The Global Eclipse Gathering: A Dance Between The Sun and Moon by chris miele

global_eclipse_gathering_quarter_sun_glow

Anticipation. Hype. Tall tales. LORE!  The feelings proceeding the total solar eclipse of 2017 were a dense potion of all the above, plus a dusting of mystery induced anxiety.  Was it going to be like what we read?  Or just like what others said?  Could we really see the sun's explosive, life-spawning nuclear energy with our naked eyes?  Would the animals really shift their behavior out of acute nocturnal confusion?  A celestial event like none of us had experienced before, the eclipse had blossomed into a legend before it had even happened.   

Sunrise send-offs.

After five consecutive years we decided to forego our pilgrimage to Black Rock City and the dust of Burning Man for a different adventure.  Something that is experienced oh so rarely, a total solar eclipse.  For the first time in nearly 100 years a total solar eclipse was to be visible across the entire US.  And while the whole US could see the eclipse, only a small percentage could actually EXPERIENCE the eclipse and witness totality.  A tiny band of land merely 70 miles wide known as the path of totality is the only place where you can view the "total" portion of the eclipse, the part where the moon blocks out the sun in ENTIRETY.  Thanks to a collaboration between dozens of international festival organizers, The Global Eclipse Gathering had been in planning for years and their mission was to create a monumental gathering, directly in the path of totality.  Tucked away deep in the remote high plains of Central Oregon, they had found a way to place us directly within the path of totality.  Oh how lucky we were for their efforts...

Treehouses and fairy-tales awaited.

Pros only, obviously.

The festival stew had been simmering and all the ingredients were just right. 

Remote location, ground rumbling stages, large interactive art, and hoards of people from all over the globe.  Australia, London, New Zealand, all converging to witness something that defied explanation and reality.  Together.  Estimates were in the 35k realm and yet the crowd still felt intimate.  Aiding to the potency of the week was no cell service.  No excuses or easy way outs from interacting with your fellow human, it was blissfully beautiful. 

Children of the light, children of the night. 

When the earth rumbles, follow your frequency. 

She saw bubbles...  Moth. To. A. Flame.  

In case you ever forget.

Camp meditations and messages.

Seven nights of the Moon Stage.  I could handle more. 

 

With the festival beginning on Wednesday and the eclipse happening Monday morning, pacing and preparation were vital.  Sunday night meant no sleep, I couldn't take the chance of a poorly timed nap ruining the main act.  With the cumulative festival energy buzzing at an 11 Sunday night, there was no excuse not to be wiggling and grooving away those late night hours anyway.  For the duration of the night I hauled my gear, packed food, and heckled friends about making camp runs.  We were committed to sunrise and rode the wave of anticipation into the eclipse. 

The sun's greeting on eclipse morning. 

The sun's greeting on eclipse morning. 

The Sun Temple swollen with people ready to stare down the sun.  Don't forget your glasses kids!

As the eclipse approached, the migration began to the Sun Temple and the high hill top viewing zone.  In droves we marched to the area designated to view and experience the celestial dance together.  It was here that we experienced not just the eclipse, but were privileged to part of an indigenous ceremony.  Native tribes from all over the world were taking turns on the microphone sharing stories of what an eclipse meant to their people while offering prayers, songs, gifts, and blessings.  With chills of joy running down our spine and tears of gratitude caressing our face, it became crystal clear we were bearing witness to something so much larger than we could understand.   

The "purple shade" had begun to fall bringing a quality of light none of us had experienced before. 

Drinking the delightful tonic of anticipation and uncertainty.

 

-THE CHILL-

 

Once the moon covers more than half of the sun, the temperature starts dropping, and keeps dropping.  Alien ambient light is accompanied by temperatures nearly 20 degrees less than just moments before.  There's no denying the mounting energy happening overhead.  In every direction the horizon deepens in unfamiliar pigments and hues.  With proper eye-wear you can see the moon swallowing the sun by the minute.

Merely second away from transmission. 

Merely second away from transmission. 

