Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Luminarias And Tubas, A Holiday Festival

"Luminarias and Poinsettias"

"Christmas Music, Tuba Style"

Our writing assignment for this week: Write about Winter!

Winter offers challenges and risks for the photographer. Camera batteries are depleted much faster, lenses fog up during the temperature transistion from outside to inside, and frostbite is always a possibility. But when one has a passion for capturing images in this way, the cold melts away and the warmth of creativity takes over. The elements of nature become a distant memory.

I was wandering through the Tinley Park downtown area this past weekend. The holiday season has been upon us for several weeks now and it was this particular town’s turn to embrace and celebrate the upcoming season. The area by the train station was festive with gold lights. Lights had taken residence on trees, bushes, and a replica of a train engine gleamed brightlly on the overcast day. Gold had taken over the city and the Burl Ives song “Silver and Gold” danced in my head. I was overtaken with excitement and quickly took some photos of the various lights all around me. I did this quite quickly as I had taken off my bulky gloves to snap the pictures and my hands were turning red and becoming numb from the cold. Those fingerless gloves would have come in very handy right about now, I thought regretfully.

I noticed a number of men, ranging in age from 16 to 60, bending down and lighting candles inside of tall, white bags. Ah, the luminarias. I love them and their symbolism of lighting and guiding us down the path. Thei bags encircled a fountain in the center of the town, and they were all glowing magically in hues of peaches and pinks. Red poinsettas peeked out from blankets of snow. nestled behind the glowing lantern, forming a glorious backdrop. I took a few pictures of the luminarias, singly and in clusters, and noticed several bags were catching on fire. I gestured to one of the young men to get his attention and he quickly walked over and blew it out. Not before I got an action shot of the burning bag, of course. I thought, “wow, what a job these men have to do. Apparently, the four dollar store lighters that they had brought with them no longer functioned and as the wind either blew out the candles or a bag started on fire, the guys had a look of desperation on their faces. “Got a lighter?” one of the men asked my husband.. No, I don’t, he answered, and the man’s face sank. I felt sorry for his plight, but only momentarily, as my eyes took in the tall evergreen tree nearby.Decorated in huge ornaments of red and white, I stared in awe as it seemed to touch the sky. I stood back and took a picture of the top of the tree, bedecked with a star on top against the darkening sky. Then I moved closer to the tree and decided that it would be fun to take a few ornament pictures. My reflection and those of bystanders nearby could be seen in the ornaments. I love to take reflection shots, they seem mysterious and almost otherworldly. The red ornaments were too dark to see much of a reflection through, but the white ones seemed to offer a clearer image. I moved around to different angles, and I think I captured one of the ornaments with the train station reflected in it. We shall see how that turns out when I look at the photographs later.

As the day moved into late afternoon, the wind had picked up even more and the temperatures were really starting to dip. My husband said, “Time to go, you’re getting frostbitten". I think my cheeks were numb or getting there, so with some reluctance I decided my camera day was over. As he pulled me by the arm, I noticed now my eyes were starting to water as well. Isn’t it interesting how I hadn’t even noticed the cold while I was in my photo zone, but now trudging back to the car, I was almost gasping in the frigid air.

Yes, being a photographer today had been a challenge. I could have stayed in the warming tent, which we had visited early on, content to snap pictures of the German band playing music.My German roots stirred in appreciation, and the tubas and accordions were wonderful sights to behold. But that was too easy, my adventurous side had countered. How was I ever going to attain my dream of working for National Geographic if I didn’t push my limits? Climbing mountains, facing war zones, confronting wildlife in Africa all are the kinds of jaunts I dream of encountering someday. But I need to hone up on my skills a little bit more first. And dealing with subzero cold temperatures during a town’s holiday celebration is certainly a stepping stone in that direction. I turned around one last time and stared at the distant luminarias glowing in the night, serving as a reminder to me that all paths are possible and that there will always be a light to show me the way.


butterfly woman said...

I did not know that is what luminarias did = light your way but I can see the symbolism.
I was there and it was cold plus windy. I felt sympathy for the kids lighting the candles and I was shocked to see the bags light on fire - a new definition of flame out. The german polka was good but loud. A good time. Good story, good writing.

Doris said...

Not all adventures have sub zero temperatures! I doubt you'll get frost bit in Africa, of course malaria is another hazard! Lovely photos, enchanting was good to hear some souls are out enjoying festivities in the cold.

Lin said...

Hey, we do luminaries every Christmas Eve. St. Chris in Midlothian sells them as a fund raiser every year--I think they are $5 for 7. You pull up in your car, hand your money over, and pop your trunk. They fill your car with bags, candles and bags of sand to do-it-yourself. On sale this Sunday if you are interested.

It is a highlight to see if they can last until morning, which if it is a still night, there will be numerous! Yeah--there are the "flamers" but they aren't dangerous unless they are near something that might catch on fire too. If it is out on the sidewalk it is just funny to watch the bag go up in flames--harmless, really.

Nice story. Nice memories.

april said...

Beautiful story, Bev. Beautiful writing. Beautiful photographs. This needs to be a beautiful little book!

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