Summerland Spirit Festival 2012: Making Connections

The first words that come to mind in thinking about this years’ festival are ‘blissed out’. Each day seemed to unroll before me with an almost timeless quality and often felt somewhat suspended in an unending haze of blue sky and friendly faces. The difference in weather from last year to this year was so vast as to seem a gift from the Gods. Even though the weather was hot and humid, it was not unbearable and the creek was utilized even more than before as a place to cool down, unwind, and connect with fellow attendees. Overall it was an incredible treat to be able to experience the property and the people of Summerland at what I would call a ‘leisurely pace’, that it was hard to leave and reenter ordinary time.

 

The People: Fellowship and Comaraderie

      

This being our second year of Summerland Festival, there are a few things I would like to note. First of all, it has been disclosed to me that almost half of the participants were new to this community and half of those people had never been to a festival before, ever. This is remarkable in the sense that Summerland reached out to a completely new audience and provided them with a welcoming community environment that was inclusive, friendly, and grounded. As a new organization, the ability to attract so many new comers shows a level of success that can only grow and continue to blossom.

 

The other thing I would like to share is a story given to me by two festival participants. I was told that on the day they arrived, registration knew exactly who they were, addressed them by name, and they received immediate assistance in unloading and setting up their vendor space. This was remarkable to these two women because this was only the second festival they had ever attended and the experience of it was in stark contrast to the clique behavior and disregard they had experienced earlier in the Summer at a different event.

It seemed that every time I turned around I was hearing stories about new connections, how welcomed people felt and how amazing it was to have the space provided in order to connect, socialize and just be present.

For myself, I had the opportunity to connect with so many amazing and talented individuals, that to pinpoint one conversation, one afternoon, one moment in time is next to impossible. There were so many discussions, as well as play, a sense of light heartedness, and most importantly, laughter, that a part of me is still savoring the experience.

Special Appearances By: A Talented Trifecta

      

Our guests this year from left to right: Macha Nightmare, from Cherry Hill Seminary, Brian Henke, lyrical guitarist, and Murphy’s Midnight Rounders, a pagan folk band.

It was a huge treat to have Macha at the fest this year. She is a remarkable woman who possesses an amazing amount of knowledge regarding pagan ways and wisdom. As a representative of Cherry Hill Seminary, a school devoted to educating pagan ministry, she presented several workshops on pagan elders, the interfaith movement, and creating lasting pagan institutions. Her teachings added to the overall culture of higher learning and social standards that Summerland seeks to nurture and cultivate.

Brian Henke performed on stage, in ritual and around the fire. His guitar licks added new ambiance and dimension to each situation creating a musical experience like no other. As a musician who has had radio play and has been featured at many festivals, it was a pleasure to interact with someone as approachable and down to earth as he was.

Murphy’s Midnight Rounders is an upbeat group with a sense of humor and captivating lyrical style. Having fun is one of the themes at Summerland that Murphy’s delivers, no holds barred. Wednesday is generally the day when everyone starts to feel the affect of camping, lack of sleep, and the outdoor conditions. Their performance set the stage for an evening of shenanigans and brought new energy to the midweek slump.

For Whom the Bell Tolls: Meals and Bears

Summerland offers a meal plan, this year it was three squares a day that included fresh fruit and a salad bar. The timing of workshops centers around the meals, and the time is kept by a large bell tower. Bells will ring at the start of a meal, workshop, or ritual and are also the primary warning system should a crisis or disaster befall the festival.

There are two reasons why I highly suggest that when you register for fest, you should definitely get the meal plan.

First of all, eating together creates an opportunity to bond with your fellow participants. Three times a day you are handed the time and space to have a shared experience with people you may not otherwise connect with. Food in almost every culture is used to foster bonding and getting to know one’s neighbors. This is also the time when announcements and other important information is relayed to the attendees. At Summerland, ‘what’s happening’ is ‘what’s for dinner’ and everyone feels fed on multiple levels.

Secondly, Summerland is held on a property that is slightly wild. When you come to festival it’s very, very, and I mean very important that you understand there are bears on the property. Food at your campsite may attract unwanted attention from our wild neighbors, and no one wants a review entitled ‘When Bears Collide’. That being said, I will note that we only had one bear encounter this year. If you hear the ‘Tales of Tarpage’ know that what is hysterical and exaggerated in the telling actually only amounted to noises in the woods and fire crackers to scare the beast away.

Entering Sacred Space: The Landscape of the Divine

One big change from last year is the ritual circle was moved to a central location on the property. This puts the magical workings of the festival at front and center as well as making ritual more accessible to those with physical limitations. As much as I would love to describe it to you, some things are best witnessed than heard second hand. I will tell you however, that because the property is in a valley, every night at dusk, mist would roll in and cloak the ritual circle in natural mystique.

Imagine, dusk, you have your ritual garb on, the tiki torches are lit, the temperature begins to drop and mist begins to spread its fingers, enveloping you and your fellows. It’s as if the very land knows its time for magic to happen so it assists in the hush and expectation. As you process into circle, the mists begin to part, revealing the central fire that is the hearth of Summerland.

The rituals this year included an opening and closing, honoring transformation, a vision quest, men’s and women’s rituals, and connecting with primal elements. Rather than critique each one, let me leave you with this thought: Summerland rituals are intended to be an interactive play ground of mystical energies. Come, play, experience and transcend.

A Slice of Idyllic: Experiencing the Land

     

On the last day of the festival, I was the last person to leave. I had gone into town for pizza and beer and had a picnic on the para-docks, to simply watch and listen to the creek as it gently ambled by. There was a hush that had come over the property, as if Summerland were an entity and it was having its last breath before settling in to slumber until next year's incarnation. I was filled with a sense of peace and gratitude that I was able to witness a moment of stillness and serenity.

It was very hard to leave. Part of me wanted to pitch my tent again, food or no, friends or no, bears or no. None of those things mattered. In fact as I sat taking in the green beauty that is the lushness of this land, the only thing that truly mattered was being in the moment. The nine days I had just experienced had been filled, to over-flowing, with wonder, amazement and pure fun. In those last hours that flowing ebbed into a knowing that this last sip of bliss would be crystallized in my memory and carry me through the turn of the wheel until the merry part became merry meet again.

And so I say to you, Bliss-ed Be.