Fires. Large bodies of water. Hypnotic lashes of flames, the lapping and crashing of waves, are both similarly transporting. There are few things as engaging.

What is it about these two elemental phenomena that captivate? They are so much the antithesis of each other, yet they can have a similar soothing effect on us.

I love to go to the shore of Lake Michigan to rest my brain — it works quite well for me. There I can get to a place of complete mind quiet.

Watching the flames of a controlled fire are endlessly fascinating to me too. They don’t share the same repetitive rhythm of the lake waves, but they hold a wondrous quality. Yet fire does not clear my mind or give me the same sort of reset as those waves.

Consider campfire stories. They are as common as campfires themselves. Until last night I had always thought campfire yarns were an inescapable tradition shared between the spinner and the listener.

I had a large pile of sticks and branches in my yard that has been piling up for years. Such as it was, I found myself, by myself, like a good boy scout tending a fire. The moon appeared and then the stars.

As I became lost in the flames and glowing embers, the fire started sharing stories with me — but they were surprisingly familiar stories, filled with my own memories. The lake never tells me those stories as I stare into the surf.

Is it possible that as water clears my mind, fire fills my head? That there really is some extra substance to the diametric opposition of these two elemental forces?

Opposites don’t always attract.

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