OREGON ECLIPSE FESTIVAL

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☆☾ One week ago today, I packed up my dusty campsite and said goodbye to the wonderland of Oregon Eclipse . The entire drive home felt like a daze, as I tried to comprehend my experience spent on the Oregon prairie, surrounded by tall pines, a glimmering lake, breathtaking art, non stop music and stunning blue mountains. As if that’s not enough to make my head spin, this festival, hosting 30,000 people, took place during a total solar eclipse.

The last time an eclipse like this was visible in the United States was before my lifetime in 1979. Having never witnessed a solar eclipse anywhere else in the world, I had no point of reference or expectation for what would unfold the morning of August 21.

The following photos and words attempt to transcribe the beauty of Oregon Eclipse 2017. I hope they inspire you to explore the universe within transformational festivals and appreciate their role in sculpting a positive movement for the future. ☆

Oregon Eclipse Gathering - Wild & Free Blog

symbiosis dreamscape

A part of what makes Oregon Eclipse so special, is the collaborative team composed of festivals around the world that helped bring the event to life. Nearly twenty hosts, from my favorite California events, Symbiosis and Lightning in a Bottle, to Australia’s Rainbow Serpent and South Africa’s Origin, came together to create this awe inspiring global eclipse gathering set on 55,000 acres in Ochoco National Forest, Oregon.

The size of the venue combined with the variety of attendees brought in from all over the globe, made my time at Oregon Eclipse more profound than any festival I’ve experienced. By the first day I felt I had teleported into a sort of Neverland. Another planet, in a distant galaxy.

It took me a few days to understand the full layout of the venue and grapple the dense array of activities, artwork and music. Art installations popped up around every corner, bass echoed throughout the vast landscape and every time I thought I had seen the whole festival, a new mini world would pop up. Among my favorite discoveries was an area appropriately named Kidzbiosis. A small oasis where children ran by and climbed into small enchanted dens nestled in trees alongside the water’s edge. It reminded me of a place I would have lost myself in as a child, playing princess or fairies hours on end.

Across the water, on a hilltop overlooking golden plains, stood installations by Shrine On. Beautiful structures made from recycled bottles and cans.

Oregon Eclipse Gathering - Wild & Free Blog

Wandering though Oregon Eclipse felt like imagination had come to life. Not only did kindness rule interactions, but compassion and a willingness to step into the otherwise scary world of vulnerability occurred easily and often.

I find this type of behavior at nearly all transformational festivals. It’s as if an appreciation of art, lack of technology and the universal understanding of music reminds us how to authentically engage again. We step outside of our busy lives and into a realm where we exist without the distractions of society.

After my first day on the prairie I felt as though Oregon Eclipse existed to offer a playground for any age, a place full of creative beauty and an incentive to admire the symbiosis of the moment. There’s seemingly no judgment for being different, just a overwhelmingly warm welcome and attitude to express yourself to the fullest. This shift is one of the core reasons why I find myself at festivals time and time again.

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Oregon Eclipse Gathering - Wild & Free Blog

Oregon Eclipse Gathering - Wild & Free Blog

Oregon Eclipse Gathering - Wild & Free Blog

photo captured by Haley Busch. With Natascha Elisa, wearing Love & Light The Label, Wanderlust Fashion, Her Pony & Wild & Free Jewelry.

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Oregon Eclipse Gathering - Wild & Free Blog

wearing purse from Layer Boots & bells from Girl On A Vine

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the journey

I hadn’t stopped reeling from festival utopia when the morning arrived to witness the eclipse. I walked through the forest, to a wooden bridge connecting the musical side of the festival to 1Nation Earth Camp and The Solar Temple.  As I stood at the start of the bridge I could see people slowly starting to funnel up the hill on the other side, migrating to the beautiful structure constructed specifically for the upcoming moments.

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Before the venue transformed into a festival, the Oregon Eclipse Team held a ceremony with Native Americans atop the hill in the above photo. Together they asked the land and the animals for permission to build the festival and create a sacred space to welcome the movement of the cosmos. Only after this ceremony did construction on the sustainably built wooden Solar Temple, and the rest of the festival, begin.

When I learned of the carefully devised intent put into these early days of bringing Oregon Eclipse to life, I knew I had to witness the eclipse from inside the Solar Temple.

