Eclipse Festival: A Moment Of Totality

Two weeks ago I was on my way out the door of my Studio Apartment in the heart of Los Angeles struggling with my two large suitcases and my carryon. Somehow, I had managed to cram all of my festival gear into a package suitable to check on a plane. I put my burgundy festival hat on my head and I embarked on my journey to Oregon for the internationally organized Eclipse Gathering. It was a longer journey than I had expected, in all honesty the most magical venues are always the hardest to reach. I flew into Portland, Oregon and then took a shuttle arranged through the festival organization to the event. The shuttles were slightly disorganized and took a ridiculously long time; however, they lent the chance to begin to fall into the culture of the festival. A culture which like the solar eclipse had both a light and a dark side. We must see it in totality to be able to understand it.

I had arrived at the festival just after midnight. It was the typical beginning of a large scale festival. Phone service had cut out a couple of hours before we reached Big Summit Prairie. Unfortunately, my boyfriend’s twin had landed later than we had and was not on our shuttle. We had anticipated an app called Firechat to work, and it didn’t. I could feel his tension building. We unloaded off the bus and as we were arranging our things another two busses pulled up. Sure enough, his twin stepped right off the bus with his girlfriend and we were off into the festival. Only we waited in the shuttle line for twenty minutes. Two shuttles finally pulled up and announced they were the last of the night. We didn’t fit on them. We rallied our spirits it wasn’t too far, we could find a place to camp around here. As we lugged our two suitcases each along the dusty dirt path of the festival a production guy in a van offered to give us a lift closer to the camping area. Right from the beginning it was this pull of negative energy, the kind that stresses us out and makes us anxious, and the pure flow of the festival, naturally bringing good things our way.

This festival offered so much to explore there were the Village Witches dedicated to the magic of plant healing as well The Black Rock Observatory, a center for science and astronomy. There was a ripe community of visual artists present live painting around various areas of the festival. In fact, one evening we stumbled upon a small stage resembling a cat tree and snuggled up watching two painters share a canvas while music played in the background. There was a day party every afternoon out by the lake featuring different genres of electronic music. Many of the stages featured more bass-centric artists like The Glitch Mob, Minnesota, Delah Moontribe, and Troyboi. However, I found my house music haven at the Sky Stage as I knew I would.

At first I had mistaken the look of the Moon Stage for the Sky Stage. It looked like it had giant mushroom clouds all around it and the bass was pumping. Then I realized how heavy the sound was. I walked further and heard the brighter thump of house music. I walked down the dusty hill past the snowmobiles used as seats and through the tall pines to find a stage unlike what I had expected for the “Sky” Stage. I had assumed the Sky Stage would be ethereal in design; rather, it was industrial and very mechanical looking. Wooden planks came to form a stage area atop of which there were spinning propellors. It looked like something out of a disco anime day dream. One where we were on some floating warehouse in a city above the clouds. As I saw Ana Sia play the sunrise Saturday morning the industrial style of the stage made perfect sense. Her hard hitting techno accompanied by sunlight sparkling through the trees was magic. The transition from her heavier track selection to an ethereal set from Öona Dahl was seamless. The energy began to slip a little more out of the shadows and into the sunlight.

I celebrated the sunrise at the Sky Stage half of the mornings of the Eclipse, which was a seven day long event. By far the most magic day was when Damian Lazarus played a 3 hour set as the sun rose to end just before the moon began to cross in front of the sun. His set got brighter with the daylight and more playful. He ended by mixing in classic anthems like “Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics which had everyone singing along and dancing together. Then we all marched off our eclipses glasses out; but, no fear, plenty of people had spares to share with friends who may have forgotten. As we walked towards the open field I pulled my welders goggles down and looked up. It looked like a tiny bite was taken out of the sun. Every time I flipped my goggles down more and more was eaten away. It was happening so quickly. If I stared up I could see the moon eclipsing the sun. It began to get cold and a chill passed through us all. Something strange was happening. The shadows began to dance on the ground around us. Then the final bit of sun slipped beneath the shadow. I pulled off my goggles. Above me it was dark; yet, on the horizon was a sunset. Planets twinkled. The ring of light cast off from the sun glowed around the shadow of the moon and everyone was howling and cheering. We were alive.

Since I haven’t really been able to get that image of that out of my mind, and not because I burned my retinas, but because like the eclipse itself this festival, the Eclipse Gathering, made me aware of the shadows within this community as well as the light. I sensed more negativity than I am usually aware of at a festival. I think it is from a personal place I am coming from in my life. I have been stuck lately. A year ago I dove into this lifestyle as a professional and each festival felt like such a celebration. A moment to connect with my community and cherish the fact that the hard work I was doing was paying off. I was a published writer, I had just shot a short film, I was working on a play. In short— I had a reason to celebrate. Lately, I’ve been really down on myself. I’ve been see-sawing between knowing I have to take a leap for my life to change and the comfort of procrastination and laziness. In my time back I have realized that I noticed more negative energy at the festival because I have been breeding negativity in my daily life.

The times I have been freest and most authentic in the festival I was living that way in my daily life as well. I was seeking connection and inspiration every where I went. Since I have been indulging in escapism through binging television rather than face my career and my demons head on that is exactly the same energy I attracted within the festival. I escaped. I ignored my real life. I heard the arguments people were having rather than the existential moments I know must have occurred. I had developed the opinion that festivaling could be a way to navigate my depression, that it would re-energize me to create during the creative drought I’ve been experiencing this summer. Rather, I was jumping from festival to festival escaping the reality that my life is not the one I dream of. When I was working actively towards my dreams in the real world everyday I was more willing to interact authentically within the festival as well: it wasn’t about escaping, it was about celebrating.

Overall Eclipse Gathering is a festival I will never forget. There are times we all must encounter the shadowy aspects of ourselves. This festival helped me identify the shadows that crept into my light. I know now that I have to get up everyday and actively participate in my life if I want to feel that free authentic feeling I find so easily in the festival. If I don’t pursue it daily it won’t come as easily even within the bubble of pure festival bliss. Unlike my usual reviews I have seriously struggled to find the words for this one. I don’t want it to come off that I didn’t enjoy my time in Oregon, because I did. I just have realized that over the past year I transitioned somewhere from the festival being a celebration to the festival being a form of escapism. I know that finding my way back to celebration involves a willingness to participate in my own life again. As scary as that knowledge is, remembering the love and acceptance my community within festival culture has shared with me gives me the strength to take action again. I think many of us who exist and feel liberated might pause and ask ourselves the same question: Am I here to escape or am I here to engage? The more we engage and participate in the festival and beyond the more love and light we can spread into the world around us each day.

Featured Image: Get Tiny Photography