The 7 greatest things at Symbiosis Eclipse Festival
I was observing a dozen naked humans lolling in mud when it happened. Since this was the Symbiosis Eclipse Festival, the “Mud Dance Experience” was just one of several spectacular events unfolding around me. Up ahead was a gong immersion, to my left a lotus temple bobbed on the lake next to an inflatable hamburger.
And then — the sound of a motor filled the Palo Santo scented sky, people cheered, and a DeLorean streaked across the water.
It was an “art boat” of the finest order, a perfect silver creation that would make the Flux Capacitor proud. I thought two things. 1) I am endlessly moved by the ingenuity at festivals, the degree of effort put forth just to inspire a smile. 2) Flux Capacitor would be a wicked band name.
And because numbered lists are fun, here are seven more of the greatest things I experienced at Symbiosis Eclipse (in no particular order, except for the first one, because the eclipse was the most transcendent experience of my life*):
1) The chorus of “I love you” moments before totality
After watching the ceremonial procession for a while — incredible feather headdresses! the eclipse significance in several native cultures! we know this is important but our legs are getting wobbly! — we headed to the field to sprawl out. An eerie tension mounted as the reverse dusk descended. The light turned silvery. Bongos. Chimes. Then someone shouted “I love you guys!” which prompted a call-and-response “I love you too!” It was sweet and slightly terrifying, like the last phone call to mom before the world ends. Then the great gig in the sky flicked off the lights, the moon showed the sun who’s boss, and the sight of it brought me to my knees. I wept. I vowed to never miss another solar eclipse as long as I live. And I thought of the name of my firstborn: Totality.
2) The EcoZoic toilets
Hands down the cleanest, best-smelling bathrooms at any gathering, ever. And they use a naturally occurring biological process which turns human waste into probiotic fertilizer. Slow clap, Symbiosis. Good job.
3) The Silk Road
A bedouin encampment and trading post, with a foot washing station and teahouse. Created by the same visionaries behind The Grand Artique, these guys always kill it with the details. My favorite stage was here too, unforgettable sets by Jeremy Sole and Nicola Cruz were my fest favorites.
4) Hot air balloons over the lake at sunrise
There were maybe ten balloons in total, and they sounded like whales or dolphins or aliens as they rose and fell in the chilly air. They reflected in the lake. They were whimsical and sweet. Watching them from the Neverland-esque cluster of tree swings called Furtherrr was nearly as surreal an experience as the eclipse itself.
5) How international the festival was
The eclipse gatherings are collabs between the headiest festival organizers in the world, so no wonder I met people from Israel, Australia, Japan, and heard countless other accents. It’s cool to see how this culture has spread worldwide, expanding the stereotype that festivals are about dreadlocked druggies and yoga babes twirling lights. This was Woodstock for Millennials, at a time when the world can use more peace and love.
6) The interactive laser thing
Hidden in a large gingerbread house was one of the best festival installations I’ve seen. Red laser beams of light ran floor-to-ceiling in a darkened room, and when you put your hand out to interrupt the laser, it emitted a tone. So when several people were playing, it was like an electronic symphony. Does that make sense? Like a lot of things at festivals, you kinda had to be there. Other standout installations: the giant dragon made of driftwood, the permaculture shrine gardens, and of course — the Merry Pranksters bus 2.0, presented by none other than Ken Kesey’s son, Zane Kesey.
7) The traffic “nightmare” — an eclipse chupacabra
There were definitely many people stuck in traffic getting into the festival. But that’s how every festival works. If you arrive on the first day, you’ll sit in traffic. The whole thing was blown way out of proportion, probably an attempt to dissuade many from traveling to Oregon. It almost worked, I almost bailed the day before departing. As my travel buddy said “But you can’t bail, you’re the Thelma to my Louise!” I replied “Yeah, and they died at the end of the movie, remember?” And she said “Don’t focus on that.” So I didn’t. And I had the one of the most memorable experiences of my festival career.
And what did we learn from the eclipse anyway? You can’t have the light without the dark. Be it traffic, snarky commentaries on festival culture, or that guy whose name rhymes with “Dump.” But don’t worry. Sometimes the dark reveals brilliant beams of light. Let’s see in 2020. Patagonia eclipse tickets will be on sale soon enough.