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counter culture

June 19 to 23, 2002   (Wednesday to Sunday)

OM Summer Solstice Festival

The Crew

Scott and Rashelle invited me to come to a "turn on, tune in, drop out" music festival happening 5 hours drive north to a quaint town of Killaloe just south of Algonquin Park. I've heard about this before and have been intrigued by it. Having regretted not being born early enough to make it to Woodstock, I grabbed the chance. It's a 3-day event but we chose to arrive 2 days earlier, making it a 5-day event for us. I met Emily while picking up Rashelle and Scott. With our rented mini-van, the four of us were off to pick up Davy, another of their friend and off we went to OM.

It turns out most of them were performing. Rashelle and Davy were doing Poi, an art form where you swing with both hands, objects tied from your fingers with a string. It has to be seen to be appreciated. Scott is a DJ better known as Basilisk and will be spinning his records at the event too. He brought a lot of this music with him - mostly GOA and psy-trance. This would turn out to be my introduction to the music, which was also continuously played at the event - think 5 days of virtually non-stop trance/house/techno music from most of the 6 sound stages happening at OM.

Petroglyphs

A skilled navigator with good planning skills, Scott planned the trip with interesting stopovers, one of which is the Petroglyphs. These are rock carvings made by Algonkian native tribes dating back up to 1100 years in celebration of their relationship to the spirit world. As tempting as it was to take pictures of the rock carvings, I had to respect the sign discouraging such practice as the site is regarded sacred and special to its many people.

As coincidence will have it, we bumped into a group that was also headed for OM. An interesting thing happened. We missed the closing time and got locked inside the park by a swing gate. It took much searching to find help who directed us to the whereabouts of the rangers who finally opened the gates for us.

A poignant moment happened while following the ranger on her truck. She stopped abruptly for a turtle crossing the trail. She got off the truck, picked the turtle and put it to the other side of the road. These guys are not just on the job. They're living the tenets of what their job is all about: care and protection of the Provincial park system - or nature in general for that matter. That single action spoke volumes to me.

Arrival

We were one of the few who got there early. We pitched our respective tents and proceeded to the big bonfire to meet more people. There was an air of excitement and enthusiasm in the air. The best moments were yet to come.

Getting Involved

There was a frenzy of preparation going on all over - preparing the 6 sound stages, geodesics to house the exhibits, erecting booths and outhouses, etc. Since the crew was busy preparing for their event/performance, I tried to make myself useful. I hooked up with Christian and helped out erect some fences. Later on I hooked up with Sam and helped out in chopping carrots at the Kind Kitchen and losing myself in the casual conversation with the other volunteers. The greatest feeling was meeting different people along the way and sharing the cool vibe.

The Kind Kitchen

"Sharing the love" was never exemplified better by the Kind Kitchen. Volunteers offer their services to help man it - in the form of preparing food, keeping it clean or supervising the endless task of feeding 3000 people. Food itself was donated by anyone who had a few to spare. The kitchen was open to anyone who was hungry. People lined up patiently for their fill. Get this: when they're done, they even line up again to clean up their dish for the next guy. Unlike the outside world where it's I-me-mine, here, it was more like voluntarilly being part of a collective whole where a good deed begets another good deed that pays itself forward.

The Lake

It was hot and dry and a shower facility was nowhere to be found (a makeshift shower was later created). A conversation with one of the locals revealed the presence of a lake just minutes away. After feeling our way through the local dirt roads, we finally came upon the lake. Poi and bathing were in order.

Party Scene

There was always more than one party going on at any given time - the Poi scene, the DJs and their music, the non-stop all-out dancing, the plays, workshops, live bongo performance, etc. The whole gamut of art, performers and participants were there in celebration of the human spirit.

Drum Circles

I remain mesmerized by the beat of the drum circles, whose rhythm called upon every percussionist within hearing distance to join the "tribal ritual" while the audience danced into a frenzy with Bacchanalian abandon. There were no spectators...only participants.

The Big Circle

The culmination of the entire celebration was the Big Circle. Everyone gathered by the main stage to listen to what the tireless organizers had to say. The feeling was intense, happy and exciting. Later, we all moved into the bigger field where we all joined hands to form a spiraling circle. The collective vibe of everyone was overflowing. At that moment, we were not 3000 but one soul internalizing what the last 3 days were all about. I came away from that gathering renewed and deeply moved by that fleeting moment.

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