A few weeks ago, I was handed the opportunity for a last-minute adventure. A friend who had planned a weekend getaway to see WaterFire in Providence decided that she couldn’t go and offered me her fancy hotel reservation for free. So, off went Angela and I to Rhode Island.
Free 4-Star Hotel Room

Free 4-Star Hotel Room

Our schmancy hotel was downtown, right across the street from the capitol building. How schmancy was it? There was valet parking. The front desk staffperson that checked me in had the title of “choreographer.” And the pillows on the comfy beds were huge.

A ring of fire next to the Providence capitol building.

A ring of fire next to the Providence capitol building.

The whole reason we were there, though, was WaterFire. A sculpture installation on three of Providence’s downtown rivers, WaterFire is made up of a series of 100 small bonfires that float like buoys on the meandering rivers. It’s magical—the intoxicating smell of burning wood, the sound of (dramatic) international music piped along the walkways, and most of all the sight of two mesmerizing elements (mesmerizing enough on their own, even more so in their fanciful dance).

Line of Fire

Line of Fire

I don’t know about you, but I could stare at a bonfire for hours and stare at moving water for hours, so the combination was enchanting. (It would have been more so if there weren’t hundreds of people milling about, of course, but such is the reality of WaterFire.)

Pretty lady with a flower.

Pretty lady with a flower.

Throughout the night, people were taking gondola rides down the river, and as Angela and I stopped under one of the bridges lit by old oil lamps, a gondola passed and its guide threw a flower to us. Some of the charm wore off once we read the paper tag that accompanied it—”WaterFire is sponsored by [insert the name of some corporate entity that I can’t remember].”—but still, it’s not everyday that you get a flower thrown at you from a passing gondola.

Fire and Water

Fire and Water

In order to keep the multitude of fires burning throughout the night, there is a firetender boat winding its way along the rivers. Staffed by five or six people dressed in black, the boat is full of chopped wood ready to feed the fires. There was something about the sight of the firetending that seemed ancient, primal, ritual.

Firetender Boat

Firetender Boat

Classic arms-length view of Angela and me.

Classic arms-length view of Angela and me.

So, it was a delightful random adventure. I had first heard about WaterFire from my friend Maureen, a talented photographer whose photos of the phenomenon do the magic of it much more justice. But I leave you with my best shot at capturing a bit of it:

Water and Fire

Water and Fire