When we first started Dakotafire Media five years ago, some questioned the name. Why “fire”?
It has led to some confusion over the years. Some think we are the newsletter for a state fire association. And we’ve probably sent a lot of traffic to Dakota Fire Protection, a sprinkler company that has the “.com” version of our web address.
We chose the name “Dakotafire” for a couple reasons. Co-founder Troy McQuillen liked the name because he thought it reflected the spirit of the people who live here—you have to have some “fire in the belly” to make a go of it in a place that can have six months of winter.
I liked the name because of the purpose that fire can serve in ecological systems. For years, Smokey the Bear taught that all fires should be put out as soon as possible, but the thinking has changed on that. Sometimes fire is a good thing, and in fact, it is often necessary for new growth. Fire represents change, which can sometimes feel like the destruction of all we hold dear, but which can end up being what keeps those precious things alive in a new generation.
Of course with change, as with fire, we need to be careful. Not all change is good. It’s our responsibility as community members to be vigilant, to know at a very deep level what we want—what we won’t allow change to destroy.
No one person can answer “What do we really want?” for a community. If one person’s want makes it impossible for someone else’s heart’s desire to exist, then we aren’t really a community anymore. If we are no longer talking to one another, or trying to understand one another, we are just individuals who happen to live in the same place.
And oh, do we know as a country how hard those conversations can be. It is so much easier to avoid them. Those conversations challenge our worldviews, and social scientists tell us that we respond to a challenge to our worldview in the same way that we respond to threat to our very life.
But if we want to live in a democracy—where we the people decide the structure of the society we live in—those conversations are necessary. The beautiful part is that they aren’t just something we should do with a sense of duty, as there’s also a significant upside. Those challenging conversations are also the source of our community’s—and our nation’s—greatest strength. These conversations are what lead to the best ideas, and they build the most vibrant and joyful communities.
I’ve been spending time by our woodstove lately, thinking of what’s next as the Dakotafire magazine chapter comes to a close. I’ve noticed that one other aspect of fire relates to the work we’ve done here.
Those of you who have tended a fire know that one log will not burn, as the Finnish saying goes. As a fire gets going, it doesn’t take hold of each log individually. Instead, the flames flicker between the logs. Take a look at your next campfire—the warmth and light come from the spaces in between.
As we continue our separate journeys to build up our communities, may we tend to our own Dakota fires—the sparks for rural revival that are in each of us. But even more so, let us nurture the spaces between us, where the flames can flicker and grow.