 

---TOTALITY---

 

Words for this ripple in time are still sparse as it was an experience of pure, raw emotion.  An hour of building anticipation finally climaxes as the sun is instantly reduced to a glowing ring.  The "snap" into totality is so abrupt that you're instantly rocketed out of the reality you knew.  Your naked eye is rewarded with a sensation that is nothing short of primal.  Gasps, tears, shouts, unabashed exhalations filled the air.  Pure magic that had taken over the earth.

Totality.

In a quest to better understand what happened that week, I asked my dear friend Eliana Shapiro to help decode the messages unveiled in the shadows.  Here are her words -

"The Global Eclipse Gathering was medicine: pure, euphoric, medicine.

It was a pivotal offering of sacred divinity to unsheathe the shrouded, and transmute the infinite. A potent soufflé of tangible and intangible energies that gently permeated our monkey minds and corporeal hides: allowing for big momma magic to engage the spirit and transform the soul.  And we called it in: that cosmic, persuasive, power which transpired on those holy Oregon lands. It was alive in our commitments to ascend on the unknown, it was vibrant in our gatherings and preparation, and it was pulsating amid the collaboration of communal exhibition. We were in: all in, and our efforts produced value that monetary confinements could never contain.  We departed on a robustly energetic ricochet that fiercely propelled each of us onward, and we carried with us freshly uncovered tools and illuminated lessons to unravel on top of our own summits.  And while it is true that the dichotomy of the moon eclipsing the sun resulted in ecstatic bliss, it would be more accurate to illustrate the whole gathering as an all-inclusive retreat of integrated blessedness. Whilst the assertive solar flares were held with love by the lucid contemplation of our moon, we too felt the calling. We sensed the energetic summoning to embrace the healed divine masculine in all of us, as our divergent feminine tenderly snakes itself to center stage. What we felt in that moment was completeness, oneness. We were one with our universe, one with each other, and one with ourselves. Wholly aligned. Undoubtedly united. Certifiably eclipsed."

- Eliana Shapiro

The diamond ring and the final seconds as the moon completes is dance with the sun.

 
 

Perspectives: Not To Scale by chris miele

We see you Channel Islands.  Los Angeles, CA.

Feeling small can be the best feeling.

Grand views, infinite horizons, and specks of humanity speak to the soul, and I love seeking them out.  There's something about standing on the edge of a cliff or at the bottom of a canyon that shrinks even the most massive of thoughts.  Swimming in the vastness of reality, both physically and mentally, can have a profound effect on humans.  Understanding we are but a blip on the universal radar can be hard to grasp, but it's an ever evolving theme in my work. 

California in its most rare form: LUSH.  Topanga, CA.

Warm up wander.  Page, AZ.

Sunset send offs.  Venice, CA.

Emptiness means different things to different people.  For some the solitude speaks serenity, for others it incites irrational instability.  While the psychology differs, the visual experience remains paramount for me.  Watching people from a distance interacting with the world slows down the pace of a reality that's often on hyper speed.  Subtleties become the sublime, moments linger monumentally, and life gains longevity.   

Careful foot placement is key.  Rincon Beach, CA.

Off the top.  Rincon Beach, CA.

Classic Queen of the caost view.  Rincon Beach, CA.

Translating scale determines how you translate reality. 

Often I hear people talking about how their photos don't represent "how it looked."  While this is often a valid and common problem among shutter snappers both seasoned and amateur, I've learned it's about representing HOW IT FELT.  That's the challenge, conveying grandeur, expansiveness, and infinity.  Understanding the relationship between where we stand and what we view, that's what effects how we interpret reality.  Exploring these thoughts through a lens cements the scale and thus the message; no matter how big you may feel, we're all but miniature marching ants. 

A break in the ascension.  Topanga, CA. 

Family smiles among the cacti.  Tuscon Mountain Park, AZ.

I prefer when the horizon looks more like a portal and less like a boundary.  Los Angeles, CA.

Mini tanker.  Los Angeles, CA.

