Frolicking at The Oregon Country Fair

There is a place, in the woods of central Oregon, where thousands of hippies, mystical creatures and weirdos (and some cute suburbanite tourists) converge for three days out of every year. Music, vaudeville, dance, juggling, and performance art of every shape happens on several stages simultaneously, not forgetting the buskers in every nook and cranny. I have attended The Oregon Country Fair for the last 3 years, and it’s now on my must-do list forever more.

Aside from art and performances, part of the fun of the Fair is just the people-watching. It’s hotter than all get-out, but everyone dresses-up just the same. Some people’s costumes are mind-blowingly amazing, or just hilarious. Groups of these costumed people also create random parades along the pathways of the fair. This is one of the most entertaining things there.

Whilst walking to get to another stage, find the bathroom, or buy a glittery unicorn horn headband, you may run into jugglers, drummers, a bunch of  people stumbling in the wilting heat, dressed in brown bananna costumes…

Or really tall clowns…

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Or a pod of orcas…

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Or a roving pool party complete with cocktails…

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Or a ferocious dragon.

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The fair also has booths with every manner of amazing art, costumes, clothing, instruments and the like woven throughout the huge piece of land. This year I b-lined to my favorite feather booth to stock-up on amazing vibrant blue and purple facinator hair clips, and I bought a stunning black and gold parasol at another booth.

Here is my new fabulous parasol, and my sassy Fair outfit:

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Here’s the fantastic hand-painted leather mask my mom picked-up:

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And the food is nothing you’ll find at any other Fair, it’s actually healthy and delicious, with a vast multitude of choices. My favorite meal this year was a heaping plate of Cajun red beans and rice with riblets and watermelon, it fueled me up to frolic for the entire day. And of course in the mid-day heat we HAD to also stop at the Coconut Bliss booth for a coconut ice cream bar. Delish. There are tons of options for a variety of diets, from gluten free, to vegan, to paleo, etc.

But I have to say that, hands down, one of my very favorite places to be at the fair is the Gypsy Caravan Stage. It’s a small stage area on a side path where you sit on pillows in the straw and watch some of the most amazing belly dancers on the planet.
I know most of the people in that audience have no. idea. how famous and amazing these dancers are. It’s like they’re watching Jimmy Hendrix but have never heard of him. I always want to tell them all: “DO YOU KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE!? SERIOUSLY. YOU HAVE NO IDEA…. WHAT, HOW DARE YOU GET UP TO LEAVE DURING ZOE’S SET… SIT THE FUCK DOWN.”

You can watch the likes of Rachel Brice, Colleena Shakti, Zoe Jakes, Sharon Kihara, and many more on a tiny stage. (and ALL of the performances at the fair are free. Just for a $22-$25  per day ticket, or $58 for all three, gets you access to everything.)
My first year I spent HOURS just sitting there, wide-eyed, mouth agape, watching the belly dancers and zagareeting my heart out.
And, at the end of each set, just to make any belly dance fan-dork’s heart leap out of their chest, the dancers walk around in the audience and collect tips in baskets. You then try to act really really normal (don’t act like a fan dork!) while giving them cash and telling them you loved their performance.

This year I had the pleasure of seeing Zoe Jakes (which was awesome because I wasn’t able to get anywhere NEAR the main stage during her band Beats Antique‘s set), Colleena Shakti, Sharon Kihara, and an amazing local dancer named Claudia.

This year’s videos aren’t up yet on youtube, but here is a recording of part of the show from 2013.

There is also camping around the fair grounds, to which I would highly advise:
a) Book early.
b) Be very, very mindful of whether you want a party camp or a family-oriented camp. There are some crazy all-night parties in some of them. Read the camp descriptions carefully.
c) Cell phone reception sucks, so camp near your friends.
d) Bring wet wipes, because your feet will look like this at the end of the day:

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So if you’re ever in Oregon in July and want to have an amazing time, dress like a wood nymph, and get all sweaty dancing with a bunch of weirdos in the woods, come to the Country Fair.

