Oregon Eclipse Festival: A universal mind blowing journey

Eclipse | Jacob Avanzato

It was dark and sometime after 1 a.m. when we arrived at Big Prairie Summit to attend the Symbiosis Oregon Eclipse Festival. After a nine-hour incident free beautiful drive from Truckee (there was no traffic, plenty of gas and food along the way and plenty of excitement.)

On the last leg of our journey we drove on a dark, twisty, country road that spiraled up to the festival site. Our caravan included artist Molly Knickerbocker, who led the way, myself, who drove behind her with my friend Rose aptly nicknamed “the Navigator,” and Reno photographer Ben Lazar in the rear.

My heart opened, it was visceral, tears streamed down my face for no apparent reason except maybe that I, along with everyone around me, witnessed something so beautiful the feeling was beyond words.

Pilgrimage to witness the eclipse | Ben Lazar

We arrived at the gate and received our wristbands and programs from a lovely woman named Lauren who was bright and cheerful at the late hour. I’d made plans to connect with Ganga Baird who grew up with me on the same Ashram in Florida. He was in charge of setting up the campsite area for the festival. Lauren radioed him and we met him at the main gate. He’d been on site for the last three weeks. Exhausted and dirty, a ragged bandana hung around his neck and he was eating his dinner. He led us to the perfect place for our group to camp. This was only the beginning of a magical time.

There was something that called me to attend this festival. It wasn’t just about the music, although the music was amazing, it was about the journey, a road trip to witness one of life’s magical moments, a total eclipse of the sun with a group of friends who also wanted to experience what this festival had to offer with people from all over the world.

Yoga Shala at sunset | Ben Lazar

The Yoga Shala was not far from camp. It was a place full of beautiful energy and people getting their yoga groove on. We all got up early to go to class. Tony G and East Forrest offered a beautiful practice. Invigorated by yoga, our journey on took us to the lake to cool off, a water taxi, colorful carousel and a “Back To The Future” DeLorean cruised across the water. We walked through the Native American village and explored permaculture displays where gardens of vegetables were growing. Experimental composting toilets with solar lights dotted the festival grounds. They’ve forever changed my perspective on the portable toilet experience.

How to stand in the shadow of the moon eclipse workshop with David Balch | Ben Lazar

Of the seven stages at the festival, the Earth Stage was one of my favorites. It was often a respite from the blazing sun and place to chill and dance. Amani from Desert Dwellers offered an amazing afternoon set that made my heart sing. We attended workshops, explored art installations and were committed to not having much of an agenda. This adventure was about the journey what called to us and what felt good in the moment; there would be no chasing the music.

Permaculture dome | Ben Lazar

The morning of the eclipse, an electric energy filled the air. Thousands made the pilgrimage from their camp, across the bridge, toward the Solar Temple where Native Americans prayers were being offered to a field. We found a place to sit looking out across the prairie to watch the universe begin its dance. As the eclipse began people settled in.

People gathering to watch the eclipse | Ben Lazar

There were quiet whispers of awe and amazement. The sky turned beautiful hues of orange and pinks and the world took on a supernatural tinge of its own as the moon worked its way between the Earth and the sun.

Molly Knickerbocker, Priya Hutner and The Navigator watching the eclipse | Ben Lazar

Imagine 30,000 people silent; looking upward as the moon darkened the sky. For an instant everything around me appeared to be sepia in color. In the brief 98 seconds of totality, the air cooled, a thin ring of sunlight peeked out around the moon, Venus materialized and the world appeared different. My heart opened, it was visceral, tears streamed down my face for no apparent reason except maybe that I, along with everyone around me, witnessed something so beautiful the feeling was beyond words. When the diamond ring occurred (when the sun peeks out after totality) and put our glasses back on there was a collective gasp of joy. Somewhere off in the distance behind us the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” drifted in the wind.

Molly Knickerbocker, Priya Hutner, The Navigator and Alison Lightcap after eclipse | Ben Lazar

The four of us sat out in the field for hours until the sun returned to its rightful glory. We were quiet for a while each of us in our own space as we walked with no particular place in mind. We found a bench amidst the artwork of Alex Grey and Mars 1 and listened to classical music, beneath us people danced and played on the prairie. We walked to the Silk Road Stage where Nickodemus remixed the sounds of world music, the feeling being one was present and we danced.

Eclipse stage at night | Ben Lazar

I reflect on my time at the festival, witnessing the eclipse with thousands of people, I wonder if we could all be this focused to make our world a better place. Many of us want to live a life of collaboration, connection and service. To create a place that is healthy and sustainable, while choosing to lead a conscious and aware life. It felt like many of the people at this festival were living that intention and having fun doing it.

A deep nod of gratitude to Craig Woodward, who owns the 55,000 acres nestled in the Ochoco National Forest surrounded by mountains where the festival was held and to the organizers of Symbiosis who brought an incredible vision to reality. | oregoneclipse2017.com


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