The fire pit crackled and popped for the better part of four hours Wednesday evening in a friend’s backyard.
After making a coffee run, followed by a bug spray run, the three of us sat around the fire and let the conversation flow from one topic to the next. And that felt really good, especially considering the chaotic affairs of the world at the moment.
It reminded me of when Lieutenant Dunbar in “Dances with Wolves” pressed Ten Bears to move camp because of his perceived impending chaos.
“I pushed him [Ten Bears] as far as I could to move the camp,” Dunbar says, “but in the end, he only smiled and talked of simple pleasures. He reminded me that at his age, a good fire is better than anything.”
My buddies and I shared our thoughts on aging (read: comparing our ailments), politics and music.
In our mid-fifties, our list of ailments is far longer than I would’ve expected when I was in my mid-thirties. As much as a young person might have rolled his or her eyes at such talk, just having two other people actually listen and care about your physical pain means so much. It genuinely feels like they are picking up part of your burden and carrying it with you.
We tossed out band names from the 1980s and rated them on a scale of one to ten based on how much we enjoy their music. I appreciated that ranking criteria. I didn’t want to think about their skills or success. I wanted to think about how their music made me think and feel.
That led to me play a song on my phone for the guys – a song that meant a lot to me in the past and helped me crystalize a truth I needed to hear but ultimately forgot. When I saw the musician perform live recently, I asked her about the album that song was on (since the album has since disappeared from streaming platforms), and she said the album was no longer available. A couple of weeks later, she sent me the song, and it spoke the same truth I needed to hear. This time, I think I really got the message. And I wanted my buddies to know that.
I asked one of the guys what his twenty-year-old daughter might be talking about thirty-five years from now when she gathers with friends around a fire pit. And I openly wondered what the country might look like at that point. I don’t know that we came up with any answers – mostly because looking into the future isn’t possible, but it’s hard not to wonder such things.
When one friend went inside briefly, I talked to my other buddy about how good it feels to be in a group that allows us to speak so freely, without any fear. I don’t know how rare that is, but I do know my soul craves that sort of connection.
At one point, all three of us considered breaking up the party around 10:30 p.m. but then decided to sit back down and keep going. We finally left close to midnight, as the fire was dying.
Ten Bears was right. At this age, a good fire is better than anything.