Providence, RI makes a spectacle of itself (when it has funding), every other Saturday night in the summer and early fall.  That’s when the confluence of 3 rivers becomes a highly-witnessed ritual called WaterFire–fire that dances on water for many hours after dark.

2014-09-27 17.43.11Set-up happens early.  By the time we got there around 4, it was long-accomplished, and the crowds were already gathering, staking out their preferred vantage point.  And you can see the braziers, made up of baskets of wood, are ready to be lit, 86 in all.


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Providence becomes Venice for a night, with gondola rides for the fortunate few.  The rest of us are content with a stroll along the river banks to tents with crafts, cultural tidings, and food, then over to a park or two, before settling in for the show.

I was mesmerized by the reflections.

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But it’s what happens after dark that makes the magic happen.

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Volunteers, wearing all black to blend in with the night, process with torches–some lit, others not.




Boats slowly begin to disperse along the river.  Meditative music plays an accompaniment.  Here you see the river is still dark as one boat passes by, the torchbearer clearly visible, as if inspecting a parade ground.

Then the lighting begins.

Like the Olympics, the torches onshore are lit, one lit passing to the next, a chain reaction.  Here’s a tiny taste.


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The torchbearers onshore stand still like sentinels.  The braziers, fully lit, begin to leap and twist and crackle.

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The smell of a campfire.  Getting hot along the riverbank.

As if checking their work, the boats circle again.

The music calms and cools.

Taking a long view, we can see the circle of fire that extends under the bridge in one direction…

…and pointing to another in the other direction.

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There’s nothing to do now, but watch, breath in, listen, feel, and reflect.

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