To entice you even more, here is a gallery of some of the photos of the fair that I’ve taken over the past 3 years:

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The Eight of Swords

eight of swords

Eight of Swords
Indecision

“A woman stands immobilized upon a pinnacle. She has reached a point where she feels that neither advance nor retreat is possible. Irregular waves vibrate through the air. They represent thought-waves of doubt and confusion. The rigidity of this figure suggests fixation, or the inability to directly face a problem, which is largely a mental creation. Her mind has been distracted by unimportant details and now it seems impossible to see the different options available to her. Although surrounded by negativity, she could cut herself out of this trap with the sword of deductive reasoning in her hand. But she must believe that action is possible before she can move. The swords aimed from the left and right represent interference, obstacles, doubt, confusion and misunderstanding, but the sword-like ray of illumination toughing the top of her head is a sign that if she has faith, then she will be guided by a higher force that will help her to view her problem from a higher perspective. Though she is blocked, she can be released by her own powers and those of a higher source.” – The Enchanted Tarot, by Amy Zerner

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I drew this card recently in a really illuminating tarot spread. It is a perfect illustration of my life of late. I’ve been feeling like the woman in this card- stuck and trapped, but knowing I’m not utilizing my own power to get out of the pickle I put myself in.

But now, I’ve had a breakthrough. Finally.

My life has often involved a series of dramatic changes. Like the tattoo of the phoenix that covers my arm,  I have a tendency to burn outmoded parts of my life to ashes, then rise up from them. I’m not afraid of most changes, and I think I handle even the negative ones quite well, I can go with the flow and live off of the energy from shifting tides. But this last year has been a hard one for me. Big changes shook my foundation. Divorce. Living in a new city. Losing my business, losing my financial security, and the future I had mapped out in my mind. Even for a little changeling like myself, this was a lot to recover from.

Luckily I’ve had a lot to feel blessed about. A new relationship, one where I actually feel loved and supported unconditionally. A beautiful city. An amazing new group of people to dance and perform with. I am so grateful for all this. But still, I’ve felt stuck, because my work life and my financial situation is not where I want it to be.

This is the conundrum that a lot of women (and sometimes men) face when we are the giving type, and we veer into co-dependency and  end up sacrificing big things for our partner’s dreams. Sometimes the relationship ends and you’re left in a place where you lost what you helped them build, they never gave you what you wanted in return, and now it’s time to start from scratch again.

So part of this “stuck” feeling I’ve been going through has been the rebuilding of a life dream, and also, my inner self crying out for my own independent route.

I have always been passionate about the arts and alternative medicine. But, these things often don’t pay well! My kind need to either work really hard and be crafty to succeed, or we can give-up and work a soul-sucking day job. I’ve been doing the latter for too many years now. Because of health issues, a mental struggle between what I “should” be doing and what I want to do, but mostly, just plain old fear of failure, I haven’t excelled like I’d like to in career-land. I’ve been worried that if I follow my heart I will somehow fall into economic ruin.

I think I’m letting go of that fear now. Just like the woman in the Eight of Swords card. I’ve just realized I have that big powerful sword in my hands, and I have the light of divine inspiration connecting my mind to the universe. I can use that sword, a symbol of my intelligence, creativity, and fearlessness, to break the other swords that have been imprisoning me. I can kick ass. I can be free.

I’ve spent months delving into myself, trying to figure it out the right path out of this stuck situation. First I scoured craigslist, thinking maybe my escape was in a new job somewhere, but I found nothing, just more jobs that are traps that will leach my spirit. So I delved and delved… What do I really want to do? What makes my soul sing?
So many things do.
I am passionate about maternity care rights, about dance, about healing and learning about nutrition, about creating access to all of that for other low-income people. I want to reach out to the world and give back. I spent so many years of my life sick from a mystery illness and I felt so lost trying to heal myself, until I finally did. I want to find other people that are out there struggling to heal, and I want to grab their hands and show them the way to their path to health.

So… time for the big reveal…

The exciting news is I’ve decided to go back to school for a bit, to get more official “cred” as a healer. I’m going to study Holistic Nutrition. I study it all the time anyway, I might as well be certified! I’ve found an inexpensive program at Portland State, that I can do mostly online. From there I’ll take the exam to be certified by the National Association of Nutrition Practitioners.

