I learned to make lanterns from my friend Mitchell four years ago; a brilliant fabricator and thinker, every year he brings the gift of light and warmth to our New Year celebrations on the frozen shore of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. At midnight on the last day of the year under the stars and constellations, our community of friends gathers together waiting for the
Instantly the small bundle of fabric soaked in wax and alcohol becomes engulfed in a small flame. Tied beneath the balloon, it the causes the paper of the lantern to be rustled open by the rising heat and our faces to be illuminated in the night.
It’s impossible to not hold my breath at this moment. My heart feels as warm and expansive at this balloon I am holding and is saying a mantra, ‘’please fly. please go. float. float. go.” When it starts to pull away, my fingers anchoring the balloon to earth simply let go and the lantern made of tissue paper and propelled by fire floats into the sky.
And then humans howling, laughing, and celebrating--it's a wave that erupts wildly upon the beach. To watch a lantern sail higher and higher, to see it be taken on a wind and carried into the darkness of the lake until it is so far away that it blends into the milky way, feels like a good omen. Even the balloon that goes up and catches like a miniature Hindenburg feels recklessly beautiful and is cause for celebration.
Last week Maggie came over to learn how to make these simple constructions. We brought them with us to a gathering of friends in Wisconsin and watched them float across the St. Croix River and far away over Minnesota.
I love them, and I love how letting one go feels like a gift to whoever witnesses its graceful ascent toward the heavens. This tutorial will get you started. My only tip is to use as little glue as possible.