We Make Magic

2 December 2018 – In the very smallest of ways, I have helped make magic.

You take that clear plastic water bottle, and you snip the sides into fringes, and you angle-cut each fringe tip, and you run each fringe backward against the blade of your scissors to make it curl, and

And then you plop it into the waiting barrel, and move on to the next bottle. You are just one member of that shift of volunteers, one little part of an extremely congenial assembly line. Later on, others will insert the light bulbs that turn these water bottles into “flowers.”

This November, I was one of the 250-plus volunteers who helped test lights, shape light receptacles, and generally do the prep for the 34th Festival of Lights, an annual Vancouver event run by the Parks Department at the VanDusen  Botanical Garden. Parks employees then draped all those lights over trees, shrubs, walkways and light standards, across 15 acres of the Garden grounds.

The Festival opened yesterday. The day before that was the dress rehearsal — a preview open to everyone who had helped make it possible.

Preview night, Frances & I are there! (She did many more volunteer shifts than I, but we are equally excited to see the results.)

We see familiar sculptures (here, Michael Dennis’ Confidence) in a new context …

and Livingstone Lake sparkling with more than its own fountains …

and brilliant new end-points for long views down the lake …

and lanterns dancing overhead.

The Preview is like a gigantic family gathering. We all did something-or-other, and everybody looks for signs of their own contribution. “The star at the top of that tree?” cries one young Parks employee to her friends, as she points to an enormously tall conifer. “I was up in the bucket for that one. I placed that star.”

My turn to get all excited when we see the first “flower garden.”

I am almost immediately diverted to the Next Amazing Thing. Namely, two young women who visited a dollar store somewhere, and festooned themselves with light-bulb necklaces.

We take their picture for them; they offer to take ours. We are already wearing Make A Wish Foundation star necklaces, but our new friends offer us extra props, also courtesy of the dollar store.

I wave a holly-trimmed top hat over my head, Frances grabs an elf hat — plus a couple of arrows bearing editorial comments. (She is therefore fully responsible for the resulting character analysis.)

If you think all those competing lights do odd things to the colour of our faces, please observe this heron.

 

This is not a frosted glass etching of a heron. This is a real, live, fishing-for-dinner heron, focused on his own needs in that creek and oblivious to the hullabaloo.

We wander and wander, finally turn back, walking down one side of the R. Roy Forster Cypress Pond. In its Festival illumination, the pond’s walkway seems to hang suspended, equally untethered from sky and water.

Final magic: restorative hot drinks in the café. As usual, its mirror bears a slogan in praise of coffee. This, too, dances with the lights, inside and out.

I’ll almost certainly be back later this month, enjoying it all over again with family. Want to visit it yourself? Book online, to save money and time as well.

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9 Comments

  1. Blane Hogue

     /  2 December 2018

    So brilliant and lovely, Penny! Very imaginative.

    Reply
  2. Beautiful. What a great thing to volunteer for!

    Reply
  3. I love the photo of you two! That the heron persists in his quest, well that’s pretty impressive, isn’t it? I confess I’m not at all a fan of decorating botanical gardens with masses of lights in December, but your description of the enjoyable volunteer process softened my negative view a little bit. And again, the photo of you and Frances makes it all seem OK.

    Reply
    • I’m surprised I am a fan of the lights — it all sounds like Wretched Excess, yet the effect is charming, maybe I’m just responding to everyone’s pleasure at the sight of it all, somehow we all turn into enchanted 4 year olds

      Reply
  4. What fun, all of it. Could you identify your own handiwork??? Happy festive season from far away, and a rollicking good 2019.

    Reply
  5. How lovely.

    Reply

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