Getting this education and certification will be the perfect push to jump start a new, creative, healing, independent career.

Now, for the manifestation. It is an inexpensive program, as college programs go, but I still need help funding it. I am going to set-up an epic Ebay auction fundraiser, and put up a gofundme.com page. I’m gonna promote and promote, and hopefully the beautiful generosity of others will help me get where I need to be.

That sword is swinging, and I am smashing through to my bliss.

Goddess of the Willamette River

I live only a 5 minute walk away from a majestic river named the Willamette.

I’ve watched her through the last two years of seasons, from the summertime when she’s crowded with drunk college kids on inner-tubes and scattered with the dangling chords of fishing poles plunged below her shimmering depths, to the wintertime when her height swells with rain, choppy white peaks beneath the cloudy sky. The sheer force of her is a sight to behold.

The Willamette river is actually a tributary of the Columbia river and is 187 miles long, stretching through the heart of Oregon. Her nourishment has sustained humans for the last 10,000 years.  The first inhabitants included the Kalapuya, the Chinook, and the Clackamas tribes. The river was named by original inhabitants of the area, though no one knows what “Willamette” actually means.

The beauty, power, and importance of this river makes me fully understand why so many cultures ascribe deities to rivers. When I sit on the shore of this river I feel compelled to honor and worship it, for sure.

I do ascribe to nature-based spirituality, and I have a particular fondness for the old religions of some of my ancestors, The Celts. While I love their mythology and deities, I also think there is value in finding a spiritual connection to ones current locale. This falls in line with Celtic spirituality’s tendency towards animism.

The Celts of the ancient world believed that many spirits and divine beings inhabited the world around them, and that humans could establish a rapport with these beings. (…) rituals, offerings, and correct behaviour maintained a balance between gods, spirits and humans and harnessed supernatural forces for the benefit of the community.
The pagan Celts perceived the presence of the supernatural as integral to, and interwoven with, the material world. Every mountain, river, spring, marsh, tree and rocky outcrop was inspirited.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celtic_animism

I would love to know the name of the deity of this river, but I don’t know if any of the original inhabitants have a river goddess assigned to it. (Does anyone know? My research has not been fruitful.)

In the meantime, I’ve decided to ascribe my own personal name to her, out of reverence.

River goddesses sometimes have the river named after them, such as Tamesis, who is the ancient deity of the River Thames, the River Severn, named after an Old British river goddess of that name, and the River Shannon, Irish Sionann, also the name of the river’s goddess.

So I’ve reverse engineered her name, taking inspiration from “Willamette”. The new name (given with respect to any other name she may have ever had) of the goddess of this river is Willamina, which actually means “determined protector”. Fitting, I think.

Thank you for your nourishment and beauty, Goddess Willamina.

Ditching Chemical Hair Dye for Henna

The body, our best canvas for art and expression. I’ve had more hair cuts and colors and styles than I can count, I’m also quite decorated in permanent body art, tattoos. I love clothes, I love make-up, I basically love expressing myself with this physical form of mine.

One of the main reasons I didn’t follow my old dream of being a film actress? I realized I would have had to look mainstream and BORING for the rest of my life. No thank you!

But, of course, many of these decorative techniques we use in this culture are, sadly, toxic. Hair care and make-up are not well regulated. (here’s a guide to finding safe brands) Hair dye is known to be full of problematic chemicals (yes, even the “natural” ones). So my crunchy hippie side often has wrestling matches with my fabulous femme side over just how to decorate myself. The hippie side has, for the most part, won by little bits over the years. But my inner femme will never totally let go.

I used to be really good about being super body-positive, not buying into consumerist gendered marketing, and not putting toxic crap on myself. Then around decade ago I totally fell off the wagon. Something about living in SoCal again and being in fashion school totally brainwashed me for awhile and my hippie and some of my punk side flew out the window. I wore high heels every day, and wore skin tight trendy clothes at all times. My hair was dyed and flat ironed, and my make-up was harsh blacks and bright neons. I didn’t care how toxic anything was, I just slathered myself in it.

