It was August of 2012. I was thirty four, and the moon was full. I had just spent six days in a rented apartment in the heart of Valencia with my girlfriend and two other friends. Sangria flowed freely, the tapas was to die for, and the winds of the Mediterranean kept us cool in spite of the heat of southern Spain.
On the seventh day, we packed up our bags, and looking like the young North American backpackers we were, started our journey across the continent towards the Atlantic. We had the worst food, ever, in the Madrid bus station. But then, without even knowing it, we crossed the threshold into the mysterious.
We found a fleet of buses awaiting us, prepared to take us even further into the depths of a wild and exciting adventure. Upon boarding we left the world we knew behind, no longer young Canadians in Spain. Now we were among smiling friends from around the world that we were just beginning to meet. The ride was an exciting tour through the arid countryside of Spain and Portugal, punctuated with cheers of festivity and the occasional bathroom stop that resulted in beer and ice cream. When we got close the bus stopped for processing. After a few hours of patience, we were given bracelets and ushered back onto the bus which took us through the narrow streets of Idanha-a-Nova before it turned down a dirt road and the dusty cloud behind folded us across the universe into a different space.
Now I am several days into the festival. I sit meditating on a rock surrounded by rippling lake. Others share it, laughing people launching themselves from a high ledge into the waving sparkles. I am naked, clothed in just a kerchief, but no one pays me any attention. It is Europe, and it isn’t a big deal.
I have for the most part, abandoned time. It is the hottest part of the day, and my lovely woman sleeps near glowing tentacles in the shade near the gardens. Water dries off my body in a manner of minutes, and the natural air conditioning is a secret pleasure. I hear excited voices in a language I don’t understand, and I smile. I am immersed in comfort, contentment and spiritual abundance.
I doze off for a bit. When I come to, the hollering adolescents have been replaced by a smiling young boy. My skin feels golden-warm again, and I want to rejoin my woman near the permaculture gardens. I stand, and the sand on the rock grits into my soles. With a bound and wild yell, I hurtle myself off the ledge, white and purple kerchief flying out behind me like a tail. The sun is hot, and I welcome the cool caress of the blue lake. I swim out, and since the swim back to where I left my clothes is a good ten minutes, I conserve energy and turn around into a back stroke. Sounding like he is lost from Neverland, boy enters the water behind me. This is one of many precious moments I hold in my heart from my first transformational culture festival.
Timed every other year to the August full moon, Boom takes place just outside the small village of Idana-a-Nova in Portugal. This particular event attracted about 20,000 lovely souls from 102 different countries from the world around. I heard more different languages than my ears could understand, saw more ranges of ethnicities than I’d ever seen in one place before. A dozen different ethnic foods could be had at the central market area. For the first time in my life, my native language, English, felt in minority, and I liked it. But I found my second language exalted like holy art, performed raw and visceral in an unabashed joy of exuberant existence by anyone who dared to surrender to the undulating beat of the best psytrance in the world. Names like Sacred Fire and the revealing Dance Temple brought me home where everyone speaks the same language, the expression of the soul, sacred temples erected for the divine art of dance.
I had read about transformational culture festivals and liked the concept. Based on the direction and intention of the project organizers, it could be anything that brought a sense of transformation to the festival goers. Visionary art, sacred dance, holistic healing methods, permaculture gardens and more were some of the ideas that I had read about. It all sounded very nice, and the intents were harmonious with the planet. But it was all words on a screen, color ink on inkjet paper. None of it had really imparted the vast experience I was now soaking in like water, my body much like the desert around me, rejuvenating the spirit and showing me in a very sensate manner what a transformational culture festival really is.
And I fell in love with it.
I reach the shore, and find other lovely people who sleep at the water’s edge, feet massaged by those same liquid hands that caress me.
Nature scattered small rocks everywhere on the beach, but artists (festival goers) have collected them and created stacks, patterns and pictures out of them. I am reminded of the Inukshuks of the native indigenous people of Canada.
It would seem that art out of stone is a global thing. For a brief moment I am transported home to Manitoba, seeing an inukshuk for the first time, captivated by the gentle use of the natural elements by human hands, a work of art that could be either one day or a thousand years old. I bring myself back to the present. A topless woman walks by me and gives me a smile.
Here at Boom is the natural expression of the soul, beauty within and without. Life is art.
As I get close to the gardens, I hear a sound that takes me back to a gorgeous music video by Shpongle. I find a man creating the soft serenade of a hang drum inside the gardens only a short distance from my woman.
“Hi love. How was your nap?” I ask her.
“Wonderful. Just what I needed. How was your swim?”
I tell her what I saw, my meditation, and we go silent, listening to the melodies from the hang drum.
A person can bring their instrument and just start playing and people will sit down and listen and be appreciative of it here. There is an ease and relaxation to the flow of things.
After the drummer packs up, we visit the healing village to look at available sessions in a variety of unique healing therapies. Everything from crystals, Egyptian Essenian therapy, Yoga and more are available. We sign up for a couple. And after attending the sessions, we walk out feeling like we just stepped out of soul restoration chambers.
During the later part of the evening we join up with our friends, and have dinner. There is an open Mic near the food market, and I bring out some of my writing to read to the audience. I am a little nervous about getting before so many people. But it goes smashingly well, and I feel exhilaration. A boy harkening from the Canadian Prairies, I perform for the first time in front of a live international audience at a massive transformational culture festival. And people like my material.
Together, we attend a talk in a massive tent called Liminal Village. The discussion is what a post-prohibition culture looks like. It’s a fascinating exploration through many different perspectives, and the audience is involved as well, asking questions of the four people at the front. After the talk, I walk up to the one whom I recognized, and shake hands with the one and only Daniel Pinchbeck.
It is August of 2012. The moon is full and I am undulating to a beat from a Dance Temple that enlivens my soul in ways I am only just beginning to understand. I am thirty four. The clouds above me are tracing tendrils and wisps of atmospheric wonder, moving like aurora borealis, and the veils between dimensions feels thin. The experience here at Boom, my first transformational culture festival is like tuning into the soul of the world, and…I feel…amazing. Learning. Healing. Simplicity. Diversity. Arts. Magic. Soul. Garden. Earth Family. A small community of international friends all around. A celebratory atmosphere.
This is planet Earth as it is meant to be.