We Carry the Fire

We Carry the Fire
By: Aidan Finn Poteet

It was already dark when we first started making fire. Our chilled hands dug the flint and steel from deep inside our pockets. A small peppermint smelling bundle of tinder was fluffed in the scraped-out fire pit, and the first spark was struck. White light from the spark seared our vision and the image appeared on the inside of our eyelids. We blinked.

Shink, shink, shink.

The tinder smoked, but no ember danced at the center of the pile. Our knees were cold from where we were crouched on the smooth rocks of the dry riverbed. The sky was deep indigo and the first star shone down on us from the high ceiling of the sky.

Shink, shink, shink.

Little embers brushed the tinder and smoky tendrils licked the back of our throats and clouded our eyes.

Shink, shink, shink.

A spark caught and we collectively held our breath. It hungrily ate the tinder and we carefully added more. We felt the warm bite of the flame on our fingertips and we smiled at the small fire. Several others grabbed sticks to feed the tiny flame again but a voice of reason said, “Wait! Don’t smother it!”

This calmed our racing hearts. But there was no need to rush, and we laid the sticks to dry in a pattern around the small flame. The wet wood hissed and spat at our fingers and the spark wavered. Steam curled from the moist wood and the fire swallowed the sweating droplets as they fell.

The fire blew its smoky breath into our eyes. The few of us closest to the fire looked away with watering eyes. We stoked the fire, then withdrew our hands and breathed into the small embers. They flared hot and red and white and grew to brush our faces. We added more wood and the fire devoured it, hungry.

Aidan is a 3rd year student at Explorations Academy, a nonprofit independent high school where students participate in a meaningful academic and experiential education. This winter Aidan was part of the “You’re On Your Own” cluster where studies included Human Performance Under Extreme Conditions, Literature of Survival, Personal Finance, and Do It Yourself Art.

We Carry the Fire was inspired by students’ experiences cooking over a fire they started with flint and steel. This exercise was part of a 3-day, 2 night, survival skills field excursion complete with group challenges, snowshoeing, building snow caves, and a solo experience designed to enliven student’s connections between the world and their academic studies.

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