Hill climb just in time.  Tucson Mountain Park, AZ.

Please Do Touch: Meow Wolf by chris miele

It's OK, look directly at the light...  Meow Wolf. Santa Fe, NM.

They all said "Don't miss Meow Wolf."

Maybe it was the brightly colored neon sign or the the perfectly styled letters, but from the first glance we knew something magical was hidden inside Meow Wolf's white adobe abode.  Throughout the years we've been spoiled with heaps of interactive art experiences from attending events like Burning Man and Symbiosis, but seldom seen are those types of works elsewhere .  That notion was shattered once we stepped foot into Meow Wolf's inaugural installation 'The House Of Eternal Return.'  From the moment they hand over your wristband it's clear that this experience is unique.  Admission is valid all day allowing for breaks, re-entry, and ample time to explore. 3-D glasses were available for a single dollar, a nice addition to amplify the colors and dimensions that await. Stepping through the doors and hearing haunting instructions via intercom is surreal and sets the sci-fi tone.  Over 100 artists collaborated to created the alien labyrinth that's overwhelmingly meticulous and mysterious. Every corner begs to be explored for secret passageways, hidden clues, and well placed interactions.  We hadn't even made it past the main room and we were already floored with excitement and intrigue.

 
 

Portal #09594.  Meow Wolf. Santa Fe, NM.

 
 
Give it a good push.  Meow Wolf. Santa Fe, NM.

Give it a good push.  Meow Wolf. Santa Fe, NM.

This is a place where you must touch, EVERYTHING.

It'd be easy to assume that the creators had envisioned a narrow, targeted audience, but that couldn't be further from the truth.  Children of all ages were wandering through the various rooms as their parents and even grandparents followed, all equally stimulated from exploring and discovering their surroundings.  Frankly I couldn't recall the last time I had seen such a variety of age brackets equally engaged in an experience.  It was an incredible achievement, art that created real inclusion.  Each turn made was a blastoff to another dimension, all stranger and deeper than the last.  Glowing mushrooms played musical notes when touched, opening refrigerator doors led to alien laboratories, and dark corridors rewarded you with interactive light installations.  No wonder re-entry is permitted and encouraged, the constant discovery was mentally exhausting. 

 
 

LASER HARP!!!  Yes a laser harp!  As if I needed anymore reasons to spend all my time under lasers.  Meow Wolf. Santa Fe, NM.

 
 

Don't be afraid, certainly do activate and enter.  Meow Wolf. Santa Fe, NM.

The Burning Man similarities were off the chart, but it was extra re-affirming to see this playa veteran holding down Meow Wolf's exterior picnic area.  Meow Wolf. Santa Fe, NM.

The Burning Man similarities were off the chart, but it was extra re-affirming to see this playa veteran holding down Meow Wolf's exterior picnic area.  Meow Wolf. Santa Fe, NM.

Portal pod, who know where it'll take you.  Meow Wolf. Santa Fe, NM.

Portal pod, who know where it'll take you.  Meow Wolf. Santa Fe, NM.

Fish tank perspectives.  Meow Wolf. Santa Fe, NM.

Heavy on the side eye.  Meow Wolf. Santa Fe, NM.

Take a seat, stay awhile, and erase your mind.  Meow Wolf. Santa Fe, NM.

Get lost, it'll serve you well.

Thankfully we had no expectations because an afternoon spent wandering this otherworldly place shattered anything we could have imagined.  The passion that's been poured into this project is overwhelmingly apparent, and perhaps that's what makes it truly so special.  The artists responsible for Meow Wolf have been creating spaces together for nearly a decade and witnessing their biggest accomplishment yet is beyond inspiring.  Meow Wolf allows your inner child to play while igniting your adult mind, a combination that's priceless.  

 
 
When walls give you wings.  Meow Wolf. Santa Fe, NM.

When walls give you wings.  Meow Wolf. Santa Fe, NM.

 
 
Magic markers.  Meow Wolf. Santa Fe, NM.

Magic markers.  Meow Wolf. Santa Fe, NM.

