Friday, September 19, 2008

Fire!

We took the boys "camping." I put camping in quotation marks because we went to Camp Long, which is a 1.8-mile drive from our house. Camp Long is about the size of a golf course. In fact, it looks very similar to a golf course, only imagine that the fairways and greens are filled in with trees, and a few cabins appear where the clubhouse should be.

Mark drove his truck up from California to go bow hunting on the peninsula, so he stayed in the cabin with us. He and I built a fire as soon as we possibly could. I can't speak for Mark, but I know the first thing I want to do whenever I camp is build a fire. And when two guys build a fire, there's usually an unspoken debate whether to go with the log cabin approach, the tepee approach, or some combination. I prefer starting with a tepee and making the transition to a log cabin, but this only works if I'm solely responsible for the fire.

I'm not picky about the style of fire because the mere act of building a fire masks all wounds. Along with floating down a river and one or two things I can't mention on a family blog, it's a perfect activity.

In a thrilling dog bites man turn of events, Luke and Max loved the fire. Either Wendy or Aunt Kim taught them rules about fires, or they had some instinctive rules about fire safety, because they grew quite alarmed at my actions. I wasn't supposed to step over the fire, even in its early stages. I wasn't supposed to get my face close to the fire and blow on it. And most of all, I wasn't supposed to allow a flame to lick my hand when I placed a piece of wood in the fire. I was chastised regularly.

The boys and their fire rules reminded me of a time I went camping with Robert.

I had just "left" the Mormon church for what turned out to be the last time, barring unforeseen future events. I had tried leaving the church several times in the years before that, but each time I vowed I was done, I backslid, and ended up back in the pews again, a sinner kneeling before God. At the time, Robert and I were sharing an office, and I tried to explain to him in my best CS Lewis language why I was still trying to be a Christian Mormon, even though I didn't believe a lick of the Joseph Smith story -- or the Bible stories for that matter.

That experience deserves a blog entry of its own. Suffice it to say that I decided to leave the church once and for all, so I wanted to make it official somehow through ritual. One such ritual was to go out in the woods and get drunk off my ass.

I know several people who left the church around the same time in their lives as I did, and we all had similar experiences to tell. In our late 20s, we did things that a lot of teenagers would have thought immature. Again, this is a family blog, so I can't tell certain stories. But I can tell this one.

I hadn't been drinking since I was a sophomore in high school. I asked around to get some advice, and ended up going with Fuzzy Navels -- a mix of peach schnapps and orange juice. Robert went with a more manly rum and Coke, although his frequent vomiting later that night wasn't terribly manly.

We lay our sleeping bags on a tarp near a stream in Diamond Fork canyon. Then we lit a fire, roasted some processed meat, and started drinking. I shook off the willies with every swig of my first Fuzzy Navel, but an hour or so later, I was drinking my Fuzzy Navel as if I were Ernest Hemingway. After the third or fourth drink, I manfully smashed the little purple umbrella that adorned my drink.

The act of getting drunk was a sin against my Holy Residual God, which is a fearful thing. At the time, I called it the Raskolnikov Factor. An individual can't make up his own set of rules; he's still morally bound by unseen social forces. As Robert and I drunkenly discussed ideas like this, we rebelled against our newfound freedom by establishing three rules:

1) Do not step over, close to, or into the fire.
2) Do not swim in or near the river.
3) Do not drive the truck, nor any similar vehicle, nor operate heavy machinery.

These rules were comforting to fledgling atheists. We made sure we got the language just right. As we continued to drink, these rules became shackles, obstacles to true living. One of us would move very close to the fire and revel in the other's scolding. Then we took turns jumping over the fire. I wanted to go for a little swim. Robert wanted the keys to go for a quick drive in my pickup truck.

No! No! That's against the rules!

Good times.