Trippy Lights

Dec 30, 2009 | Night Tripping, Spirit of Adventure, U.S. Travel

’Tis the season of special effects glasses. This time it’s not 3-D, but HoloSpex, whatever that means. I don’t want to spend the extra dollar. A young guy leans over to me and says, “They’re totally worth it,” in the conspiratorial whisper of a pot dealer. Not that I’d know from direct experience.

Peer pressure to try possibly psychedelic spectacles. Why not? I buy three, one for each of us: my husband, my 13-year-old sister, and me. Then we put them on and walk out into the frigid night air of the Denver Botanic Gardens to see a new side to the annual Blossoms of Light. Every bulb on every light-festooned tree looks like a tiny green, blue, pink, white, red, orange or yellow snowman. “No, they’re bells,” Miraya says. Dale is totally seeing snowflakes. What a far-out trip!

You can’t see the special effects without the HoloSpex glasses. Not as trippy, but very pretty.

If you tip the little bells forward, they say Jingle Bells. We pass the paper glasses back and forth, lingering in the paths, tilting our heads this way and that, getting in everyone’s way. To those without glasses, we must look like complete dorks.

Blossoms of Light at the Denver Botanic Gardens

It gets worse when I pull out my camera. I back into two people. “Oops, excuse me.” No response. “I really do apologize.” Nothing.

“Gee, they didn’t even say ‘That’s OK,’” Miraya says.

“Maybe it wasn’t OK. I really did mow them down.”

Across the Universe

The couple who invited us, very new friends, have brought a camera and tripod. Smart, smart, smart. I left my tripod home. Drat, drat, drat. I was thinking it would be too cold to make everyone wait, but I make everyone wait even longer, over and over, while I take a deep breath and try not to let my hands shake as I slowly press my camera shutter, and…

Nope. Almost. Crap.

No Need for Fireworks

A few precious photos turn out.

Blue Moon

In the end, the naked eye gives us the best view. This is, as the title suggests, a garden of light. These aren’t Christmas tree lights, nor a series of LiteBrite paint-by-number cartoons. Rather, someone has simply used the trees, bushes and bunch grasses of the botanical gardens as an artist’s palette. Paid elves have painstakingly erected more lights than any unpaid human would ever have the patience to try, no matter how competitive their upscale suburb.

Winter Wonderland

I check the last picture in my camera. “Cara, you’re about to walk into somebody,” Beth says.

“Oops, excuse me,” I say again. “I need a parent.” No one argues. When it comes to holiday festivities of any kind, I am indeed a child.

Paid elves have painstakingly erected more lights than any unpaid human would ever have the patience to try.

We bond with laughter over our half-feigned, half-real suffering in the below-freezing temperatures. It’s so beautiful it doesn’t bother us until we near the end.

Looks warm, doesn’t it? It’s not.

My sister, a Southern California girl, says she can’t feel her nose. She puts one finger of her glove to my nose. “Can you feel that?” No. Luckily neither can she feel the souvenir my runny nose has left on her glove.

Dale and I liked this sweet little trio the best.

“OK, I’m freezing! Let’s go get HOT CHOCOLATE!” I holler, a little too loudly.

These people may never hang out with me again. The risk of embarrassment is pretty high. But it was fun while it lasted. For me there’s nothing like the holiday heroics of contracting hypothermia in pursuit of a festival of lights.

Green Giant

And I’m keeping Dale’s HoloSpex glasses. They make the streetlights outside our house look like snowflakes. Totally.

About Cara

Cara Lopez LeeCara Lopez Lee is the author of They Only Eat Their Husbands. She’s a winner of The Moth StorySLAM and performs in many storytelling shows, including Unheard L.A., and Strong Words. Her writing appears in such publications as Los Angeles Times, Manifest-Station, and Writing for Peace. She’s a traveler, swing dancer, and baker of pies. Cara and her husband live in the beach-town of Ventura, California, where they enjoy tending their Certified Wildlife Habitat full of birds.
Cara Lopez Lee

Sign up for blog posts and to get my newsletter!