Pleasure Practices with Sami Schalk: Lean into lights

Embracing the comfy cozy glow of the holiday season.
The author and her partner pose with a peacock made of lights at the Henry Vilas Zoo.
The author and her partner pose with a peacock made of lights at the Henry Vilas Zoo.

Embracing the comfy cozy glow of the holiday season.

Welcome to the final Pleasure Practices of 2022, my dears. Like last year, I’ll be making a list of the things I did and the pleasure I created in 2022 as part of my end-of-year celebration, but for this month’s pleasure practice, I want to talk about bringing more light into your life, literally.

Several holiday traditions around this time of year involve lights and/or candles. It makes sense since it’s dark at like 4 friggin 30 and we have to create our own light for December late afternoons and evenings. Seasonal depression is directly tied to the decrease in exposure to natural lights, but even if you’re not depressed, you might feel the sluggish effects of the early darkness on your bodymind. That’s why now is a great time to lean into lights as a pleasure practice. For me, light displays are particularly pleasurable to look at, especially if I can do so from the warmth of my car or house!

Last year, in addition to a string of outdoor lights, I also bought an inflatable light-up unicorn for my balcony and plugged it into a light-sensitive outlet timer which would turn it on at sunset and leave it on for a certain amount of hours, which I could select with a dial. This year sadly that unicorn was destroyed by a windstorm, but I followed up with a giant holiday dinosaur I named Glitzasaurus Rex. Let’s hope this one lasts! I love having a light display on my balcony with a timer that turns on right as the sun is going down, coming to life and providing a little extra glowing cheer that helps me push through the last bit of my workday. It also makes me smile when I settle in for the night and see it out my window. I find that if I don’t intentionally have a bunch of lights on (or automatically come on) as the sun sets, I’m far more likely to feel drowsy earlier. Even a string of fairy lights can work magic!


In addition to my lights, this time of year I also lean into candles to create a comfy cozy vibe. I like big pillar candles that last a long time and don’t leave me with glass or plastic jars at the end, but to each their own! Now is a great time to get a few candles that look and smell good to you to add light and warmth to your space. Electric faux candles that flicker can create a similar vibe if you’ve got pets or kids and candles are more risk than you want.

Don’t have the time, money or capacity to bring lights and candles into your home space? Then you can take yourself to see other people’s lights! I love seeing light displays in residential neighborhoods, but I’m especially a fan of the big light displays in town.

Recently, my partner & I went to the Zoo Lights event at the Henry Vilas Zoo for our date night. We went on a relatively warm evening and really enjoyed strolling slowly and looking at the lights while sipping hot cocoa (mine spiked with peppermint schnapps, which is an add-on option at the vendor spots around the zoo). In addition to light displays and refreshments for purchase, there’s a fire pit to warm up, pictures with Santa, and unlimited carousel rides. Definitely worth the $10 ticket! Go at the later end of the evening if you want fewer kids and families around.

Don’t wanna walk outside or pay? There’s also “Holiday Fantasy in Lights” at Olin Park, which is a free, donations-encouraged, drive-through display. You can go over and over again—in the same night if you want! We often drive through twice back-to-back and since Olin Park is on my way home from downtown and the east side, sometimes I drive through by myself after a night out just because it just makes me happy.

Other lights around the area can be found on the Madison Mom blog (yes I follow Madison Mom even though I’m not a mom because family-friendly events are often very fun!).

So this month and throughout the darkest part of winter, lean into lights! Be a badass bitch who literally lights up the world around you.

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