It is a simple thing really. Just a brown paper bag, some ordinary sand and a candle. No big deal.
Ahhh, now take 1,000 bags, lots of ordinary sand and 1,000 candles, line them up 20 paces apart down a long road with no street lights. NOW you have a really big deal.
The first luminaria path I lit was in a tiny coastal Oregon town, Port Orford, home to Cape Blanco, the most westerly point in the continental United States, a fishing town with no breakwater to the pacific ocean so the fishing boats must be hauled in and out every day with a giant crane, a town where the wind blows so hard during summer, the sand on the beach will beat your ankles to bleed, a town with some of the most jaw dropping, beautiful coastline you will ever see if you take the drive that far down the Oregon coast, or up the California coast into Oregon. I lived in Port Orford for a time and one Solstice my girlfriend Joyce and I decided my long, wooded driveway would make an excellent path of luminaries; brown paper bags, partially fill with sand, drop in a candle and light it. We invited a few friends for a dinner party, everyone walking up the candle lit path to the house imagining the night time fairies and elves we were inviting out to play. The candles flickered silently, creating a golden glow from the house into the night as everyone walked down the drive at the end of our evening. That was 1993 and I have been lighting Solstice candles ever since. My first Vashon Solstice 1999, I walked across the street to my neighbor James whom I had known for barely 6 months and I asked him if I could light his pond with luminaries and he looked at me sideways, said that was crazy, but sure go ahead. We gathered a bunch of boards, put the sand in the bags, put the candle in the bag, lit the candle, set the bag on the board and pushed about 100 of them into the pond. It was stunning. James said it was the prettiest thing he had ever seen. The next year we lit luminaries from my house to his house, down his driveway to the pond and lit the pond again. Stunning. Next we lit the road of Paradise Valley, both sides, going farther and farther each year, weather permitting, until 2011 when we went 4.7 miles, ending quite far down Wax Orchard Road. One year a sheriff stopped my friend Karen DD while she was walking down the road lighting candles, he asked her if this was a religious thing, she said yes and he wished us a happy solstice. During these past 23 years since 1993 lighting luminaries has been hit and miss with rain or snow and the year my dear old Luna dog died on Solstice. We are ALL due for a little extra light this year, yes? Solstice is my high holiday, a mystical experience as the sun stands still for a nano-millisecond as it begins its return from the Tropic of Capricorn, it brings me to a relative standstill as I soft focus my gaze up and down the candle lit road.
We have 1,000 candles and I believe it would be an illuminating accomplishment to candle light 5 miles this year if the weather goddesses cooperate and the forecast is looking very positive with a less than 10% chance of precipitation You can participate in many ways for as much or as little time as you wish. There is magic in the community experience of creating anything, imagine creating 5 miles of candle light together. If you wake up Wednesday morning, December 21 and the sky is dry, show up at La Biondo Farm about 11:00 and join us bagging sand and candles, loading trailers and trucks, walking and setting bags every 20 paces or so, lighting candles about 2:00 or so, then watching the magic happen as dark settles over Paradise Valley.
There is also the opportunity the next day, Thursday to help pick up everything. Every year I am delighted and surprised to meet people I do not know on the road picking up burnt bags and candles. I will provide you with a trash can or a plastic trash bag.
Some things to know, bring and practice:
Practice walking 20 ordinary paces and bending over to place a bag on the ground. That is what we will be doing for 5 miles. The more of us walking and bending, the fewer miles we each have to walk and bend. Then we walk and bend to light the candles. Sounds fun, yes?
Wear your layers! It might be a balmy 40 degrees at the warmest part of the day. The walking and bending will warm you up.
Bring a clicker lighter for the candles and a pocket flashlight. We try to get all the candles lit before it gets too dark, but sometimes we get lost in the meditation of walking and bending and it gets dark fast.
I will have a big pot of black bean soup and coffee. Bring anything you want to share. Or not.
There will be bonfire in the front yard to keep us warm, to invite the Solstice Fairies and Elves out to play and to send remembrances and wishes to those who are not with us on this Solstice.