Sense of Place

Ian Luehr-Sele
3 min readSep 30, 2020

Whack! Whack! The axe cleanly cuts through the pieces of wood in front of me. A hundred feet away from me, my friends have already begun to build the fire with kindling. I pick up the chopped-up wood around me and begin to carry it to the fire pit. About half-way there, a fox accustomed to human activity darts across the clearing and ducks under the fence and goes down the hill. I arrive at the fire pit and pile up the wood next to the fence a few feet away from the fire pit. Then I begin to help set up the fire, handing the lighter to my friend nearest to me.

It is a calm evening. The sun itself has already begun to set below the hills on the other side of the lake. There is still plenty of light for us to see what we are doing. The waves of Payette Lake are gently lapping against the shoreline. Soon there is the sound of paper and twigs burning as the fire is lit. As the flames burns the paper and small pieces of wood, we begin to steadily add larger pieces of wood; the fire continues to grow. Soon, we are adding the firewood I had finished chopping a few moments before. When it reached a suitable size, we stopped. I went ahead and chopped up some more wood so that we could keep feeding the fire later in the evening.

While there were only three of us present at the time, we knew some of our other classmates would join us later. We then sat on the benches and talked about the day. Nights like this are what help me get through the long, busy days. As I sit and listen to the crackling fire, I begin to unwind. A gently breeze begins to come through and we all do that awkward moving of bodies to get out of the way of the smoke. There is nothing like the smell of a campfire. The current environment makes it even more enjoyable. The sun has set farther down the other side of the hills; the trees are now casting long shadows across the field. I look up and they are starting to gently sway with the wind.

The McCall Outdoor Science School is one of the most relaxing places on earth. It has access to incredible views of the lake as well as to the neighboring Ponderosa State Park. The scent of ponderosa pine trees fill the air. It is one of the most relaxing places I have ever visited. My time there was mostly filled with fulfilling my duties as a student attending the College of Natural Resource’s Summer Camp program; three weeks taking two three credit classes. The days were long, eight hours of class on top of studying five days a week with tests on Saturday. These long hours made down time that much more enjoyable. Our nights were spent, much like the one above, enjoying the views of the lake as stood around campfires talking with each other about the coursework or about our lives. Saturday afternoons and Sundays were dedicated for free time. My personal favorite was exploring the state park right next door.

While exploring was all fun and games, it was these evening campfires that I truly enjoyed the most. It was usually the only down time we had each day where we could simply sit back and quite literally enjoy the view of the lake. These moments were where we learned about each other. Having a campfire surrounded by nature is one of the best ways to spend time with other people. You get to know about them, you can relax. These moments, while small, are the best ways to really be who you are. Chatting and joking have always gone hand in hand with campfires. They are experiences that are shared by a great many people in this country. Whether you’re a city boy like myself, or from the country like most of my classmates here, campfires are a way of bringing people together.

Dusk has passed and the sun has fully set below the distant hills. It is completely dark now. The breeze now makes the air chilly and sweatshirts have already been put on. The fire has begun to die; we put on one more piece. Coals are now all that’s left. I check the time and it is nearing ten p.m. Most of us are now yawning to some extent. Knowing I have a long day again tomorrow, I follow the lead of a couple of other students and decide to call it a day.