Gloei Lichtjeswandeling: The Walk Of Lights

“I find it scarier to walk around with a lantern, than walking in complete darkness,” K. said, as I fumbled with the torch, trying to put it in the right setting. I didn’t want it to flicker repeatedly, and I didn’t want just a dim shade, I wanted a full blast of yellow light, but achieving that required hitting the button a few times, and it took me a minute to get it right. “Oh, I can’t walk in the darkness without a bit of light, I can’t.” Lights out, I started to get scared.

There were three of us in the forest, at night. The tent that we had set up earlier that day had been broken down and set aside, everything we had brought with us packed, not neatly, but well enough to fit in the limited room of the Clio.

I’m not always afraid of the dark; I need darkness to fall asleep, but I’ll turn all of the lights on on my way to the bathroom. We needed to walk just a few meters, to see the glowing jellyfish made of what looked to me like thin white fabric; it moved at the whim of the wind, hanging in the air.

We got back to the car and drove the few miles needed to get to it instead, and we turned the lights of the car off in the face of it. I couldn’t cross a few meters in a pitch dark forest, Jorri and K. would rather see it without any lights, so we compromised. The jellyfish was beautiful.

Nunspeet is a small city in the Netherlands where I spent three days after Christmas. Jorri and K. were set to play at an event there, Gloie Lichtjeswandeling – a “walk of lights”, in the forest, in the evening. Every night, along the forest path, the organisation would place colourful electric candles inside tightly closed jars, and people would follow them and encounter other alighted items: a bicycle, a story-telling microphone that stick out of a white orb placed on the floor, Christmas lights hanging from branches, inside balloons.

The three of us were stationed right at the start of the walk, with a tent, big enough to accommodate the stuff we needed. Hiding on the back of it, I spent most of those three days reading A Little Life – which I started many, many months ago – and eating snacks, while Jorri and K. sat at the front, a big fire next to them, playing banjo and violin to the “walkers of the light.”

It was not too cold, during those days, but it was cold enough, and I don’t deal with cold very well. I try to see the bright side of being able to do things in spite of the weather, like camping or walking around town, because I know I can have loads of fun if I just stop whining, but even when doing my best to see that bright side, I do whine. Only in my head, sometimes. But whining is happening.

It was beautiful though, in a very romantic way. Darkness punctuated by beautiful and almost mystical lights, a fire, and music.

Looking back, I won’t remember the cold, or my whining. I will remember the way the fire made everything around it seem ever darker; how the jellyfish hanged from the sky, a clumsy ballerina with fluorescent blue arms; the way the music filled the night, the almost reverent silence of those who stopped to listen, how the stars shone bright up above, making the night a little less dark, a little less scary.

In the end, it’s all about compromising.

(You can check out a video of K. and I singing together at the event, on the blog’s facebook page, here).

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