Now a longtime part of island tradition, a luminaria walk will mark winter solstice, lighting the path at Fisher Pond on Friday night, weather permitting.
For 30 years, islander Karen Biondo has made this event happen, first by floating lights in a neighbor’s pond. It grew considerably from that simple beginning, as she and a host of volunteers filled paper bags with sand and a candle and lined miles of island roadways with the homemade lights. In the evening, cars would travel through with only their parking lights on — sometimes passing through the luminarias intentionally and sometimes coming upon the scene quite unexpectedly.
Two years ago, Biondo said she wanted to create a surprise the next time she undertook the event, and she did just that. Last year she kept the location a secret, but hints were divulged on social media in the days leading up to solstice. The event took place at Fisher Pond for the first time, getting people out of their cars and into the woods in the dark.
Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust Executive Director Tom Dean called this event “a great collaboration” between the Land Trust and Biondo.
“The Land Trust is all about nature, and solstice is an amazing phenomenon that we love to celebrate,” he said. “It’s a wonderful event. We appreciate the opportunity to get it off the road and turn it into a walking event.”
As in years past, Biondo will welcome volunteers of all ages to help with the tasks involved. On Friday, there will be a work party beginning between 10 and 11 a.m., and volunteers are invited to come by and stay as long as they want, she said. Tasks involve bagging sand, loading carts, walking the trails at Fisher Pond and setting out the bags. Should it be drizzling or raining, the event will be called off.
Last year she said many people talked to her about the event’s beauty, but she also fielded some frustrations, including people complaining about the darkness of the woods and tree roots in the paths. She was undeterred. Her mother, then 79, made it all the way around the pond with a friend in her 80s — with assistance — Biondo noted, and several people told her their feet felt more connected to the earth.
“I thought that was awesome,” she said.
Last week, she shrugged off any criticism.
“Life is not perfect,” she said. “Everyone does the best they can to make it a magical experience.”
The event will not be fully over until the luminarias are picked up and Fisher Pond is returned to its natural state on Saturday.
“A real hero shows up the next day and helps pack it all in,” she said. “If we get to have magic, we have got to clean up magic.”
The event begins at dusk. The main trailhead is at the Fisher Pond warehouse, located just west of the pond on Bank Road. There is ample parking in the lot; the trail is signed and heads into the woods across the driveway. The Land Trust is asking people to park there, and not on Bank Road. No dogs are allowed.