions were different. As we made our way toward camp, our world shrank to headlights, road, and pine trees. I turned the radio off and slowed down.
After miles and miles of quiet, slow travel, we saw two sets of taillights. Then we saw the campfire.
We turned into the camp loop, parked the car, and our neighbor Alex, a high school teacher and head brewer at a local brewery, greeted us at the main hall. “Take any cabin that’s open,” he said. There were a dozen cabins at Group Campsite Number Five, plus a bathroom building with flush toilets and showers and a coin laundry. We found an unoccupied heated cabin with electricity and two bunk beds, and unloaded our stuff.
The last time I’d stayed in a forest cabin, there was no electricity, heat, or running water. This was the Ritz!
We walked down the hill to the group kitchen and eating hall. Kids were running around with glow sticks, camping lanterns, and headlights, already feral. Dogs wandered. Alex showed us the beer station — three kegs, hooked up to a blackboard, with labels for what’s on tap — and the kitchen, whose center table held homemade oat peanut butter bars, chips and salsa, a cheese platter, and a full bar.
I could feel my heart expanding in my chest, stretching to hold my joy. And then I walked out the back door to the campfire.
O, campfire. How I have missed your smell. The way you mark me as yours and remind me of you long after we’ve parted ways.
I didn’t know anyone standing around the fire, but it didn’t matter. In that moment, time collapsed. All the campfires I’ve ever been at came back, all at once. The backyard parties. The camping trips. The fire pit conversations. The crackle of the flames reminding me of the simple things: of light, heat, and being together in the darkness.
A teacher and advertising writer based in Buffalo, New York, Stephanie Saline spent one decade on adventures in Japan, Seattle, and Montana, and another decade building a popular copywriting business. She now leads writing workshops for women. “Every woman I know is a hero on a journey – and writing about it helps us see it.” Find out more about her work at www.stellaorange.com.