"My stomach filled with butterflies
and goosebumps enveloped my skin.
The brilliant gleam of the corina began to sparkle
and tears started to stream down all of our faces.
Two minutes later it was over.
Two minutes and there was a sense of
renewed energy and celestial mysticism.
It was over, but we all had the bond."
An excuse to forgo real life, slap on glitter and indulge in debauchery with friends old and new.
The Symbiosis Global Eclipse Gathering held in the depths of the Ochocos at Big Summit Prairie was a week-long adventure that took place Aug.16-23 and featured a whopping seven stages of music, ranging from electronic music to.... electronic music — with a bit of String Cheese Incident, Indian Kirtan, Russian Gypsy beats, Psychedelic Trance and strung-out hippie ukulele melodies thrown in.
Stages, workshop areas, yoga shalas, dance spaces, pop-up country and western bars (that confusingly sometimes offered alcohol and sometimes didn't) tea houses, kaleidoscope booths, Burning Man-esq wooden art installations, play areas and swings, psychedelic temples, tree-houses, water slides, teepees, nude mud pits and several party barges dotted the prairie landscape.
PHEW! Did you get all that?
Oh, as did really, really, friendly folk dressed in unicorn costumes.
"We've been here for months clearing sagebrush, flattening trails, building infrastructure for our world community," said Josh P., a festival volunteer, "We're creating a once-in-a-lifetime collaborative festival experience for one of the most phenomenal experiences ever to be witnessed: a total solar eclipse." Party-goers from across the globe made the trip to experience the unique festival and flags of several nations flew in camp spaces.
Indeed collaboration was key with California festival Symbiosis taking charge of production merged with 13 other world-renowned festivals situated in Oregon, Canada, France, Japan, South Africa, Costa Rica and Australia — to name a few.T
here were hiccups, sure. For one, it took us 15 hours to get into the festival — from Bend — because of a traffic accident, meaning we drove a painful five miles per hour on average to get in, finally, at 6am. And another eight hours were spent walking around the dust-filled parking lot trying to find our pre-planned camping space because there was no cell-service or real WiFi.
Firechat — a bluetooth-enabled app touted as working without cell service and whose stock jumped exponentially leading up to the gathering as revellers shared their usernames ranging from "Cats_and_weed" to "Party Sloth," were shouted across social media. In vain of course, because Firechat, Did. Not. Work. Go figure.
Young millennials fumbled along as they held their cell phones uselessly in their hands, dumbfounded at not having cell service — probably for the first time in their lives.
We returned to the "dark ages" and crayons, markers and glitter were scrawled upon ripped cardboard and used paper plates as messages were taped to gates, posts and porta potties, announcing campers search for their friends. "GOO? WHERE ARE YOU?" read one, "SPACE CADET, We're at Planet HomeSlice behind Purple Furball," read another.
Oddly enough, with ODOT reporting at least 28,000 vehicles in the area and pegging the number at twice- fold — at 70,000 — accidental meetups occurred frequently — and often while inebriated, in the dark, making it all that more exciting.
"OHMAHGAWD I CAN'T BELIEVE
I FOUND CHOOOOO."
Cried a burly man wearing a Panda head, stripped leggings and a fur coat. He groped a scantily clad wizard carrying an LED lantern and a crystal staff. The sorcerer accepted the hug, even though I was unsure of how she could tell who was who, with Panda head obscuring identity and all.
With seven stages operating almost at all hours of the clock (there was a brief one hour pause during the total eclipse) FOMO was operating at an exponential 200 percent and sleep was non-existent. The rapping ditties of the psychedelic trance tent was enough to send one into an adrenaline- caused fury and I'm unsure of how I'll sleep now without its blasting beats. Delirious insomnia clouded over the group and one hour dirt siestas became our daily ritual.
There was tasteful nakedness, an enshrining of the human body — regardless of shape, age or race — and a beach party that echoed spring break madness — except with way more sparkle, rainbows and flamingos. Unicorn floaties were borrowed or commandeered, but always returned and every straggler was graciously accepted if they found themselves on the outskirts of a group.
Artistry, musicianship, mind-body-and-spirit, indigenous traditions and psychedelic mushroom workshops were taught. Cacao ceremonies were performed and a dominatrix lightly spanked her "unicorn" in front of passersby, as an excited audience member ran up and offered her his larger flogger.
There was magic. And acceptance. Laughter and stupid jokes. Interjections from strangers as you walked by and complained about being tired from "all that walking. "Should I call you a Wahm-bulence?" They chided.
And there was conversation. Some deep. Some superficial. Some about Kale vs Spinach. Some off-the-wall. Some thought-provoking and mind-expanding. And some silent, yet comfortable.
"Why can't real life be this beautiful, open and evolved?" I wondered out loud.
As we gathered on the plains, all 30,000 of us walking out to find our space amid the crowd, the festival fell silent, for what was the first time. As the crescent shape of the sun grew into a tiny sliver, a deep roar began to emerge from within the crowd.
My stomach filled with butterflies and goosebumps enveloped my skin. The brilliant gleam of the corina began to sparkle and tears started to stream down all of our faces. Two minutes later it was over. two minutes and there was a sense of renewed energy and celestial mysticism. It was over, but we all had the bond.
All in all, perhaps it was silly, or childish but amid all the dancing and the LED lights, the hula hooping and pastie-covered nipples, there was connection.
And a shitload of dust.