Playing with fire.

Two nights ago the kids and I slept out in the yard.

Under the stars.

seemed like a great idea at the time, and indeed I think it was. But by 3 AM I had watched the
moon's entire journey across the sky as well as the procession of night
music from spring peepers to the great horned owl to coyotes,
whippoorwill, snipe, and… well, you get the idea.

There was more nature observation happening than sleep that night.

And then Lupine, damp and cold with dew and night air, climbed into my mummy bag along with our barn cat and I could no longer move my arms. At all. We were pretty much wedged tight until we wiggled out and dashed to the house for hot tea beneath cozy blankets at 5 AM.

It was a magical – but sleepless – night.

And no, I didn't regret a thing, but yes, I did drink most of a pot of coffee to make it through the following day.

So the next night I decided the kids (okay, really I) would need to get to bed early. Really early. Because we were exhausted.

That evening, just before dinner, the phone rang. It was our neighbor who has been passionately restoring his prairie for years.

And Lupine, still dressed in a sparkly dress from a
birthday party in town that afternoon begged, "Oh, mama! Dan is burning
the prairie again. Can we go? Please? Please, can we?!?!"

(Puppy dog eyes.)

And I want you to know that I did not say, "But I'm exhausted and it's already 6:30 and we haven't had dinner and did I mention that I'm exhausted?"

Instead I said, "Yes."

And she squealed and leaped into the air and went upstairs to change into something more practical and I heard Sage cheer in the next room.

Playing with fire. {Clean.}

Playing with fire. {Clean.}

Playing with fire. {Clean.}

Playing with fire. {Clean.}

Playing with fire. {Clean.}

Playing with fire. {Clean.}

Playing with fire. {Clean.}

Playing with fire. {Clean.}

And then we ate venison steak for dinner. And nothing else. Because we could take steak with us in our grubby little hands and walk next door to watch the fire and the sweet potatoes were too messy for eating while walking.

Off we went, in the direction of the smoke.

The truth is, I can't imagine having missed this day.

It was amazing.

Playing with fire. {Clean.}

Playing with fire. {Clean.}

Playing with fire. {Clean.}


We talked about the importance of fire and the ecology of prairies and forests and invasive species and evolution. We walked through thick smoke and explored the expanses burned just a week before, already greening up with new life.

After an hour Lupine was tired and ready to go home, but Sage was just getting started.

So at the time we normally would have been tucking in I kissed him goodnight and left him with Pete and Neighbor Dan on the hill, a butane torch in his ten-year old hands.

And he burned the prairie, with Dan as his teacher and Pete looking on. And what an experience that was for the still smallness that longs for bigness that is ten.

Playing with fire. {Clean.}

Playing with fire. {Clean.}

Playing with fire. {Clean.}

Playing with fire. {Clean.}

Playing with fire. {Clean.}

Playing with fire. {Clean.}

Playing with fire. {Clean.}

 I was asleep next to Lupine in her bed when they came home, long after dark. Sage woke me, soot on his cheeks and smelling of smoke, his eyes radiant. "I got to use the torch, Mama! I burned a ton of that Prairie with Dan."

And the confidence and pride in the air was palpable.

He did it.

He helped push back invasives and enrich the soil for natives.

He felt the trust from the adults along side him as he stepped into the role of worker, not mere observer.

Playing with fire. {Clean.}

He did that.

And I wonder – how often do our kids get to step up and do the important work that lets them know they matter? How often can we silence the voice that says, "Be careful! That's dangerous! Don't do that!" and let them be and explore and truly live.

I say the more we do that the better. Because this kid was on fire (pardon the expression) with the work he had done.

It changed him.

And I'm so glad.

24 thoughts on “Playing with fire.

  1. Fräulein Rucksack says:

    I’m laughing over another yes! Yes!
    And those pictures! Amazing. And so must be the experience for your kids. And the confidence for their mother having just done the right thing.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Julien says:

    Hi Rachel,

    De-lurking after more than a year to say I LOVE YOUR BLOG. It is one of my very favorites- Seriously, I’ve read every post. Somebody recently gifted me a bar of natural soap and it changed my life. I can’t believe how much better my skin looks and feels when I’m not washing it in crazy chemicals! My bar is running low, so of course I thought of you. I’m looking forward to purchasing some of your Calendula soap when it’s back in stock.

    Now that I’m curious about soap, I would like to humbly ask to see a few more pictures of your soap making area/ workshop/ studio. I was also wondering if you could do a little info on what to look for in different soaps and what all the different ingredients do for your skin? (Coco butter, olive oil? Goat’s milk? What to choose for my skin needs?) I would be so grateful if you shared a little bit of your knowledge with us!

    Thank you for putting together such a beautiful blog and sharing your lovely life with us.

  3. Rachel Wolf says:

    Thanks Julien, and welcome! I’ll definitely consider your suggestion to share more about ingredients. I’ve been thinking of putting something like that together for my LuSa Organics website for some time. Thanks for the suggestion!

  4. Tara says:

    Wonderful post. I love that feeling when we can ignore our needs (sleep, food) for a bit and say yes to the unplanned. It really does brighten them:)

  5. Sarah says:

    Your posts are always so timely…beautiful…and amazing.
    Just this morning, we vowed to become radical Yes-ers in this house.
    I am sifting and navigating way through multiple dichotomies daily…actually, just one:
    being an allopathic medical resident (family practice) paired with the rest of who I am…attachment-minded mother, herbalist, midwife, friend, waldorf parent, partner, and nature-lover.
    Your blog is my breath of fresh air and one of many sacred grounding pauses in my day.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    Thank you for your trust in the process, your trust in your children and the light you are sharing with all of us daily. How lucky your children are to be on this journey with you and Pete.

  6. Darlene says:

    What a fabulous story of your day! The photos are amazing as well. This is an experience your children will carry with them forever. Sleep can happen another day, but Dan burning the prairie, well you have to catch that when it happens ~

  7. Lizzie says:

    I always love your blog, but something about this one particularly struck me. I think it’s because this life you are living, with these marvelous children you are raising, is the slightly different fork in the road that I made a decision about and went the other way this time around. It is so lovely to see someone out there living it. (I don’t know if that will even make sense to you, or might seem weird…sorry. :])

  8. Deborah says:

    I love “the still smallness that longs for the bigness that is ten.” I have a ten-year-old too. We don’t have any nearby prairies to burn so I’ll have to help him find some other meaningful work to do. 🙂

  9. kara decarlo says:

    Just awesome.
    He will hold that memory forever.
    I remember my first experience with fire. It was Girl Scout camping in damp woods, and we each took turns nursing a tiny little flame until we had a roaring fire to cook our dinner and warm our toes.

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