Lucidity, the living dream that first bloomed along the Santa Ynez river banks in 2012, came to an end this past weekend — an end, at least, for now. Word on the breeze suggests the festival in some form or other may float northward for an ecological commune experience; or, it may reincarnate in some form here in our very mountains, as some mysterious publicity suggested.
I had always been curious to see what the creative carnival just over the mountains was like, and now seemed like the perfect and only time. I’ll admit a part of me was a little hesitant. I wondered if it would be like a higher-minded Deltopia, a frat party in monk’s clothing. But the more I asked about it with Lucidity frequenters, the more it sounded like a place where hearts and minds truly were more open for the better. Those who went spoke of it with the same reverence as Burners to Burning Man as a place where people are freer, where true selves are shown and true colors flown in a city-like environment built without the oppression of mundane reality.
What’s more, they said, it was family friendly, the kind of environment gentle enough to welcome even the littlest lucid dreamers amongst us. It simply was not just about partying like other festivals, but about having a great bonding experience with your fellow human beings. It was about having the kind of meaningful connections that daily life tends to withhold from us. The founders have shared their hopes to make it more than a festival, but a place for self-exploration and self-expansion, a gathering place for us to achieve our idealized path as an individuals and communities.
Upon arrival, it was clear people were very happy to be there. Lucidity has some of the friendliest, happiest, and most welcoming staff of any festival I have been to. My companion and I crossed the river with traffic directors all beaming mellow smiles. It was a lovely day, with a light wind wafting through the oaks. We danced to deep house from Darcsounds at the Nomads’ Nook Stage, and we were refreshed to note throughout the day how great it was to see so many female and femme DJs, musicians, and performing artists. In the kinds of performers and workshops offered, the organizers clearly were appealing to the strength of the feminine and the under-sung.
Later, we explored the various villages of Lucidity. One of the cooler concepts at Lucidity, this year named Eudaimonia after a Greek concept for ‘human flourishing,’ their villages are camping neighborhoods separated by spirit and temperament: Goddess Grove, Warriors’ Way, Nomads’ Nook, Healers’ Sanctuary, Lovers’ Nest, Tricksters’ Playground, and the Family Garden. We were to sleep our heads in Nomads’ Nook that night, a place true to its name. At the encampment we had been invited to, passersby of all kinds dropped in. Some were friends of friends, but others once-strangers seeking company, or just a unique experience. Some surreptitiously offered us the opportunity to open usually sealed doors within our minds, and others sought from us the same. Some didn’t know where they were going; some were happily placeless. “How are you?” I asked a newcomer. “I am,” he said.
The Pyro Bar, the famed flaming frigate of Funk Zone and Lagoon District artists, held ground near the festival’s center. We grazed within earshot some of the goings-on at Lucid University, the festival’s center point for classes, dialogues, and discusses. At the Art Temple, we saw a mother and daughter painting together, which was sweet. We overheard a man speak vaguely about forest agriculture. We briefly witnessed a rather sensual looking session of Conscious Dance, partners standing back-to-back, eyes closed; a little too tantric for our tastes at the time.
Instead, we ventured over to admire the incredible strength and poise of acro-yogis, a few pairings of whom were striking asanas in inspiring glory along the Warrior’s Way. Adjacent, devil stick dancers and jugglers twirled and whirled. Here, people were doing their thing. Definitely lots of small kids and toddlers were around, and they seemed to be having fun, too. Pretty rad.
One of my favorite Lucidity experiences came with Intuitive Flow, a yoga session held in Lucid University by Divinitree’s Rachel Simone Wilkins and L.A. musician Lavender Fields. Powerful winds blew from multiple directions and rippled the tent walls as the beats and melodies of competing sound systems from various stages melded. It was highly sensational and experiential, an opportunity to go deep within at an outdoor music and arts festival.
Then something bizarre happened to me. When I was walking alone, a fellow festival-goer acquaintance, a three or four time Lucidity-goer who had welcomed me into his camp, leapt out of nowhere and yelled in my face, with angry and threatening eyes: “Faggot!” This is not the sort of thing one hopes or expects to hear from a near-stranger at a supposedly inclusive place like Lucidity, but people are still people, and you can always be blindsided by the latent ignorance, bigotries, and inner issues that sneak like snakes in the grass in the form of soft acquaintance and friendliness — especially if you grew up on the receiving end of words like that. He tried to pass it off as a joke, as cowards do.
It’d be unfair and all too American of me to blame the festival for the festival-goer, and I think if most there had seen and heard his hilarious joke, they would have called him out on its very evident lack of humor, especially in a setting like that. But in that moment and my already very heightened state of sensitivity (life stress, hallucinogens), I felt very alone and a bit betrayed, somewhat like an eight year old all over again, mocked on the playground by boys and girls alike for wearing pink. It was sad to feel that was in a place where I would hope to feel more welcomed; instead I felt alienated by a longtime festivalgoer. My vibe was definitely killed for the better part of the night.
My friend and I wandered, bewildered together, enfolded in the uncertain flow of the evening. We heard bits and pieces of Butterscotch’s set, as she sang a sultry cover of Prince’s queer anthem “If I Was Your Girlfriend.” We sat in the chairs of an artist named Diamond, under the dreamy blue light and hanging dream catchers of an oak tree. People, some dressed as unicorns and others as Vikings, mistook us for Diamond, and we wondered if perhaps they had dreamt us, or we them. We met a friendly gang called the Trigo Tribe, and followed their merry parade for a short while, and I ran into an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in years and who once played a small but important role in another lifetime within my own. Such is the topsy-turvy wanderlusty land of Lucidity, where you can experience so much simultaneous rejoicing, and surprises, and secrets, and sadness, with bass-y music thumping all around you.
My friend and I left the festival grounds and sat by the river for a while, hypnotically lit in the night. We pondered what the meanings of festivals are. Some — most — are gigantic vehicles for commercialism. Some, and hopefully most, too, are cultural hubs to meet and form long life connections with like-minded souls. But you still run into the limits of coming together en masse, leaving our combined footprint on patches of earth. Our human gatherings have never been bigger nor more numerous, but even as we’re flourishing, we’re also just populating. We are aspiring to transcend our humanity, and in many ways we do; and yet in the end, we’re still kind of just gathering in tribes around fires and warm lights, beating drums, getting fucked up, having manlier little men threaten others and boast about the size of their big tent as people spin weapons around and the scantily clad dance. We want the light without addressing our shadow sides. So much shamanism is so-called, so much wannabe wisdom is the passing whim of a bong rip, and not all seekers are finders.
But c’est “last” vie, and I think overall I will remember the more loving and flourishing attributes I saw and moments I felt and the more admirable true colors that were shown. There are many wonderful Lucid dreamers under the sun, even if some are a bit dim or dark, and I’m glad I got to share it with them all. It was a mix of emotions, like all dreams. It was a trip.