2013 Summerland Spirit Festival: Oasis

For me, festival always begins the day before. There are all of the last minute preparations to be made: Arranging for the care of pets, charging batteries, printing guidebooks, packing the car

-“Can you hold this in place and then pull your arm out when I shut the door?”

- “I think we can get the blanket in there if we roll the window down and tuck it in, then roll the window back up.”

- and the last minute stops for supplies.

Finally there is the moment when everything is ready and I drive away from my home, hitting the open road for the journey to festival. There is nothing else like that moment, and as many times as I have done it I have never found anything else to compare it to.

As a festival organizer, I am always aware of the weather. It can play a major part in how people are able to enjoy themselves and I find myself not only staring into the heavens on a regular basis, but also checking the forecast two or three times a day. So it was with a sense of relief that I greeted the first day of festival (Saturday, July 13) with a gentle rain that kissed the property with moisture and was finished by the time the gates opened. People were able to set up under partly cloudy skies with temps in the 70s, and the opening ceremony was well attended.

Sunday morning, sitting outside the Lodge with my coffee, I had my first encounter with the “Morning Laughter Exercises” by Dave. I’ll admit when I read that on the schedule I had no idea what it was, but when the sounds of people starting with hearty chants of “HA! HA!” and breaking into a chorus of giggles reached my ears I had a moment when I recalled the game of “Ha!” from my childhood - Where everyone lay down in a circle with their heads on the next person’s abdomen to exclaim, “Ha!” and usually ending with full-throated laughter as everyone’s heads bounced up and down.

The Oasis

By mid-afternoon the temperature reached 80 degrees, the humidity started to rise, and more people began to seek the creek to cool down between activities. Two years ago Shelly had started working on a spot in the creek, clearing out and moving some stones to create a deeper spot for wading, and this year a crew of people went down to the spot to move more stones and create more of a waterfall - dubbing the area “The Oasis”. People began to do mini-floats from the Bridge to the Oasis on the inner tubes provided by the property owner.

Sunday was the day when I began to really notice the food. I knew what the menu was before the festival, but the reality of the catering quality was much greater than my internal concept of it. It started with the Philly Beef Steak Sandwiches, Broccoli Cheese Soup, and Salad Bar that went up for lunch that day, and continued that evening with Grilled Chicken, Au Gratin Potatoes, Fresh Veggies, and fruit. The whole rest of the festival saw us eating well: Stir-fry, Enchiladas, Beef Sausage with Sauerkraut and German Potato Salad, Icelandic Cod, French Toast, Lasagna, and Steak Tips over Noodles. Even the vegetarian menu looked good, and I remember being in the food line and hearing one of the catering staff telling someone they could come back for the home-made Falafel and Tzatziki sauce, “after the vegetarians have come through,” and the look of disappointment on the Omnivore’s face at the delay. They eventually received an infusion of Tzatziki sauce, so all was well.

We were lucky enough to be joined this year by Stephen Posch, and between Saturday and Monday he led a series of workshops and brought everyone together to do a ritual called, “Bride of the Forest.” Six year old Brayden spent some time afterwards convincing his grandmother to take a walk to look for the Forest God. A workshop on Self Defense was held, and I fondly remember the smiles on everyone’s faces in the Lodge during the Celli Dance lessons.

Tuesday was hot and humid, and began a stretch of days with temperatures in the upper 80s. Our Oasis Crew returned to stretch a tarp over the area, so there was all day shade in the middle of the creek, and some Wild Womyn created and erected a painted sign to officially mark the entrance. Workshops continued with Brian Henke’s “Fingerstyle Guitar Technique,” discussion groups about “Living Naturally in a Chemical World,” and the future of the festival. The fun and silliness of the Discordian “Bill the Cat Ritual” led into the third annual Polish Your Pole/Burlesque Event, and the hills rang with laughter at what started with an offhand comment three years ago and has since become a much beloved and anticipated community bonding experience.

Wednesday saw workshops on Herbalism, Recognizing High Conflict Personalities, and the Annual Meeting & Election of Summerland Spirit Circle. The kids, after spending the first half of the festival in workshops learning about it, did a ceremony on the Wheel of the Year.

Thursday was the hottest day of the festival, with the temperature reaching 89 degrees. The Oasis saw plenty of use in between the singing/chant workshops, planning for the Men’s and Women’s Rituals, and Sue’s fantastic Pub Afternoon of music and trivia. There were Tales of Tarpage from the Bard around the fire, and a candle-lit Labyrinth in the field to stroll through while Brian Henke played.

Friday, the weather finally broke with the afternoon high dropping into the upper 70s. Todd led a series of workshops on “Healing the Shadow Self”, and the Men’s and Women’s Rituals were followed by Brian Henke in concert at the Lodge.

Saturday and Sunday were perfect weather, but slightly bittersweet. As the end of the festival approached, people began to recognize the fleeting nature of “Festival Time.” Yoga and discussion groups on gardening and the future of the festival were held, but many chose to spend their time simply visiting new and old friends, and making plans for “Next Year.” The group hug at the end of the closing ceremony, and the many hugs of departure as overstuffed vehicles made their way out of the gate on the last day made me realize how truly blessed I am to be a part of this amazing group of people.

So with the last tiki racked,
the drum tucked away,
and the shelters stacked,
to you I say:
I’ll meet you next year, at the Oasis.