“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926-2004)
PART I: The River of the Joyfully Weeping Trees.
‘Let’s go! Got everything?’
Eventually, they did and off we went on the final leg to the actual festival grounds. Confest was about to celebrate its 40th year anniversary and is one of the oldest alternative festivals in Australia, if not the oldest. I had been once before, about five years ago, so I was not completely new to this event.
While staring out the window at the endless browns and yellows of the landscape, the Pixie and I talked about the stark beauty that we had slowly grown to truly appreciate and love the older we got. He told me a story about how a few years prior, he had been traveling Australia and found himself in the deep outback riding a motorbike with his nine-year old nephew on the back. The nephew had grunted that he was bored and there was nothing to see. The Pixie simply smiled and told him to help play a game. The game was to see how many snakes, kangaroos, lizards and birds you could see. At first the kid couldn’t see anything but the more they looked, the more the kid yelled out ‘I see one! Make that twenty five!’ until they got back to the base and that kid hopped off the bike with new eyes and no boredom left.
A few dozen signs taught later, we pulled up to the gateway.
PART II: The Festival.
If any of you have ever been to a theme park as a kid, you will know the feeling I had once we had found our campsite, set up and strolled down the dusty path towards the centre of this mecca.
Everyone looked unique. Everything WAS unique. The atmosphere was charged with a wonderful tension that also relaxed you. Everywhere you could see people looking at you and each other with a quiet, peaceful respect. A naked imp dashed past us. Over there a group of spellbound satyrs and nymphs swayed softly to the hollow boom of a didgeridoo. People had pieces of clothing, mud, paint, flowers and whatever you could imagine strategically (and sometimes not) in whichever place that suited their mood. Various items were being juggled or strummed or crafted into works of beauty. Life was being worshipped right there and then in every moment and there was something intrinsically natural about the ebb and flow of each footprint that wove in, out and around each others trail.
“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.”
George Gordon, 6th Lord Byron (1788-1824)
In the centre of everything is a tent with a couple dozen blackboards set in a zigzag pattern facing each other. This is where you come to work out what you would like to do with your day today and tomorrow. A hundred different flavours of life are provided here. They range from subjects such as yoga, tai chi, face-painting, yelling, making natural menstruation pads, tarot, learning how to masturbate, carving and kissing. Anything goes.
The one consistent was I did not see one phone. Not once. There were a couple of cameras but no screens, no outside influences of any type. This had a profound impact on re-aligning my sleep patterns and emotions. It also had the ripple effect of creating a more conscious community spirit. Everyone was aware of what was going on around them. We spoke to each other. We acknowledged each others presence. A slight smile or a twinkle-eyed look as we passed each other. You could see it, everyone was light. Floating. Enjoying quiet joy. Shoulders were lifted. Steps bounced.
Part III: Unreasonable Happiness.
So, here I was, in paradise. How could I not be happy? Centaurs stomped past whilst little elves dashed, tall ogres and short dwarves sat on the side of the beaten path and watched the rest of us trickle past, beautiful and ugly all.
Best of all, I had people who could talk to me in my language. I flitted here and there, sometimes with all three of my companions and at other times with two or just one. Sometimes even alone. It didn’t matter. Nothing did, really. We were all there to experience reality in our own flavours.
There was the Den of Endless Colours where the Pixie and the Fée daubed each other and a little sprite painted a set of glorious blue wings on the Pixies back.
Then there was the Pit of the Grey Ooze where practically everyone at least once went in to smear the apparently good for you stuff all over themselves then headed to the Great Green Stream to flush themselves clean. There were optional extras such as the Nice Round Fire (to warm yourself up) and The Steam or the Hot Tub.
The Coliseum of Dust was where everyone inevitably congregated to get a cup of hot Chai or some food and lie around watching the twirlers practice their craft in anticipation for the appearance of the darkness.
Time ceased to exist.
At one point I found myself with the Pixie heading back to camp while the two Fairies were off in their little adventure for the moment and watched him, resplendent in blue wings, build a swing over the river.
Another time I found myself sitting with Fée and three of her friends teaching the alphabet in Auslan. It was at that moment when I met Little Pea. There are moments in festivals and big events that burn little pictures in your mind when you think back to them simply because they were perfect. This was one such occassion. As I sat down I looked around at each person and when I completed the circle and looked at the goddess to my right, I had to force myself not to stare. Clad in white with a matching white 60s hat, the sun streaming around her creating the illusion of an halo reflecting off her ivory skin and ebony hair she reclined on a short foldout chair. Then she smiled.
I can’t even begin to describe it. Someday, I will write a piece of prose should I ever manage to find the words. Aphrodite had nothing on that smile.
After teaching the alphabet in sign I stood up in a daze and wandered off. I only saw her once after that for a brief few seconds the next day and she walked out of my life taking a slice of my heart and sanity with her. I wish I had told her exactly what I thought in that first golden, sun-kissed moment of eternity. I would have serenaded her if I could.
At night, we massaged each other taking turns, three on one, and ran through the darkness with one of them holding my hand and me blindly trusting in them. Every now and then we would find ourselves at some cooking spot or a fire and sit down to include ourselves.
While at one of those fires, on the last night, Fee and Fée decided to start telling everyone a story in their language. First was ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ in German. Then another in French. Hebrew. Chinese. Spanish. And, yes, Auslan. No one understood me but that’s okay. No one understood most of the other stories either. There was something very peaceful about the quiet respect I saw on each and every fire-lit face as they all gazed upon the storyteller of each language.
By the last day, I was walking along the creek and waving at each regular. The Camp Camp, where three big men sat around soaking the sun in an amazing tent of colours and rainbows. I never saw them move from that spot for the entire four days. There was a quirky little setup of multicoloured cars and tents. Everything had become familiar in their own ubiquitous flavour.
For the finale, we decided to find the rare and elusive Nest Up In A Tree. Wandering slowly and nostalgically we said goodbye inside our hearts and smiled at the surrounding landscape. Eventually we found it. I had to blink several times and make sure I hadn’t fallen down the rabbit hole into Enid Blyton land.
There were a thousand other little things over that amazing four days. People, I find, forget just how similar we all are. Food, water, bed and happiness. The rest is secondary. At the end of the day, we all have our battles that we have won, are fighting or will fight. It just depends on how we perceive it and share our story.
As for me, three beautiful creatures talked to me all through this magical event and by the end, each and every one of them was telling me (and each other) stories in my own language. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this completely included in an event. Ever.
Thank you. Thank you, Pixie, Fee and Fée. And the thousands of other souls that made this festival what it is.
I’ll be back.
A member of the human race.