Inceptions: Campfires, Scouter Bob, & The Art Of Storytelling


The flames flicker as I gaze into the embers of my memories and imagination...

Stepping out of the lights and noise of the others still in the cabin, I took a deep breath of the clean crisp Kananaskis air while looking upwards at the clear starry night sky above me. It was beautiful and I felt an overwhelming sense of freeness just being there, as though the world had become so much bigger. This was home away from home for me and time was never ending.

Not to far off was the glow of the rising campfire where I could see several of my friends walking and finding their seats on log stumps and folding chairs that were scattered near the pit. I was walking to join them and with no city lights, it seemed like the dark just wrapped itself around me until I could only just see the outlines of the trees and barely make my hand out in front of me. It was so silent that I could only hear the crunch of the ground beneath my feet, the evening crickets chirping, the breeze in the branches, and the faint voices of my friends in the short distance.

Entering the flickering light and warmth of the campfire while breathing in the rustic smell of burning wood that I love so much, I laughed and joined my friends in joyful hearted conversation while finding myself a place to sit and stretch out. This was the first night of many campfires to come and we were excited for the week ahead and the adventures that we would soon find together. Soon though, we quieted down. It was time for the evening story to begin.

Scouter Bob was the caretaker of Camp Gardner and a bit of a legend for his ability to tell campfire stories. It was always a great anticipation for us boys when we would hear that he would be coming to join us. He was a true master in the art of storytelling. Somehow he would manage to blend just the right amount of creative folklore with a touch of truth and intwine it with the very land and local places we were spending the week together in. We knew the stories were not real, but they had an almost essence of being part of the history to the land that would reveal an inner call to explore, learn, and discover more about it. Being there in the telling of Scouter Bob's stories was almost a spiritual event, an encounter that engrained these memories as part of our being and maybe even changed who we were. We were no longer just hearers to these stories, we were part of them, participating with a wonder to what will happen next... later in the night... tomorrow... and in the future. Who will we end up telling the story to? Or, who might be listening to the story about us?

Since I was a boy I have always loved the experiences of gathering around the campfire and the art of storytelling. It is a magical experience and a mystical place for the inception of wonder and awe. But it is also a very real place, concrete in its nature and beauty while revealing deeper and more complex truths and depths to its actual understanding. One of my favourite quotes comes from Marcel Proust who once said, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." Finding wonder in the midst of the mundane is not a matter of creating new realities; it is being willing to search deeper, to strive for greater creative depths until the mundane simply reveals the wonder within it. The transformative mystical genius of the campfires flame is not in searching for more wood to burn, it is in our willingness to gaze deeper into the flickering embers of the fire while softly blowing and fanning them into a mastering forge of creative awe.

We find ourselves in the inquisitive sense pondering, what exactly is the concrete presence of wonder? How do we define it? What characteristics make up its parts? Where do we discover it? What powers does it have? What questions does it lead us to? Are we missing something in it?

The flames flicker as I gaze into the embers once again... the story has begun... the inception is made...