Sigurd Olson would have loved the Australian song “Campfire on the Road.” He worked much of his life for the right described above in the chorus. The right to open spaces of all kinds, from little city parks to the most remote areas of the world. Deserts. Mountains. Forests. Prairies. Habitats of all kinds.
Yes, he was interested in protecting habitats for all species, especially the endangered ones. But his personal focus was right out of this chorus: the tremendous, often unexpressed, human need to draw close to nature.
We humans evolved in the wild. We need it in order to be fully human. Those who feel it most—”the drovers, dreamers, poets and Aborigines” of the song—feel it powerfully, but it is a genuine need for all. A need that requires time in nature. A need so basic it is a human right.
The right to light a campfire on the road.
It’s a beautiful song, at least for a dreamer/poet like me. Below you can listen to a recording of it by Michael Martin Murphey. Along with such performers as Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker, Murphey was part of the 1970s Austin music scene where the progressive folk genre called “Americana” took shape. Murphey ultimately stepped away from the stardom of popular 1970s and ’80s songs such as “Wildfire” to focus on recording old-time cowboy songs and newer ones that celebrate the value and need of spending time outdoors.
First, here are the lyrics, by John Williamson:
campfire on the road
Camping under the leopard wood
As the sun goes down and the fire is good
Cause I’ve managed to find myself some brigalow
And it wouldn’t be the same I know
Contemplating the fire glow
Without my darlin’ out here on the road
Now it’s a very special thing
To hear the little crickets sing
And there’s no need to say another word
Just watch the campfire steal the show
And let the inner feelings flow
Release the tension out here on the road
We must never let ’em take this life away
Old stock routes belong to one and all
Drovers, dreamers all agree, poets, Aborigines
We have a right to light a campfire on the road
Some people like a river bed
With river gums high overhead
Unroll the swag on a drift of river sand
But me I search for different sites
I’m not afraid of Min Min lights
And I welcome spirits out here on the road
And I welcome many signs I see
In a land that’s been so good to me
That lead me to the soul of inner man
And I can tell you there are days
I see the earth in different ways
That keep me searching out here on the road
Here’s the song:
This song grows out of the natural responses to nature found in the teal portion of the singing wilderness spiritual map, and yet is also about justice and the goal of peace, found in the gold portion of the map.