Candles have a way of warming up the ambience of a room. Just a couple of flickering candles glowing on a mantlepiece make a room feel so much more inviting. Though I sometimes light them in the summer on the back deck, my real urge to light candles doesn't seem to appear until the fall. Maybe because it starts getting darker earlier. Maybe it's because it's colder outside at night and somehow they make a difference.
Amazing too that only one simple flickering light can make a difference. At the camp I worked at as a camp counsellor when I was young, there was a tradition that was followed every "last night" of camp. After the big banquet dinner, all the camper groups and their counsellors would congregate on the beach to share a letter that each group had written while sitting surrounding a blazing campfire.
As we arrived, we were given an unlit plain white candle with a piece of tinfoil wrapped around the bottom of it. We would circle the beach area with the little ones sitting up front and the older campers closing in behind them. Then, one group after another would have a chance to read their letter to all. The letters varied............humourous, lyrical, serious, but always heartfelt and hopeful..........kids describing the special times that they had shared living together away from home, away from family all the while developing friendships, some of which would become lifelong.
In between the readings, the whole camp would sing familiar campfire songs for the last time. Songs of the kind of spiritual friendship which makes life at a camp such a special place.
And as we shared our stories and many laughs, the blazing fire would begin to die down. The sun would begin to disappear. The evening would become solemn. Once the letters were finished being read, Skip the Camp Director would collect them all. He'd then roll them up in a tube and place them in a plastic container to be buried, only to be dug up the following year to be read aloud during the first night of camp. By the time this ritual was completed, all that would be left of the campfire would be silent embers.....enough though to light a candle.
Skip would then take his candle, bend down to the embers while talking about how one little light can make the whole difference. He would light his candle, and then turn to his wife "Nish" to help light hers. From there, they would pass their light onto the counsellors. The counsellors would turn to light their campers candles. Before you knew it, the cold darkness was gone.
If I close my eyes right now and picture the scene from my memory.......I see glowing faces of the kids quietly watching their own candle flicker from the breeze, in awe of being a part of such a simple yet powerful lesson on sharing. And in the background, the older kids would quietly start singing one more song as they huddled together, holding their candlelight, feeling the warmth of many summers of friendship.
Mmmmmmm I want to linger
hmmmmm a little longer
mmmmmmmm a little longer here with you.
mmmmmmm it's such a perfect night
mmmmmmm it doesn't feel quite right
mmmmmmm that this should be my last with you.
The song ends as soft humming continues. Each group files past the firepit to throw their candle onto the embers. Quietly campers and counsellors head back to their tents for a last night together...............a quick turning glance at the glowing resurrected flames which reveal the tears streaming down the faces of friends......arm in arm......quietly holding onto the magic of the moment.
One flickering light shared.
One flickering light spreads companionship.
The warmth of the candle needs to be shared.
The prompt this week on Writer's Island is friendship. I wrote this piece last fall. When I read it again tonight for the first time since I posted it, I was transported back to my camp counsellor days, to the last night campfires and to the warm friends I shared my candle with.