Smith College Commencement Illumination Night

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Smith College Commencement Illumination Night

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One of my favorite traditions during commencement weekend at Smith College, my alma mater, is Illumination Night. The school turns off all the lights on campus and strings illuminated Japanese lanterns along all the paths, and everyone walks through them in hushed tones. This year an alumna had the idea to ask alumnae to create their own “lanterns,” photograph them, and upload the photos to social media. This is a selection of a few of them. The school also created an interactive map that shows the lanterns spread across the globe — you can click on a site and see the photos uploaded from that location.

I teach in New York City and had just flown down to New Orleans for spring break when the country went on lockdown. I’ve been quarantining in a friend’s empty apartment here since then, and there aren’t a lot of supplies on hand. So for my own lantern, I just took a paper bag from the supermarket, turned it inside out to hide the logo, used an X-Acto knife to cut the words “my sister” out from it (Smith is a women’s college), and put a few candles inside. Somehow using my hands to make something personal for the graduates made me feel more connected to them than I would have felt had there been an actual Illumination Night — the difference between creating something and merely receiving it.

That said, my heart goes out to all graduates everywhere who didn’t get to celebrate their accomplishments with their loved ones. Seeing different alumnae’s lanterns was touching and inspiring, but there’s nothing like a shared space or a simple embrace.

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A person in navy coveralls is washing their hands at a sink. Down below in front of the cabins of the sink is a paper that says: HANDWASH STATION. AVAILABLE TO ALL. *DO NOT DRINK* Handwashing Station at Faubourg Wines New Orleans Link Image

This item was submitted on June 12, 2020 by Casey Ruble using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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