Oregon Eclipse 2017: Life In Abundance
Water is life. Trees are life. Air is life. Family is life. Art is life. Music is life. These are seemingly simple and obvious truths, that should, in theory, go without saying. However, throughout our day to day lives, it can be very easy, even convenient to forget these truths. To survive in a world wrought with turmoil, division, and waste, sometimes we can allow ourselves to be inundated with the world’s fears and shut ourselves off from the wide network of connectivity that we are all, knowingly or unknowingly, a part of.
Years ago when I had my first taste of festival culture and electronic music, I often questioned why normal everyday life couldn’t replicate the openness and unity that I found at those events. As time went on, however, I became more and more disillusioned and as I found myself more integrated with the music industry as a journalist I stopped asking those questions in lieu of other more analytical ones. My philosophical theories made way for analyses of festival logistics and critiques of DJ sets. Without even realizing it, I lost the wonder which lights the fire in all music lovers to chase that golden sunrise. It’s hard to admit but festivals and music had become a habit rather than a passion for me.
Luckily it only took seven mind-bending, uplifting and transformational days in the Oregon wilderness to renew that sense of wonder within me. The Global Eclipse Gathering took place at Big Summit Prairie, Oregon from August 17-23, and brought together a dazzling community of artists, dancers, musicians, lovers, adventurers and curious souls. The seven days and nights that I spent at the Oregon Eclipse site, changed my life and renewed my belief that the world can be whatever we make of it.
Putting into words the overarching experience of the Oregon Eclipse Gathering with any real authority seems like a fool’s errand in my mind. Throughout that week-long journey through time and space, well over 30,000 attendees and staff all had such wildly unique experiences that I could only scratch the very surface of all the amazing possibilities. So rather than pontificate on what the Oregon Eclipse Gathering was, I would rather explain how each individual aspect affected me personally.
The stages at Oregon Eclipse served as the tentpoles of the gathering. Drawing inspiration from elements of the natural world like Sun, Sky, Earth, Moon, and Eclipse, or embodying a certain ethos like the Silk Road or Big Top, each stage at the gathering came to life in bold and nuanced ways. Many festivals tend to separate stages by genre and, for the most part, the Oregon Eclipse Gathering wasn’t wildly different in that respect. The Moon Stage was a haven for bass. The Sky Stage hosted the dopest names in house while the Earth Stage paid tribute to more organic sonic textures. The enigmatic Sun Stage was essentially a self-contained psy-trance festival. The Big Top and Silk Road, the gathering’s two tented stages, brought a necessary live performance element to the event.
While each had its own musical appeal, the seven stages didn’t feel like disjointed hideaways for genre snobs to find refuge. Instead, it almost felt as if each stage held a unique piece of your musical personality. Venturing from each stage was less about finding the right sound and more about finding the perfect vibe. On most nights bouncing from stage to stage felt like a journey through one’s own identity, rather than attempting to follow any temporal schedule. It was incredibly liberating to drift in and out of each stage, going wherever the wind seemed to blow. The stages took on full personalities with depth and complexity. By the end of the seven days, each stage housed its own unique memories, breakthroughs, and rebirths.
The stages were essentially portals, simple conduits that took you from one state of mind to another. After a while, the stages became less and less about the music played and more about the people you found there. Beautiful and eternal bonds began to spring up through the basic love of dance and music that we all share. The stages were incredible, but as I said before they only gave the gathering its structure. The people gave it a heartbeat.
Through the portals, which took the form of the seven stages, flowed the lifeblood of the Oregon Eclipse Gathering; its people. Diversity is not something that all festivals can genuinely boast but throughout the seven days at Big Summit Prairie, a truly international community manifested. Voyagers from all walks of life and from every corner of the globe came together for a celebration of life and humanity.
With Symbiosis leading the way, the gathering pooled together the expertise and innovative spirit of some of the world’s most daring festivals. Bass Coast (Canada), Envision (Costa Rica), Hadra (France), Origin (South Africa), Noisily (UK), Ometeotl (Mexico), Rainbow Serpent (Australia), RE:BIRTH (Japan), Sonic Bloom (Colorado) and Universo Parallelo (Brazil), all brought their beautiful families for a never-before-seen congregation. Instead of all of these diverse groups segregating themselves and remaining cloistered in their bubbles of comfortability, an inspirational union was forged on the basis of mutual admiration and existential exploration.
In my opinion, one of the most significant elements of the gathering was the seamless integration of families and children into the fold. As I mentioned previously, I often mused at the possibility of the “real world” more closely resembling the life lived at festivals and musical gatherings. The inclusion of families at the Oregon Eclipse showed me that the constraints and taboos that we place on ourselves in normal society are easily cast aside.
At no point did I fear for the safety or well being of the children I saw at the site, actually quite the opposite. I witnessed kids with wide eyes and love in their hearts grow and interact with people who genuinely loved them. Those people weren’t always their parents either. They were strangers, or better yet family members that they simply hadn’t met yet. They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, I experienced that adage truly at work. Watching the seed of wonder and hope be planted in so many tiny souls was awe-inspiring and completely opposite to everything that we are programmed to believe.
That sense of safety and serenity seemed to permeate throughout each and every person present at the gathering. Hugs were long and tight. Laughter was loud and healthy. Of course, there was a party raging on around us but it felt as if everything was in its proper place. As the days went on I began to see more than just people around me. Instead, I was surrounded by beautiful, walking, breathing art installations, coalescing to create one immersive masterpiece.
While the people of the Oregon Eclipse gave it life and energy, the astounding art symbolized the mental and intellectual aspect of the event. Despite being surrounded by so much human art, the hand crafted art installations dispersed throughout the site were a constant source of inspiration. Behind every corner, a new and captivating installation laid in wait. Whether it was temples to explore, tree houses to climb up to or floating platforms to pile onto, the entire festival site felt like a buzzing puzzle to solve. Never before had I felt so engaged and enthralled by the ever changing landscape of art.
The countless art installations that were hidden within each and every nook and cranny of the festival site spoke to the love and effort that the gathering’s organizers put into those seven days. It didn’t feel as though we were customers given some relatively benign structures to gawk at. Instead, the art at the Oregon Eclipse felt like delicately laid breadcrumbs, strategically placed to carry us along our journey. The art seemed to bring out the beauty in each and every person. The expressions of pure joy and wonderment on the faces of every attendee I came into contact with created the ideal mosaic for a revelatory week.
Finally, while the site of the Oregon Eclipse Gathering was breathtaking, it was indeed challenging. A relatively flat landscape was littered with rocks at seemingly every stage and inch of the site. Mighty dust storms kicked up along any major roads. Days were sweltering while nights dipped down to bone-chilling temperatures. However, despite all of these challenges I personally wouldn’t have had it any other way.
The relatively wild conditions of the gathering gave the entire event the naturalistic quality that it needed. At times treacherous, the landscape was one that could not be tamed. This served as the perfect reminder of what we were all celebrating. While some attendees moaned about conditions, I found it fitting. We had to earn our admission, not just with money but with effort, sweat, and determination. There were many times throughout the week when I thought there was no possible way I could push through for another hour or dance for one more set. Yet, I endured, pushing past my limits to find a new realization about myself.
At many points, I could feel the communal energy wafting around the grounds. We pushed each other up each hill and towards every new sunrise. Finally, when the time for totality was upon us, we joined together, simultaneously exhausted and renewed. Ready to walk into the new world hand in hand.
Throughout those seven days, I learned many truths. We live in abundance; an abundance of love, hope, and beauty. Don’t ever forget that. However, if you do, look up to the sky, day or night, and find solace in the fact that you are meant to be here, truly living.