Ring of Fire

Our new outdoor fire pit, just waiting for its inaugural fire.

Some people baked bread during the pandemic. We built a fire pit.

It was my son’s idea. After weeks of home confinement, one of my neighbors hosted a socially distanced get-together around her backyard fire pit in May. My son returned home from it bent on installing a fire pit in our backyard.

The only problem is it took all summer to build, so we haven’t used it yet. They say if you build it, they will come, but so far they haven’t and heaven knows when they will.

The idea was that everyone in the neighborhood would host a backyard bonfire to touch base and break up the monotony of home confinement. But so far, there’s been exactly one bonfire, the one that sparked my son’s insistence that we needed one for outdoor socializing.

First world problems, to be sure. But could it be that some people enjoy sitting outside around a roaring fire at night more than others? I suspect it’s a little like camping or traveling around the country in an RV: it might be heaven for some, but others, not so much.

My sister was smart when it came to her fire pit. She bought a sleek propane model that doubles as a coffee table on her deck when not in use. But my son was adamant about wanting an authentic wood-burning pit for his ring of fire. Like his new-found love of barbecuing and growing a scraggly beard, home confinement has brought out his inner cave man.

What I’m learning is he’s something of a procrastinating perfectionist. When I try to help to speed things along, he excoriates me for sloppy work.

“You can help if you want, but please be careful,” he begs. Yes, he often sounds like the parent, but he’s been like this since he was little. And he does have a point: I have a history of making mistakes in the name of speed.

To his credit, his attention to detail has been impressive. We drove about 40 minutes to a quarry to handpick stone blocks for the fire pit in June. When the stones didn’t arrive as promised the following week, we were told they were on back order so we selected something similar to get the project rolling.

Installing the tiki torches around the perimeter.

Siting the fire pit was another matter. My son selected what looked like a level spot in our back yard and began stacking the stones. But as the sides grew, he discovered that the ground wasn’t level and his fire pit was crooked. I’d see the fire pit half built and then voila, it was disassembled. This must have happened at least three times.

I won’t go into all the options he considered for leveling the ground. Let’s just say at one point asphalt and concrete were mentioned and quickly dismissed by me. In the end, he leveled the ground the old-fashioned way: with a shovel and a tamper. But it wasn’t a quick process, not by a long shot.

Once the pit was in place, it was time for the crushed stone surrounding it. He rented a U-Haul pick-up truck to pick up setting sand and pink-tinted pea stone from the famous Stony Creek Quarry in Branford, CT., home to the pink granite that lines the base of the Statue of Liberty and much of New York City.

The only problem is the truck had a maximum load of one and a half tons, meaning he had to make several trips. When the truck was still in our backyard the following day, I asked when he intended to finish getting the stone.

“It’s stuck out there because it rained and the grass is wet, but don’t worry. I got permission for an extra hour from U-haul,” he said.

He wanted to plant small trees to designate it as a separate space. We visited four nurseries before he found what he wanted: six small aborvites that will one day grow 20 feet tall. And last but not least, we needed to get tiki torches for the perimeter. No stores around here had any in stock, so I ordered them from AmazonPrime.

When I saw him scrolling through Amazon for torches later that day, I told him I’d ordered them.

“Without consulting me?” he said. “I had something very specific in mind.” Again, I just wanted to move things along. I told him to cancel the order and get something he wanted, but he demurred.

“It’s OK,” he said. “I just wish you’d have asked me.”

So the fire pit was finally finished. The next day, we walked outside to admire the pit only to discover mole tunnels running through and around it. He wants to insert stakes in the ground all around it to block the moles, but I’ve got visions of people tripping over the stakes at night.

So for now, the fire pit sits unused and waiting for its first official lighting. Only time will tell when if and when it will ever happen.

10 thoughts on “Ring of Fire

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