Campfires Burning…

Loreto Guides cooking breakfast at Echo Park

Loreto Guides cooking breakfast at Echo Park 1959

Campfires Burning…

Girl Guiding had rituals associated with it, beginning with a left-handed handshake, the hand closest to the heart.

Campfires Burning…

As with all camps, the Loreto/Jairos Jiri Camp which included the deaf and blind  began each day before breakfast with all assembled in a horseshoe, signaling guiding is always open to new members.  The Court of Honor the night before would choose a prayer for the morning service.  The day’s program would be announced.  The company would fall-out, ready for a substantial breakfast.  Grace was sung in parts to the background cooing of the doves, and sometimes the wondrous call of a fish eagle.  Mom loved this early morning time when the air was cool, the dry grass crunching underfoot: the day fresh, open for possibilities, unpredictable, however well planned.

Mom invited Jairos Jiri himself to join the girls for the campfire.  He arrived in good time for supper.  There is a thrill kindling a fire, building it up and then cooking on its hot embers.  A fine meal was in the making in big black dixies.  Jairos did not involve himself with this.  This was woman’s work.  Instead he inspected the park strewn with granite boulders and shaded with msasa and mountain acacia trees.  In the level clearing were the heavy army tents.  He studied the tables and larder made of lashed sticks.

In accordance with African custom Jairos was served first, a meal of sadza (stiff maize meal porridge) and goat stew with a thick gravy.  He sat apart from everyone as he kneaded bite size pieces of sadza with his finger tips to dip in the gravy.   The nuns too, took their meals separately, using knife and fork.

The high light of any camp is the big evening campfire once the supper dishes have been washed and put away and the pots and pans scrubbed clean.

A farmer’s wife, Mary Fletcher donated the firewood.  As the fire burned, white ants (termites) in the wood exploded in brilliant sparks.  They began with:

Campfires burning, campfires burning

Draw nearer, draw nearer

In the gloaming, in the gloaming

Come sing and be merry 

This song was split into two or four parts.  The girls had beautiful voices and harmonized so well.

Looking into a fire, absorbing its heat as the night cooled and the stars came out drew everyone closer in an unspoken bond which could not be explained or broken.  Each had learned to appreciate the assets they had and a compassion for the other’s disability.  The ‘ordinary’ folk were humbled seeing such happiness about them.

Jairos stood outside the circle, but close enough to absorb the warmth and the music from these joyful hearts.

As the embers burned down to a red glow, beneath the starry night, everyone was warmed inside by boiling hot cocoa served by the cook patrol along with Mom’s Scandinavian waffles drizzled with Lyles Golden Syrup.  She wondered what Jairos was thinking.  Was he as moved as she by the songs and action songs sung with great gusto, the deaf guides getting the rhythm from the stamping feat or hand clapping?

 

 

 

2 Comments

  • betty goolsby

    Reply Reply November 13, 2011

    My favorite camp song…..you are right…there is no expanation for the feelings that come from sitting around the campfire, singing late into the night…..It is almost mesmerizing! Camp always made feel closer to God and nature and the gifts that we forget about when we live in the city….I am jealous that you had so many opportunities, while I only had 2 weeks in the summer. I love your beautiful descriptions….I can really envision the camp and your experiences!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply November 13, 2011

      You are right of course. At the time though, I didn’t fully embrace my mothers enthusiasm for the Guiding movement, its values and joy of the great outdoors, and dont forget I had to live with it all year long, not just on Friday night Guiding night and winter camps!

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