The lights are easily one of my favorite things in the days leading up to Christmas. Before the Thanksgiving turkey carcas has been made into soup, the first lit up house will appear. Within 24 hours there are a few more; parents taking advanatge of kids home from college to reach those highest spots. By the second weekend in December every street has something to show, whether its the classic candles in window or an inflatable Snoopy snow globe.
In the evenings, light spotting makes even the most boring of outings a bit more fun. There's the giant peace sign that appears among a stand of trees on my commute home, or the stone sculptures that have been wrapped in twinkling white on the Lincoln green. The trees of Burlington are a crazy riot of primary colors, like a giant splashed glowing acryllic paint across the park. Then the restrained joy of Lexington's wreaths, greens and star-like lights. One one side of the street a neighbor has made grand loops across her bushes, reminding me of a string of cursive "e's". Just around the block there's a house where every eave has been traced in glowing icicles, like a giant gingerbread dripping icing.
This year I considered making a photo-map of my neighborhood's Christmas lights. I got the idea from a story I heard on This American Life about Denis Wood. Mr. Wood has been mapping his neighborhood in Raleigh, North Carolina since the 70s, but not in the usual ways. He's made maps of what you would see underground (pipes etc), of who appears in the newspaper, pools of light cast by the street lamps and my favorite, jack-o-lanterns. Wood then layers these maps to see what connections he can discern (he shares some of them in the This American Life story). It got me wondering about the houses I pass each day. Are the people who decorate with lights the same ones who make jack-o-lanterns? Do people without kids (at least outdoor evidence of kids) decorate for the holidays? Have more people been planting vegetable gardens lately?
I've decided I probably shouldn't do a photo-map. To shoot in the dark would require setting up a tripod and that simply calls too much attention to myself. If you saw someone with a tripod in front of your house, wouldn't you wonder what she was up to? Yeah, that doesn't sound like a fun conversation. But I do love the lights, and as they start going dark over the next couple weeks, I'll miss them. Why is it that just as winter gets its nastiest and the dark feels the most foul, we take down our amulets against its depressive influence? There are always a few folks who don't care ab0ut the expense and keep them lit throughout the deepest winter. And to them I say a silent "thank you", each time I pass.
Photos in this post were taken in York ME, Portsmouth NH, Cambridge MA and Lexington MA.