Review by: Ariel Ramira
Photography by: Juliana Bernstein, Jacob Avanzato & Eric Allen
The silence came first, that eerie sense of stillness. The one you can only expect from the darkest corners of the night. Next came the shadows, crawling ahead of us like creatures awakened from their slumber. ‘What altered universe is this?’, we ask ourselves as the sky begins to turn from day into dusky dawn. Something is coming for us, something is near. We grab hands and tramp through the throngs of community, gathered to watch the moon immerse herself in the sun’s path.
With each passing second, the air begins to cool as we inch closer to totality. Excitement streams through the crowd like electricity. We are here, in this moment in time, as the Earth, the sun, and the Moon align into totality. And then it happens: we are blanketed in darkness as the sun finds itself cloaked. Flares creep out from the moon’s basket. Shouts course through the prairie as eyes fill with amazement and tears.
Eclipsing. We are eclipsing.
After two minutes and forty seconds of complete darkness, the sun beckons us back into reality. It’s complete, we’ve climaxed. Stunned and paralyzed, we find our way back into the festival; thousands emerge, the pilgrimage has peaked.
To gather around an event such as a total solar eclipse has given the festival culture I’ve come to know an entirely new reality. I believe Symbiosis has truly created a movement that is transformational in nature – that is centered around a greater and grander purpose. And to that, I say “Well done.”
The Symbiosis Global Eclipse Gathering was held in Eastern Oregon, surrounded by acres of Ochoco National Forest. Planted atop the summit, we found ourselves surrounded by prairie. The threat of wildfire was real as we drove through hazy skies days before the event began. Evacuations plagued surrounding sister cities as our anxieties grew. A trickle of horror stories reached us in Portland as we heard of wait times reminiscent of Burning Man. The word on the street was 15-25 hours of travel time. Many friends had already endured the long stretch of Hwy 26 with bumper to bumper traffic.
“The silence came first, that eerie sense of stillness. The one you can only expect from the darkest corners of the night. Next came the shadows, crawling ahead of us like creatures awakened from their slumber.”
Symbiosis – Eclipse Gathering – What is it? Stages. Music. Workshops. Shalas. Floaties. Psychedelic Art. People. Many, many people. How many people? Over 30,000, the festival quoted. People from across the globe ventured to Oregon to see what this Global Gathering was all about. Collaborators came out of the woodworks from countries all over the world including Australia (Rainbow Serpent Festival), South Africa (Origin), Canada (Bass Coast Festival) and more! The festival took place over 7 days, and below you’ll find an account of my dispersed presence throughout the festival grounds.
Seven stages deep, this festival was not for lack of music. The Eclipse stage presented our well-known favorites such as Bassnectar, Beats Antique, Emancipator, STS9 and more. The Sun stage provided quintessential psy-trance music, and Earth state played our chill bass beats including DJ Dakini, Frameworks and Kaminanda. Moon was full of local favorites such as Barisone, Danny Corn and El Papa Chango. Deep house came from the Sky Stage at every hour, and The Big Top provided instrumental highlights from Elephant Revival and High Step Society. No matter your flavor, no matter your moves, the Eclipse Gathering had you covered.
“We have a message as protectors of our people and our way of life, in a prayerful way with dignity, love, and respect for all. We are the voice of Mother Earth and all of her creations.” – Oregon Eclipse 2017
Everything onsite exceeded expectations. Years past have led to preconceived notions about what Symbiosis has the capacity to roll out. But in fact, this year I was pleasantly surprised to find the bathrooms well kept, the lines manageable, the grounds clean and the camping concise and navigable. The shuttle bus ran to and from GA car camping and the walk was mild in comparison to past years. Family and ADA camping was available as well as artist and vendor camping.
The marketplace experience was enhanced thanks to large shade structures that protected the vendor row. Food vendors were located on both sides of the festival with local favorites such as Get Fried Rice, Lydia’s Kind Foods (organic/GF/vegan), and Sustainable Sushi.
While the land stretched far and wide across the plains, a lake on the grounds offered a cool shoreline that was swarmed with floats and boats. By the third day I can say I was fully covered head to toe in dirt, dust, grit, gravel, and grime. My body felt it, and I was in desperate need of some R&R.
I’d heard from a friend about The Banya Experience introduced by the well known festival tribe Oasis. On Sunday morning I decided to brave the line of well over 150 people to find out what this sanctuary was all about. After 45 minutes of waiting in the 90 degree sunshine, I was close to giving up. Others in line reassured me of the renewal that would occur within the Banya, a Russian-style sauna and steam house. And so I endured another 45 minutes of line-time. Thankfully, upon arrival the rumors were confirmed and I completely evaporated into the spa experience. Tycho streamed through the air and the festival grounds seemed lightyears away as I showered off the dust and breathed in the hot aromatic sauna draft. Well worth the wait.
No matter the time of day or night, the Yoga Shala was filled to the brim with enthusiastic participants. I was stunned to arrive here several times to find the entire space beyond capacity. Yogis were stretched far and wide outside the Shala, spilling out into the glaring sun of the day in order to participate. Classes like Deep House Yoga seemed to be the biggest hit. I preferred the early morning yin experience before the heat of the day overtook the grounds.
The level of awareness, conversation and devotion to permaculture throughout the festival formed a strong presence. I found myself wandering into greenhouses filled with thriving ecosystems, situated right in the harsh climate of Eastern Oregon. My eyes glazed with green as I found my way through rows of abundant growth. Kale, succulents, an entire edible garden complete with butterflies. I was truly inspired to see the time and energy that went into creating these sanctuaries.
I want to thank Symbiosis – Oregon Eclipse Gathering for the immense creation that came forth from this festival.
“We are in the wake
of a great shifting
we were born right now
for a reason
we can be whatever
we give ourselves the power to be
and right now we need
peace makers…” ~Alixa and Naima from ClimbingPoetree