Wednesday, August 17, 2011
A Grand Illumination
Once a summer, the tiny, mostly seasonal community of Victorian cottages here on the island celebrate the closing summer through a magical tradition, Illumination Night.
A little back story.
This community of small gingerbread-style houses originated over 150 years ago.
Then it grew. Tents once pitched for a week, became tents with wood siding standing, and grew to cottages that still endure. Despite wind, water, hurricanes and progress, the cottages remain much the same today.
Illumination Night, once held to mark the then Govenor of Massachusetts' visit over a century ago, now means something entirely different, but equally momentous. The colorful Chinese, Japanese and handmade lanterns line the eves and porches of the carpenter-gothic style cottages for just one evening a summer.
In the center of it all, an open air, ironwork building, the Tabernacle, stands and is surrounded by a lush and peaceful park setting.
Preparation is feverish. Will it rain? Will the old lanterns hold up, one more time? Will the electrical cords reach?
On Illumination Night, a traditional band concert and community sing start off the festivities.
And when it is just dark enough, the oldest member of the community steps forward to light the first lantern of the evening. Then... magic!
From the tops of the original tent poles to the gardens below, glowing fireflies of lights twinkle - some candle-lit, others electrically charged.
Crowds follow the lights around the circle of cottages, like moths to a gentle flame - taken in by the awe, the wonder, the aura of something never known, but instinctively felt.
Yes, it is the essence of summer. Days spent at the beach, nights spent under the stars. Of family visitations, vacations of a lifetime. Of a weekend's respite from the heat radiating from the asphalt sidewalks of the city. That last snatch of childhood, held like a dancing firefly, in the palm of the hand.
And then... let go.
The local fire engine rounds the circle, letting the cottages know, it's time to close up shop.
For the night, the week, for the summer....
Have a good one. :)