Puddle Fire

Every Tuesday there is a dedicated group of volunteers who show up at Severson Dells Forest Preserve to attack the dreaded honeysuckle that has choked the life from our woods. I cannot even begin to express my emotional attachment to this group of men and women, who have become like family to me. I am so amazed at the work we have accomplished over the years and perhaps through time will share more about the little victories along the way in liberating the Hall creek corridor.

This quick note is to reflect on this previous Tuesday and what with persistence, people can accomplish when they work together. If you recall it has been warm, raining, or freezing rain for the better part of the last week and the very last thing I thought we would be able to do this past Tuesday is start a brush pile on fire. We marched into the woods on our work trail, skirted next to the open water that had pooled above the ice in any low spot. As we approached the creek, large pools of standing water and still melting runoff cascaded to the lowlands, we stood above the flooded creek upon our bridge. Swollen and brown the creek raged with springtime fury, “no way do we get a fire going today” someone yelled above the roar.

We made our way to the first pile and examined the drenched branches while standing in ankle deep water- we passed on this pile and moved up the hill. Somewhat drier, but slippery up on the slope the crew was determined that this pile would burn. I stood in awe as I watched the crew shake the snow from the top branches, and like ants set to work as a single entity to make this waterlogged pile of sticks flammable. Hands and bodies were everywhere, all moving in different directions, but all focused on the end goal. Handful after handful of small broken sticks and branches were added to a small kindling pile of old receipts, a magazine, and the flames grew bigger.

An hour passed by and the dripping from melting snow and ice was no longer a threat to the working fire. Constant, tireless work to grow a small flame to a working fire had paid off. I stood in the puddle and watched the fire burn. There are so many lessons I learn from being a part of the Tuesday crew, and this day was like any other- persistence of a common goal is accomplishable if your team is all on the same page even if it seems impossible.