That phase kinda reminds me of this song, like I’d been taken over by an alien… “She, she wants me to go to the mall, she wants me to put the pretty.. the pretty pretty pretty lipstick on…”

But when I got really sick a few years ago a huge change occurred. It triggered my inner earth mamma again, suddenly I was pulled down and grounded, realizing I needed to wear the comfy shoes and non-restrictive clothing for my health. And suddenly being a trendy fashionista was not a top priority.
Now I’ve settled in between the two – A sort of hippie goth thing has happened. I decorate myself, but try to do it healthfully. I’ve researched non-toxic, animal friendly make-ups, etc… And I’ve done really well with it, except the hair dye thing.

I had a period during my recent uber-crunchy phase where I had totally natural, un-dyed hair… something I hadn’t had since being a young teenager. Then I got bored with it, as I always do, and decided I’d color it with henna to be healthy AND have fun. But eventually, I got tired of the mellow colors of henna and fell off the wagon again, going back to dying it bright red and dark browns.

I really have noticed a big difference in my hair’s texture and body since doing this. As you can see in this picture, the hennaed hair, on the right, is shiny and thick and wavy, and the hair on the right, which has been dyed for 3 years now, is kinda fuzzy and flat.

henna vs dye

BUT, can I overcome my love of dark hair to go back to henna? I think I just might. I’m going to eventually go for a brighter red than the color in the pic, which was a brown henna.  I’m also going to get a heated hair cap, which, apparently, makes henna more vibrant.

(And yes I know, there are black and dark brown henna’s on the market… but I’ve never seen people be able to get their hair really and permanently dark with them. Maybe you have and have some tips? Let me know below.)

Now, if you yourself are looking to switch to henna hair dye, be very very picky about which brand you choose. There are henna dyes out there that are just as toxic as conventional hair dye. Make sure it is PURE, fresh henna. Here’s a quick FAQ on henna.

I’m personally a fan of Avigal Henna, and Lush Cosmetics Henna, but there are other quality brands out there. Basically, if it uses any weird ingredients, don’t buy it.
READ LOTS about henna before you use it- otherwise you may end-up with no results, a frustrating, messy time, and sometimes even green hair.

Henna is, absolutely, a bit more of an undertaking than conventional hair dye. It’s a natural product, so it’s gritty, clumpy, crumbly, and takes longer to process. But it makes your hair look and feel AMAZING. So it’s totally worth it.

Things I personally like to add to my henna mix: I use hot coffee instead of water, and add red wine for a redder shade. A couple tablespoons of olive oil is also a good call if you’re using a powdered henna.

Also, I’m going totally henna crazy and am going to learn to do henna tattoos as well. I’ve been madly in love with the traditional designs of it for years, and would love to set-up a little booth with draped fabric and pillows at festivals and decorate people with it. So I’ll be using lots of my friends as guinea pigs and will photograph the results.

In a few months I’ll also post a hair update to see how things are going with the henna transition. So far, the first application went great, but my roots are lighter than the rest of my hair, which is not ideal. It was immediately so much thicker though, and made my scalp really happy.

Have you hennaed your hair? Have any thoughts or tips? Please post them below!

 

A Story of Masks

This poem is one of my favorites. It is a storehouse of power, and it sticks with me while I observe the struggles that birth workers go through around the world today, trying to work within the system, avoid prosecution, and fulfill their destiny to help mamas and babies.

It was written by Starhawk, an environmental activist, author, and priestess. It is printed in her brilliant book Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority, and Mystery.

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A Story of Masks

What has been done to the earth
has been done to you
as to us all
Every murder, every rape, every act or torture
leaves its scar on the landscape of the self
and the outer bars
cast shadows in our mind

Feel them
they are your wounds
they are all you might have been
and will not be
Cry for it mourn rage
There are toxins in your blood
Your dismembered parts
lie scattered around you
You prowl your own borders
looking for escape
The wall is invisible
like glass, but stronger
you can’t get over it
you can’t get under it
you can’t get around it

So you put on the mask
that hides you
and try to slip through
How do you walk in this mask?
How does your body feel?
The mask covers you
It hides the barrier
And suddenly you can’t remember
where you were going or why
and none of it seems very important
so you stop and sit
And there you remain
forever
Or you can take the mask off

And put on the tricky mask
the deceiving mask
and try to slip through
How do you walk in this mask?
How does your body feel?

