S’more magical time outdoors

People who light fires on the slightest provocation are always the nicest.

There’s something comforting about fires.

— Jane England

Is it my imagination, or does food taste better when cooked outside? And I don’t care one bit that they have no nutritional value: I love marshmallows. In anticipation of sunny weather predictions for this weekend, I hurried to the grocery store midweek for another bag of Stay Puffs. I know from past experience that I’d better have a supply on hand or there will be mutiny at the Klope house.

Thank goodness it is that outdoor time of year. I can fix my family’s favorite barbecue recipes and set up chairs around our fire ring. It’s the perfect setting for story telling and relaxing and relationship building.

A favorite photo of mine is fading it’s so old, but I can still make out a campsite on the Oregon coast that my childhood family built when I was in elementary school. In the background looms our large blue and yellow canvas tent, the kind that leaked if we touched the sides during a downpour. Towels are hanging on a makeshift clothes line strung between two trees and my mom is looking up from a Coleman stove where she is heating chili. My brother is offering a treat to our family dog and a tablecloth featuring a green, orange, and gold color scheme takes me back to those fashionable ‘70s.

My mom had taken a part-time job, as I recall, to outfit the family for the three-week camping trip up the West Coast. At the time we owned an avocado-green station wagon with a black interior that got so hot at times we had to sit on beach towels to keep from burning our bare legs. We also made good use of a rather new product on the market called a “Space Blanket,” developed by the NASA Space Agency.

Those old canvas tenting days are long gone. No longer do we have to avoid the sides if it rains or inflate air mattresses with double-action hand pumps. Today tents are lightweight, sturdy and water resistent. As much as my kids love the outdoors, they are not wild about camping as our property resembles a campsite year round. My girls are quick to point out that it’s no vacation if the setting precludes a light switch!

My husband and I have given up on the notion that we will vacation in the wilds with our kids, communing with nature. We have not, however, abandoned the notion that time spent outside with the kids can be magical. There is great reward to spontaneously moving evening activities outdoors to eat, talk, and hang out as the day comes to an end. Beyond the barbecued chicken and the s’mores, we are laughing. Listening to music. Playing musical chairs to avoid the smoke of our campfire and comparing notes on ways to improve our property. We’re talking about the immensity of space and those situations in our lives we view as both troubling and challenging. We’re reminiscing about childhood adventures and wondering what joys the future will hold.

It is those spontaneous conversations, out there as the cloak of darkness falls upon us, that bond us ever more tightly and build upon a foundation of strength and love. So let us love the sun and the thousand colors of green that now surround us outside. Let us relish in the beauty God has created for His glory and our enjoyment. And may we equally anticipate the darkness, the moon and the fire; a perfect set-up for joy and special moments to share with family and friends.

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