DSC_5604photo courtesy of  Juliana Bernstein

1Nation Earth Camp

My journey to the temple brought me through 1Nation Earth Camp, a designated area of the festival dedicated to indigenous people, prayer, ceremony and an overall respect for Mother Earth.

One thing I truly admired about Oregon Eclipse was their decision to highlight the importance of Native cultures and provide a platform to learn more about indigenous people from around the world. By designating an entire area to 1Nation Earth Camp, Oregon Eclipse helped spread awareness on the aftermath of Standing Rock and the Lakoda People’s Law Project as well as remind all that passed through camp that we can aspire to unite and protect the earth and all her resources.

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an elegant dance of the cosmos

Around 9am I nestled into a nook in The Solar Temple. With over an hour until the moment of totality I focused on listening to ceremony and indigenous prayers hosted in the inner circle of the temple. Words echoed into the crowd of honoring the sacred alignment with an open heart, willingness to welcome change and recognizing that we’re all ONE, united and ready for the symbolic alignment of the cosmos. 

I watched as the sun slowly disappeared behind the moon. Seconds before totality, nearly everyone around me started howling at the moon. 30,000 people suddenly sounded like 30,000 coyotes. A few around me burst into tears, while others started laughing or embracing one another. The temperature dropped and a few speckles of stars dappled the canvas of the newly awakened night sky. 

 

jacob-avanzato-0764above & below photos courtesy of Jacob Avanzato

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In that moment I suddenly felt every emotion around me. I’ve been trying to pinpoint what happened for the past week and I’ve decided that my empathy took full fledged control. I’m the type of person who can’t watch a movie (even a cartoon) without suddenly feeling all the emotions of the character and bursting into tears when there’s a dramatic scene. The more I get to know myself and am confident with who I am, the more susceptible I feel to this empathy. It’s a trait brought about from what I believe as learning to understand the broad range of emotion within myself which in turn facilitates an ability to understand similar emotions within others. 

During totality I felt at peace and appreciative of the beauty of the eclipse until I heard other’s reactions. Suddenly I experienced a stream of tears while simultaneously immense happiness and laughter. Very quickly I felt myself thrown into a whirlwind of emotions. From the darkest sadness to the lightest joy. I felt every emotion bursting at the seams. 

Before this moment I’d heard stories of eclipses changing people’s lives. How realizing one’s place in the cosmos and the power of the universe can create a new reality. 

Aside from trying to comprehend my individual role in the universe, or recognizing the three dimensional awe inspiring depth of our solar system, the eclipse left me grasping to reconcile with the force of nature here on earth. 

I internalized a variety of external interactions and in the midst of understanding their relationship to myself, I felt more assured than ever before that while we may be different in culture, language, religion or beliefs, we are also powerfully united in our human experience. 

As the sun began to re-emerge I felt an emotional weight leave my body and in its place a stronger sense of connection to earth, humankind and the universe began to grow.

Juliana Bernstein

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DSC_3306above three photos courtesy of  Juliana Bernstein

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reflections

Oregon Eclipse remains unlike any festival I’ve experienced. It’s hard to translate into words and even harder to depict without sounding like I’m referencing some imaginary place, seemingly non existent in the modern world with its prevalent anger and fear. 

Yet, this event happened. It’s real. The connection, kindness and compassion between strangers occurred in a reality no different than our own. 

While at festivals, I often talk about the world back home as “real life”. Insisting that my temporary location in festival wonderland is too good to be true and cannot suffice for reality in comparison to what it’s like to live a day to day basis in the modern world. I’ll say things like “wouldn’t it be nice if people acted this way in real life” or “it’s going to be a rough transition back into real life after this.” 

This time around, I realized how backwards that perception is. 

If anything, the emotions, connectedness and unity I felt while at the festival was more real than the often isolated, judgmental behavior of mainstream society. 

The “real life” I want to live in respects the earth and one another. A reality where we realize the beauty in the diversity of humankind and how each individual exists as a reflection of ourself. 

After a week of  beaming heartfelt interactions, I feel this reality can, and will, exist on an even larger scale. 

Thank you Oregon Eclipse Gathering for opening my eyes and hosting a space to learn, grow and accept a hopeful perspective for the future. Life feels so much sweeter now. ♡

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Oregon Eclipse Gathering - Wild & Free Blog

wearing kimono by Girl On A Vine, Torchlight Jewelry, Brooklyn Grace Jewelry, Crafturday & Tribe Jewelry.

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Oregon Eclipse Gathering - Wild & Free Blog

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