And the barrier disappears
and you walk through
and the path is clear and green and pleasant
and you know it’s the right way
although from time to time
you suspect
that you really haven’t gone anywhere
that you are back where you started from
And there you can remain
forever
Or you can take the mask off

And you put on the mask
that pleases
and try to slip through
How do you walk in this mask?
How does your body feel?
And everyone at the barrier is charming
they make polite conversation
they serve tea
they sympathize with your difficulties
with how hard it is to break through
and you wouldn’t want to offend them
so you stay where you are
And there you can remain
forever
Or you can take the mask off

And you can put on the ugly mask
and try to smash through
How do you walk in this mask?
how does your body feel?
You don’t care who you offend, or what you break
the pleasant people scatter
the teacups shatter
and you bash into the barrier
again and again
your flesh becomes pulp
our own bones break
and there you can remain
forever
Or you can take the mask off

Unmasked

Turn your naked face
to the fire
that remains
An ember in the center
juice of the earth’s living heart
The fire survives
as you survive
and all may yet survive in you

Beside the fire
She is still sitting
the story woman

Her whisper makes
a dry sound
like the sliding of snakes
coupling and uncoupling
at the cell’s core
Like the memory of being alive
with all life living in you

She says
There is another way
You knew it once
Remember

Memory sleeps coiled
like a snake in a basket
of grain
deep in the storehouse
Breathe deep
Let your breath take you down

Find the way there
And you will find the way out

-Starhawk-

Cues and Tattoos

This post about my first trip to Cues and Tattoos is quite late… but better late than never! So here we go.
This was my first performance at a big belly dance festival. Yeeeeip! It was a fantastic trip, fun with a sprinkle of drama. I met new friends, got my dance on, and did some sight-seeing (and hurt my toe, luckily after we performed, but never mind that).

Cues and Tattoos takes place in Seattle every year, and draws an international array of belly dancers and brilliant/famous instructors. Workshops vary greatly in price, making it a really affordable place to get amazing belly dance instruction. Or, you can spring for expensive  intensives with world renowned teachers. (So worth it for those who have the cash to spend. I wish I did!) There are also tons of performances, by both the famous teachers and the students. It’s a great place to get exposure and experience performing. There is also AMAZING shopping. Jewelry, clothing, performance wear, make-up, and even a booth doing tattoos. As I walked through the vendor sections, drooling on myself, I wished the tree in my backyard would start sprouting dollar bills.

I performed with Ruby McConnell’s troupe, Red Moon Rising.
Here is a video of our performance. (CREEPY DOLL BELLYDANCE FTW!)
The music is by Victor St. Petersberg. Enjoy!

 

COMING SOON: Tribal Fest, video style. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but I will pick out the best videos and reviews for your enjoyment!

Tomorrow I fly out to organize a conference in England. I’ll be back in June with tales from my British adventures.

xo

 

Bite Size Memoir #3 – “Magic and Fairy Tales”

This week’s installment in the “Bite Size Memoir” writing challenge. My childhood obsession with fairy tale princesses.
(Obviously I didn’t become a cynical feminist till later.)

Find out more about the challenge in Lisa Rieter’s blog.

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Oh, to be young again, with no notion of reality’s constraints upon one’s future self. 

My first aspiration, at age 4 or 5, was to be a princess. It did not matter that I was a little American girl living with a single mom in an apartment whose carpets were so threadbare they rolled up in the vacuum cleaner.  I didn’t even have my own bedroom or my own bed, but I was convinced my destiny was to be royalty. 

I put myself through “Princess Training”, which mostly involved walking around with a heavy book balanced on my head, and daintily serving my stuffed animals tea. 

Though I never became royalty, and the thought of me being a princess is laughable, I did get some use out of that training. My posture has been an asset in acting and dance. And I have a fine appreciation of tea. 

Cypress' blog on dance, art, passion, and life.