Light Therapy

Light Therapy

New England (along with original recipe England) being particularly dark and dreary this time of year results in a variety of coping mechanisms. Trees and lampposts are lit galore; people Google “hygge”; and pop-up “ski lodge” themes dot the downtown barscape.

But the most potent winter tonic was served last Saturday within the quaint wrought iron gates of Edgerton Park: the second annual Winter Solstice Luminary Walk. Brought to us by the Edgerton Park Conservancy, the walk brought lots of lightness to the darkest day of the year.

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Joyful Learning at Cold Spring School

Nancy Macgregor, one of the planners-in-chief of this entirely volunteer effort, smiles and settles one of the biggest questions newcomers ask: “We say ‘Edge-erton’ because we’re on the edge of New Haven and Hamden!” It’s the morning of the solstice, and as she scoops sand into one of the already thousand-strong luminarias about to be placed along every path in the park, she can’t help but smile talking about this relatively young event. “Last year, the weather was awful on the solstice, so we rescheduled for New Year’s Eve—but the weather was awful then, too! Just cold and wet—typical Connecticut winter. We thought maybe 10 people would show up, but we ended up having over 500! It was unbelievable! Some folks had never been to the park before, and most people were neighbors—from New Haven and Hamden.”

This year proved to be cold and crisp and, most importantly, precipitation-free. In addition to the luminarias were demonstrations (from local group Science Haven), fresh-popped popcorn and hot buttered rum—which sold out even hotter—from Tavern on State, the proceeds of which will go towards fixing the Edgerton Greenhouse furnace. They were cocktails to keep the greenhouse’s tropics alive, even in the deciduous north.

Macgregor, who conceived the event, identifies Edgerton itself as inspiration. “The park is beautiful in every season, and this is a time to re-introduce everyone… We’re all about landscape and nature and this is a great nature event!” Her favorite aspects of the event itself include “seeing a lot of people!” and “running around and placing the lanterns before the event—it’s so exciting!” She smiles and indicates the ingredients of each luminaria: a white paper bag with a scoop of sand to weigh it down and a battery-powered tealight to brighten it up, since no open flames are allowed in the park.

Starting after sundown, at 5 p.m., the luminaria walk proved illuminating indeed. A few of the glowing bags stood sentry at the gate on Cliff Street, as the rest lined the undulating landscape. The warm, golden glow of the greenhouse rendered it a succulent-filled lighthouse—a lightbulb for us pedestrian moths. Intermingled with the tropical plants were Christmas trees and poinsettias, amid string after string of white lights.

On their way to the carriage house on the Hamden side of the park, families with small children manically swinging their own decorated lanterns paused to pose by snowflakes made of luminarias, while other groups simply paused to watch. Inside the carriage house lay the true party, with delicious hot buttered rum held as if lanterns themselves, while old-timey fiddle music provided by the trio of Eric Larson, Jim Sirch and Willow Sirch got people bobbing and swaying. Rick Crouse of Science Haven kept the kids entertained with demonstrations of basic experiments, and the rooms were filled with smiling people, happy to be in from the cold and bathed in the light.

Edgerton Park
75 Cliff St, New Haven (map)

Written and photographed by Allison Hadley.

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