By Roqayah Ajaj
In this post, I am going to share with you one of my first real social outings since the pandemic started. I have not been out much since March of 2020, as I spend most of my time writing and working on my dissertation. I only go outside for urgent things, meaning that I only go shopping for things that I cannot order online or go for small walks.
Last week, one of my friends surprised me with a ticket to the Luminary Loppet with her, her brother, and her other friend. The yearly nighttime event guides visitors through illuminated ice installations via a pre-made pathway. Our tickets were supposed to get us in at 6 pm, after the sun set, meaning that I would not be able to see anything, since it would be dark out. We walked as a group, and rather than using my cane, I held my friend’s arm. As soon as we had gotten out of the car, she began describing everything around us. It took us a while to even get to the ticket counter, because parking was far away, and the snow was quite deep. Still, it was a fun adventure as we trudged through the snow and my friend explained to me, “We are going to walk on some ice,” “Your feet will probably sink in this deeper area,” or “We’re going up a little bit,” etc. At the ticket counter, they directed us to where we could enter the trail that would take us through the exhibit.
The first thing we came upon were short ice cylinders with candles in them lining the paths on both sides. My friend described them and told me that they, along with other candles, lit the path throughout the exhibit. We walked in the snow for a while until we arrived at the first installation. It was a pyramid as tall as a person made of paper bags that each held a candle. My friend described it to me thoroughly!
On the way to the next feature, we passed a little star-shaped candle holder, similar to the short cylinders. The light was the only part I could see, but I was able to imagine the rest very well.
Another installation looked like Stone Henge made of snow – they actually called it Ice Henge! There were about ten monoliths in a circle, with about a foot and a half of space between each one. Each was shaped like a tall rectangle and had three openings, vertically arranged, in which lanterns had been placed. As my friend described it, she told me to touch it. I was wearing my gloves, and it felt cold and hard under my hands. Then, another person in our group suggested I take off my gloves. That’s when I realized that it was actually made of snow. Their descriptions, along with their suggestion that I feel it without gloves, helped me conjure a better image in my head.
At the beginning, my friend was clearly the leader – her brother and friend were more quiet. It seemed that they were watching and learning from her, however, because over time they began to jump in and help me, too. As they directed me, they directed each other as well, which made me feel included.
On our way to the third installation, my friend described the snow on the trees. She told me how the snow and ice covered the tree – it had ice only on one side. We laughed because, as we touched it, we noticed there was another visitor behind us, curious about what we were doing. The third piece I couldn’t touch. It was a mechanical system where several sets of concentric circles turned opposite each other. Each circle held multiple lanterns mounted on rods. My friend wasn’t really sure what the artist was aiming to accomplish with this one.
I really appreciated the patient descriptions that my friends gave continuously, unprompted. Combined with touching the features of the exhibit, this allowed me to clearly envision what we were experiencing.
The final installation was a tall, thick cylinder made of ice. When describing the cylinder to me, my friend had trouble coming up with clear words. I was happy when her brother and other friend joined in to explain things to me. They made sure that I had a good, full experience.
Ahead of time, I knew my friend was a good describer, but I had never met the other folks. It was by far one of my best trips, and I felt fully included and never felt like a burden. We ended our walk — or our hike, as we called it — with taking pictures on the winners’ podium in front of the event poster. Everyone was helpful by directing me on how to position my face toward the camera. I left the event very impressed and very happy, as everyone paid attention to the little details to help me enjoy the trip as much as they were.
Do you have any suggestions on what outdoor Minneapolis space I should visit next? Please share in the comments. And as always, like and share if you’ve found this post informative!