Oregon Eclipse Gathering Review
Written by Sheyz Sanchez – Photos By Juliana Bernstein / Get Tiny / Jacob Avanzato / Eric Allen
Oregon Eclipse Review – I can barely recall the night I first heard of a solar eclipse, I do know it must have been over ten years ago during a lunar spectacle and that I have a book and my uncle to thank for. However I vividly remember that from that point on I knew I’d do anything to witness the day turn to night. Sure, we are blessed with sunsets daily but we all know that repetition sometimes kills sacredness, and that’s exactly why after I witnessed what may be the most beautiful occurrence of my life to date- instead of trying to hold on, to not let the moment fade, I simply basked in the fact that I didn’t get enough… Because now I feel forced to chase it over and over.
My journey began on the southeast, Florida, which is completely on the opposite coast. About eight other curious souls and me boarded my friend’s new converted school bus and set out to chase the sun across the country, 70’s hippie style. Slowly you saw the landscapes changing, from cities to mountains to majestic deserts and everything in between. As we approached Oregon, you could tell why this spot had been chosen. The nature is so breathtaking I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming I was in Bambi and not actually driving through that mossy green wonderland. Wildflowers and herbs guide your path, tall thick trees cool you down, and the elevation gives you perfect view after perfect view. Our trek should’ve taken us two days to complete, however it turned into four. Normally I want to savor every millisecond of the festival and missing a few days would’ve made me miserable, however something in me lately has really been pushing me to just trust that the situation works out for the best, and now looking back on it I wouldn’t change a thing.
Although our arrival was a little late, we arrived at the gates with no line and no hassle, perfectly in time to park the bus, throw a sweater on and run over to the Earth Stage for Kayla Scintilla’s set like he’d be the last artist playing that week. As we left the campgrounds behind to approach the lights like a flock of moths, I knew that my friends were thinking the same as I- this week would be a truly memorable one. With the sounds already caressing our senses from miles away, I could tell I’d be leaving with plenty regrets of not catching this or that, and while I normally abhor regret, if it’s instigated by being overwhelmed with all I can do, see and be a part of, then I’m totally fine with that.
Tired from our school-bus venture, we lasted a few hours on the dance floor and immediately got lost on the way back to camp. Unfortunately, having arrived a couple days late meant the campgrounds were at full capacity and we would have to be on the outskirts. My grieving only lasted a few hours though, because the view was well worth it. Since we were so far out, we had an open meadow and mountains in the distance as our front yard and plenty of space for us and our neighbors. My first morning, I opened my eyes to the rising sun and hot air balloons floating in the distance. A scene from a movie or a postcard, that once again reminded me I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Call it love at first sight, but the Earth Stage stole my heart for the remainder of the time. Something about it felt like home, and I don’t think it had anything to do with the name. The woodwork was extraordinary and as with any impressive stage, I found myself getting lost in admiring the structure. This is where my partying began, this is where it ended. With artists like Desert Dwellers, The Human Experience, Random Rab, Attya, Goopsteppa, etc., I found it almost impossible to leave. Although my favorite set was actually CocoRosie which happened around sunset at the Eclipse stage. All I did was cry, much like when I witnessed the eclipse, but I guess that’s just my reaction to beautiful experiences.
Although Earth is home, my visits to the Moon (Stage) never let me down and I also fell in love with the structure, specially the massive LED mushrooms covering the dance floor that had me looking around for a caterpillar smoking a hookah. Each stage has it own vibes and sounds, providing endless options and possibilities, and for indecisive individuals like me, an internal hour-long battle each time I glanced the schedule. There was just so much to do! Did I wanna keep dancing, or get lost in the VR Dome, or maybe play psychedelic bingo? And with spaces such as Chillville, where twigs and branches were assembled to create stunning little hang-outs spots that looked like it previously belonged to the Lost Boys, you also had to make time to, well, chill.
It was definitely overwhelming. Trying to not miss anything and yet just allow the experience to flow organically, but it felt like I would discover more and more with each adventure, and that made me addicted to keep exploring. I had told myself I’d try not to get too lost in just the music so I could really appreciate every aspect of the festival, but with a lineup like that I’m not being too hard on myself for not following through. Even when the artist was unknown to me, I constantly found myself wandering in the direction of some far-away tunes that made me curious for more. From the unstoppable psytrance at the Sun Stage, the house tunes at the Sky Stage, the live performances throughout, and even lakeside music for those trying to stay cool, there was something for everyone. And if by chance, the extensive line-up didn’t grab one’s attention, there was so much more to do that boredom had to be a choice. From yoga and dance shalas, workshops, inspiring talks at spaces such as The Hub, tea and elixir bars, interactive art, something was bound to captivate you, if not many, many things.
