CEREMONY: Happy Camp

Matake Oyasin is a Lakota expression that means, “For all my Relations.” This includes the sun, moon & stars – all things! I am reading a book by Caroline Casey where she expresses this idea that, “we want to become completely involved in the responsibility of shaping reality for the greater good of all our relations.” This includes all that we do: in public and in private! She quotes an old Sufi story to remind us that “…if it weren’t for the hidden work of those who pray, imagine, dream & act compassionately when the opportunity presents itself, things would be much worse [than they are].” It is important to remember that we are active participants in community.

Ceremony plays an important role in unifying a community. Ceremony, as defined by Casey, is a group ritual demonstrating the will of the people. It is a form of theater that helps us visualize and experience what we want to make reality; it is a token rite grounding our intention in a physical act. A theatrical element is part of the ritual that helps our experience become reality. And so it is.

Without knowing it, I found myself in ceremony at the Un-Dam the Klamath Music & Arts Festival. This took place on my first weekend on the farm, up in the mountains at a town called Happy Camp! I was with new peers (we call ourselves interns). Zack (better known as Shady Brady), the physics teacher from Illinois split an Indian taco with me. Russell immediately jumped in to help paint salmon on a huge wood panel down the hill.

At first the audience was pretty sparse. There was, of course, one woman who sat on the lawn all day: an avid audience member. She was a mystic type who didn’t care what anyone thought and contentedly danced her own dance. She was vocal too and responded to the performances candidly, for all of us really. We became acquainted as fellow audience members witnessing the afternoon together; we were in fellowship.

The playground had an excellent springy whale, which flung me willy-nilly for quite some time… until someone pulled me onto the dance floor. We jived around, enjoying the music and ourselves. The mystic lady moved about all wrangly, doing her thing beside me. Then, leaning in to address my partner, she demanded, “Take your shoes off! Feel the EARTH under your feet!” while stomping her foot several times! She repeated this command, always with the stomping! The girl refused, insisting, “I do what I want! You can’t tell me what to do!” My shoes were off! I just laughed! Mystic lady turned to me and said, “You don’t need that! Find someone who will take their shoes off and feel the EARTH under their feet! You have got to feel the EARTH under your feet!”

Another attraction was chopper bikes! They had one really super small wheel attached to extremely long forks, making it most difficult to mount and ride, especially on the grassy terrain. I watched people ride them down the hill and nabbed the first one that became available when one of the kids lost interest. After several attempts on the back lawn I got the thing rolling and took off around the grounds, becoming a participant in the current of energy!

The goal that brought everyone together on that weekend was re-allocating resources to benefit all by letting the river flow freely. This would especially benefit the salmon, whose ecosystem was disrupted by dams. There was a strong Karuk Indian presence at the gathering because the Klamath River is the lifeblood of their native land. The native people bring an important perspective focused on creating a sustainable balance. Their influence was evident in the arts, traditional music and tacos.

After several musical acts, a Karuk man stood up on stage and spoke from his heart about the matters facing us all, but specifically the local community and their fight to bring down the Iron Gate Dam. He asserted that our will, be reality! His genuine enthusiasm was a crucial part of the transformative magic. He invited us to take part – every man – for it is all our land! He spoke for our posterity! It was certainly a moving speech and I was touched to see someone breaching cultural boundaries for a common purpose. All one. Come together. I felt a shift in the energy after he spoke and as the night rolled in: feelings of comfort and unity.

The music continued with a woman playing songs about rivers. The audience increased, as did their energy level! More relaxed and playful in my fig leaf skirt, I went over and sat beside Russ. He made me nervous; I had a lot of affection for him even then. I sensed that we had a similar understanding of what the day’s events meant on an energetic level, whereas others didn’t notice these subtleties. This is part of the intuitive connection that seems like it was already well formed when we met. Mystic lady was around again. We were dancing around and she turned to Russ, “Take off your shoes! Feel the EARTH under your feet!” Simple: he complied. She was elated. She turned and told me, “This one is a keeper!”

Finally, we were presented with the most striking shared visualization of the event. A symbolic school of salmon swam up in front of the stage. These were children in costume, dancing around with fish on their heads. There was one huge mother fish that was made up of about twelve kids. It was similar in style to a parade with Chinese dragons. The whole dance was narrated by a local gentleman playing the guitar on stage. His song told a story of the salmon wanting to be set free! The presentation grabbed everyone’s attention and the energy skyrocketed! The school of fish gathered their momentum swimming up and down the lawn, until they finally rammed a big PVC-framed wall of fabric that read “Iron Gate Dam!” They pushed against it repeatedly until the whole thing came crashing down! Everyone cheered them on the whole way! The audience served an important purpose by reflecting enthusiasm. We were important participants in this ceremonial dance! Woo-hoo!

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