Fire in the Hole

I've been holed up in a room at Motel 6 in Lincoln, Nebraska, for the last few days catching up on my laundry and other mundane matters, but I've also been busy preparing to do my first fire project of the trip. Yesterday I went on a successful scouting expedition and located a site I really like and today I spent several very happy hours watching motel TEE-vee while I carved a fire brick to use as the focal point of the fire. It was heavenly.

When I say fire brick (for those of you that don't know), I mean the bricks that are used to build kilns. I brought a supply of them with me on the road to use for my fire project. I wet the bricks when I carve them so all the nasty particulate matter doesn't fly around (definitely not something you want to be breathing). I use a set of metal files I brought to shape the surface. It's a fun medium to carve with - sort of like firm chalk. Man it's been a long time since I did any carving! I'm really enjoying it.

I had gone on a scouting expedition on Thursday and found a really great spot just 6 miles from where I was staying under an overpass on I-80 (which runs east to west slightly north of Lawrence, Nebraska). The remote exit I chose is near a huge active highway construction project and so is in use as a half-hearted staging area for random materials and an occasional bulldozer. I took some scouting photos so I could think about how I wanted to photograph the fire, where it should be placed, etc. The thing that really sold me on the site were the wonderful gothic arches formed by the support beams, making the space instantly grand. I especially liked how from the front, the rough dirt in the background made a lovely geometric backdrop.

A good part of Friday was spent in the luxury of slowly and methodically getting ready to make fire that night. I sat in my pajamas and happily carved away at my brick while I watched "What Not to Wear" on motel tee-vee. I pored over my camera manual, learning how to do fancy presets and shutter delays. I had some serious logistics to consider, after all, since I'd be both making the fire and doing the photography at the same time. It was a marvelous planning exercise. I called Nate for exposure setting advice. I filled a bucket with water and a motel towel as a secondary safety measure (my water fire extinguisher is belted into the passenger seat of the car). I was as ready as humanly possible when I headed out the door of my room shortly after 6 p.m.
When I arrived at the site and started unloading, I quickly realized my previous plan to put the fire behind the archway on the hill wouldn't work (too much space, not enough fire). Fortunately, I find that a good bit of the fun to be had in this sort of activity comes from seeing what you can do with what you've been handed. What I decided to do instead was to place the fire directly in front of one of the gothic arches. and immediately set about collecting interesting bits from the site to incorporate in the fire. There was a bucket of doo-lollies, 5 of which I used as the base for the brick's skirt, then some bent blee-blahs that I found laying around that I used as upraised arms. Then there were these little black thingies that fit right on the end of the upraised arms and made a flat surface for a rock to sit on. As I went about, collecting things to add to my tableau, I experienced a deep, deep sense of satisfaction that this is what my life looks like. It was about that time that I stumbled across the prize find: an old heart-shaped padlock that had been broken open. The theme in my mind for this fire was forgiveness, and I was stunned at what a beautiful symbol had been laying there in the dirt, waiting for me to find it.

I got everything ready for the encroaching darkness, being careful not to unload anything from the car that would indicate fire or fuel until after the light had receded. I sat and waited for the light to fade, listening to the lullaby of trucks rumbling overhead. Finally, it was time.

And finally it is time for me to stop writing and just show you the damn pictures.


Anne said...

Call if you need bail money!
Be safe
We love you

ChrisB said...

You even know how to make laundry day seem like a joy and a delight!

Love the fire.