It seems befitting that we should celebrate our wedding at this evening’s special, 100th lighting of WaterFire, for it and the community of staff, volunteers and supporters that have grown around it have been at one time or another instrumental in the formation of our union. From a glance across a bridge during a “WaterFire Build” on a warm May day two years ago, to a 4th of July picnic, a pool party, and a boat-shift or two later tending to the fires, now we find ourselves here, sharing this special moment in our life with our special community of friends and family.

Mesmerized by the magic of the dancing flames, captivated by the crackle and the aroma, and drawn by the music that transcends time, space and cultures, WaterFire first touched us in a very primal way and then captured our spirit and imagination. Satiated as an audience for this marvel, we were soon drawn to be participants in its creation. Once here, we found ourselves members of a wonderful community. A community of staff and volunteers that are as diverse as the visitors who come to see and experience the fires, yet united in passion and interest, and with a desire to be part of something that touches so many with each performance. In the process we also found each other. Over time and across continents, seas and oceans, we met…here in Providence…at WaterFire.

One man’s art and vision has become the catalyst for many possibilities for countless people. Once the receivers of this beautiful gift, we are now its bearers. As WaterFire volunteers we continue to accept a soulful experience each time, each fire.

From a few hours to unaccountable hours we all give a part of ourselves in creating WaterFire, and just as its performance touches all the senses, what we give is accepted, renewed and returned to us in as many ways.For a few hours at each performance we become ourselves artists, creators and performers of the rites to the rhythms that float over the river. We give life to the fires and feed the flames for their dance macabre and, should we forget who we are for those few fleeting moments, we are reminded of our role by the applause, the encouragement and the gratitude from our other half – the audience.

Like a Siren, WaterFire lures people to its elemental enchantment with promises of something nurturing and otherworldly. At the end of the evening, when all our effort, time and energy have literally and symbolically gone up in flames, we are satisfied in knowing that we shared something special with friends and strangers alike. That we once again helped form a community and that perhaps some who arrived as strangers, left as acquaintances.

In the wee hours of the night when all but ash and embers remain in the braziers, we are home and WaterFire is becoming another memory. As we wash away the smoke from our hair, a sense of closure sets in and begins to lull us to sleep. It was a wonderful day and another well-received performance.

Mardo Atoyan and Catherine Valenti met at WaterFire while volunteering for the Memorial Day weekend fire. Catherine is an educator, artist and entrepreneur. She is the Founding Director of Angel Care Montessori, a program for early childhood education. Mardo Atoyan is a Principal Partner with HealthCare Analytics, an actuarial consulting firm. Mardo feeds his soul and maintains his sanity with black and white photography.

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