A backyard fire pit: Flames, stars, and light

A cooler than normal June evening, a backyard fire pit, a mostly clear sky, and a John Denver playlist streaming in the background. The entertainment on nights like this is projected naturally on the surrounding landscape. Maybe this is what people did before tv?

Backyard fire pit

Backyard fire pit preparation

It all starts when my wife says, “Let’s sit by the fire tonight.” So, I fetch hand-split logs to stack next to our fire ring. Then I crumple-up pages of the free newspaper that lands on our driveway each week. After placing them into the fire pit, I top them with dead branches as kindling.

As I was sitting by the fire one evening, I thought about the logs burning in our backyard fire pit. A tree sprouted over thirty years ago when a seed took root. That seed grew and it survived hungry white-tailed deer, storms, fallen branches from bigger trees, and people clearing the land for other purposes.

Splitting wood
Photo courtesy Abby Savage.

The tree grew, and after decades it eventually died. Maybe it deteriorated from insects or from a storm. Its fate was sealed by an amateur lumberjack, an old chainsaw, and a splitting axe. There is something invigorating about splitting wood by hand, especially in the autumn air.

Tending the fire, tends to stoke life reflections

Starting the fire is easy if the wood is dry and the kindling is abundant. The fun part of an evening by the fire pit is watching and tending the fire. On this evening, our fire was roaring when sunlight still filled spaces in the sky.

Backyard firepit

We watched the daylight slowly fade away as the sky darkened. Periodically leaving my Adirondack chair to poke at the fire and add more logs, I had ample time to search for the first evening star to appear.

After I spied the first visible star from our backyard fire pit, I watched for number two. It took a little while, but eventually, the light of the second star pierced through the sky as if someone poked a hole from the other side of the universe. I couldn’t pinpoint star number three, because the next time I looked up it seemed there were stars all across the night sky!

A backyard fire pit and Windows on the World

During a moment in the evening, my mind suddenly thought back to a very different time and place—1990 and NYC. I thought back to when my wife and I were dining at Windows on the World Restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center in New York City. The unusually expensive (for us) dinner was made possible by an award at work. We enjoyed a wonderful meal and an exceptional experience. Two memories stand out about that evening. First, we watched as a couple got engaged in the dining area near us. What a unique place to pop the question! The second, was the incredible view as day turned into night and the stars appeared above the city.

Windows on the World Restaurant
Windows on the World Restaurant. Photo courtesy of Literary Hub.

After the events of 2001, I was glad we decided to reserve our table on top of the world for that evening. I will never forget that experience. I guess I hope the same is true of this night’s fire pit because there was one more surprise in store for us that evening.

Backyard fire pit: The grand finale

As fires die out, I generally flip the logs to ensure they burn thoroughly. Staring at the flames in the firepit on this evening, we could still view the evening sky and small mountains in the distance.  Then we noticed the sky getting lighter in the east. In the direction of New York City, a strawberry-full moon gradually appeared over the mountains floating between a few clouds. We watched the moon move across the sky as the fire’s flames burned the old tree logs into embers.

Soon the sky turned dark and then filled with stars. It occurred to me that the fading embers in our firepit resembled the sky with bits of light breaking through the darkness.

Backyard fire pit embers

When sitting by your backyard fire pit, remember that stars are always in the sky above, you just can’t see them until darkness falls upon the night.

And I have to say it now. It’s been a good life all in all.
It’s really fine to have a chance to hang around.
And lie there by the fire and watch the evening tire.

Poems, Prayers and Promises (John Denver)


By Charlie & Susan Anderson.

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