The first night of Rise Big Sur, I sat beneath an avocado tree. There was a sea of people before me dancing, taking photos and filming videos, laughing and talking; yet I was not participating – I was simply sitting, watching, listening. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel out of place.
Behind me stood an eight-sided tent made of PVC poles and tapestries. Inside was an elegant, jagged crescent wood slab acting as a table to a myriad of healing crystals, trinkets and small, stone teacups. Pillows decorated with paisley patterns, mirrors, om symbols and elephants scattered the floor. Tibetan prayer flags floated in the breeze at the openings of the tent.
Between the table and the back of the tent sat a bearded man performing tea service. He was wearing a silk jacket and as he tied his long dreadlocks into a knot behind his head I could hear him say, “This wood is from the land; it called to me, crying out for me to stumble upon it. It was sitting, dusty in storage, behind the main house.” He gently touched one of the trinkets, “This piece has alchemy with the table. Everyone has been looking at it tonight.”
To my left, a DJ played dubstep under changing colored lights on the main stage. The deep base pulsed, reverberating in my ribcage. Ecstatic dancers moved to the sounds from the DJ converging with the sounds of their souls.
To my right, hoop dancers created kaleidoscopes of color and light with LED hula-hoops. Behind them, people writhed on mats under a glowing shade structure made from nylon stretched like sails between aluminum triangle trusses.
In front of me, as they tested their skill against the nature of fire, dancers manipulated poi, staffs, hoops, fans, and knives into gleaming comets with tails like golden brushstrokes on a dark canvas. The fluid movements of the comets made it seem as though their instruments could defy gravity – as though the dancer had an innate knowledge of sorcery that mere mortals (like myself) could never learn.
Finally, above me was an indescribable sight: the moonless night sky filled with the Milky Way, constellations, and even Jupiter. As I wondered how I could possibly describe the sky I realized I was trying to recreate the stars. I couldn’t help thinking maybe that’s what the fire dancers were after, too. Maybe I had more in common with these festival folk than I had first thought.
More on Rise Big Sur next time.