June 26 • 02:17 PM

Autumn campfire, warm memories

September 26, 2018
As much as I love summer and all the heat that comes with it, there's nothing like an early autumn afternoon out in the countryside.

Shadows long, dancing in the dappled afternoon sunlight, everything takes on a heavenly looking glow, as if there are halos around every single living thing.

I'm working on building a campfire for my sisters, who've sought out a wavering patch of sunlight to take the chill off the air.

Making the fire is no problem. The wind storm that brought in "the change" last week did double duty at my place. Mother Nature's blustery pruning sheers were in full working order as is evidenced by the variety of kindling big and small scattered around the grounds.

With my grandfather's wheelbarrow—the same one he mixed cement in on construction jobs he landed—we pick up the sticks and wood and wheel it to the campfire pit, which holds other family memories. More than 20 years ago my dad and my husband installed the big cement oval ring, and then—much like my grandfather with his bricklaying skills—installed the beautiful hearth that surrounds the ring. I am the fortunate beneficiary of these precious things, memories in concrete and physical form.

We talk about the footprint of the Minolli family that's evident all around my property. The wooden footbridge—an engineering wonder—also built by my dad and husband. Like his grandfather before him, my dad was a masterful woodworker who knew his way around the craft. I am the lucky recipient of a number of his beautiful creations—a cedar cabinet, an oak wine rack, an oak and cork trivet, a cedar well head cover—heart shapes scalloping the edges. A machinist by trade and engineer through experience, my dad had the added gift of an artistic eye, which shines through in all of his pieces. He could make just about anything, and he'd do it with flair.

As we sip our cocktails and water, we take in the peaceful surroundings and share the kind of belly laughs close family members can share. That deep, soul-level knowing and sharing that comes with growing up—and now growing old—together is yet another gift on this celebratory day.

As much as I love summer and all the heat that comes with it, I'm reveling in this early autumn afternoon, where love is the operative word and feeling, and friendship is cemented in memories.

All I have to do is look around to know how blessed I am. This little slice of heaven is aglow with the new season, and with the light of precious and fond recollection.

Email Catherine at

Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.
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