I was specially perplexed by the elixir bars, where instead of having shots that will leave you puking the next morning, the menu was filled with herbal beverages with different benefits and natural properties. My heart was stolen by the “Superfood Smoothie” that had more healthy ingredients in it than I consume my whole year and tasted like chocolate. Health and wellness was a huge focus of this festival. With spaces such as The Nourishment Lab that talked to visitors about how to maintain a good nutrition while at festivals, and vendors providing raw, organic foods. There was discussions and classes on all sorts of topics, such as permaculture, herbalism, tincture making, digestive health, and even aphrodisiacs.
One of the most enchanting environments I saw was a beautifully crafted greenhouse garden by the Yoga Shala, where you saw the perfect collision of gardening and homesteading. It was so inspiring to see all these beautiful flowers and plants growing alongside vegetables for our consumption, and really opened my mind to the possibilities of what we can do with the space we have and what the earth grants us. Not to mention, the Alice In Wonderland characters loitering around added that extra fantasy touch I’m so fond of. The environment definitely made the festival all that more magical and it was beautiful to see nature incorporated in almost all aspects. Another mind-opening experience I stumbled upon was at the Fringe Theater and I so badly wish I knew the name. After one of our wild nights exploring, the crew was badly needing some rest and almost like an oasis, we found a colorful circus-like stage hidden in the trees. After this I returned other nights for comedy acts and such, but nothing moved me as much as this play did. It was a homage to Lilith, to the feminine force, the Earth and the Moon. It was hard not to feel connected to this planet and the cosmos, when you had so many reminders of how much you’re truly a part of it and how much it affects us. Our emotions, our crops, our tides. We are stardust after all, right?
On that Monday morning, I woke up refreshed and ready to watch what I already knew would be an impactful event, but I had no clue how much. I camped with my best friends that night to make sure we’d be together and around 9AM joined the migration towards the eclipse viewing area. Thousands were lining up and making their way up the mountain to gather with the rest, others were finding more intimate spots. My friends and I decided to watch it by the lake, as some lovely souls played sound healing in the background. The festival had already been an emotional experience for me, I even cried during a couple sets, but had I known the amount of emotions it would surface, I might have chosen to be alone. The second I put the glasses to my face, looked up at the Sun which was slowly being overpowered by the Moon, it was non-stop tears. I’m not talking about the ones where you can just tilt your head to the side and pretend they’re not happening, I’m talking about loud sobs that were competing with the crystal bowl behind me. Overwhelmed with emotion and at a loss for words other than constant “thank you’s” in between the sobbing. Even as I write this I can’t help the tears… I couldn’t help but think of the little girl who only hoped of one day witnessing something like this. Of the girl who once felt so strange and just a hopeless dreamer, and here she was, surrounded by lunatics and freaks just like her, making those dreams come true.
As totality inched closer, the air dropped, the light changed, something in the atmosphere felt different, and the ducks began making their way to shore thinking it was bedtime. Little by little, the day dimmed until it was nothing but darkness with beautiful sunset-like colors in the distance, and sitting on top of the sky was the most cosmic, memorable sight I’ve experienced. A black Sun, surrounded by white rays dancing about in different directions. A sight I’ll never forget even if it was so sudden…
The amount of work, creativity and collaboration at Oregon Eclipse was clear. Over a dozen festivals gathered to make this a reality, and you could see that each had brought its best to offer. Maybe that foundation of unity was what set the mood for the rest of the attendees, but it really felt like a huge family, made up of very different sun-chasers and lunatics from all over the world. The souls I met at Oregon Eclipse were as beautiful as the production, and as diverse as the vendors but each was excited to share a piece of themselves with one another. However I expected to leave this Gathering feeling fulfilled, like I had accomplished a goal, and instead I’ve left with more. Yes, I achieved my childhood dream of experiencing a night during the day, but I guess some of us just don’t grow up or can’t get enough, and I know I’ll be chasing Eclipses for days to come. See you in Argentina in 2019 and at Patagoa in Patagonia in 2020!