Winter Dances: The Desert by chris miele

Moonlight dances between revealing and hiding layers of earth.  Joshua Tree National Park, CA.

The desert is for dreamers.

Magnetic in its draw, energetic in its presence, the wild call of the desert has become impossible to ignore for Erin and I.  If you explore deep enough... the silence is piercing, only the sound of the wind grounds you to reality.  Freedom is on tap in the deserts of the American West, and rightfully so.  Rugged terrain, scorching sands, and starry night skies meld together forming a frontier only fit for those willing to vanish into the horizon as the sun wavers and ignites the sky.        

Shine on.  Joshua Tree National Park, CA.

 

 

Escape.  We had to flee winter's chill and muted skies.

California was calling for our seasonal business visit and you sure as shit didn't have to twist our arms to vacate winter.  Woven into our usual stays in LA and San Diego were two desert stops; Joshua Tree and Tucson.  One a familiar muse and the other a virgin adventure.  We needed to bask in the moonlight as the sharp high desert wind cut through the air.  We needed to feel the soul recharging February rays further south in the Sonoran Desert.  We needed the release only the desert could provide.   

 

Joshua Tree National Park, CA.

Joshua Tree National Park, CA.

Paint me a picture, desert sky.  Joshua Tree National Park, CA.

 

Bend with the clouds.  Joshua Tree National Park, CA.

 
 

 

The deep Southwest, most notably Tucson had eluded both Erin and I, and for the first time we planned on attending to Tucson Gem show.  For three days we wandered the city streets hand selecting crystals, gems, and fossils for Eldorado.  To balance the day's work, we made it a point to wrap up in time to venture into the desert for sunset.  Tucson is flanked by mountain, cactus, and arid wilderness as Saguaro National Park sits both east and west of the city, providing an easy escape in under an hour.  Before the sun dipped too far on the horizon, we headed west each day to climb the hills and walk among the mighty Saguaro cacti forests that carpeted the region.  Gargantuan in size and coveted in their lore, the Saguaros were even more cartoon-like than imagined.  15, 20, some even over 30 feet tall, it's no wonder these monsters are the symbol of the desert west.

 

Well aren't you a tall drink of water...   Tucson Mountain Park, AZ.

 

Tucson Mountain Park, AZ.

Surprise moonrise cameo.  Tucson Mountain Park, AZ.

Surprise moonrise cameo.  Tucson Mountain Park, AZ.

 

Witching hour.  Saguaro National Park, AZ.

 

Saguaro carpeting.  Tucson Mountain Park, AZ.

The vastness is inviting.

Far from shocking, but this trip really revealed to us how much more we need to explore the deep southwest.  Aside from the cacti covered valleys, the hills surrounding Tucson also harbor snow capped peaks, waterfalls, and hidden caves, we just needed more time.  We hadn't even hit the road to leave and I was already scanning maps of the area and making mental notes of what and where to research.  With the gem show already on our calendar for 2018, you can bet I'll have the adventure scheudle tuned up and ready for our return. 

Send off salute.  Saguaro National Park, AZ.

Guide Report: Canyon Country by chris miele

Stillness here is a scarce commodity.  Page, AZ,

As Americans, many of us are limited to one, maybe two weeks of "vacation" time per year.  The trips we chose to take often establish traditions, define rituals, and form important human bonds.  Like many families, I grew up in this paradigm of one trip a year and as a child, it's certainly what I looked forward to.  About a year ago when my sister told me she wanted to take her three kids to the Southwest for a family vacation, I knew I couldn't resist the chance to join.  The area occupying Northern Arizona and Southern Utah has become a magnet for Erin and I, its crumbling red cliffs are our cathedrals while the canyons our sanctuaries.  Its landscapes are rooted in Native tradition and ooze spiritual energy from every mesa and river.  It's a place we fall more in love with every visit and through that love, we were able to serve at the guides for this expedition. 

High desert alpen-glow is a real treat.  Zion National Park, UT.

 

 

The beauty of this region (aside from its actual beauty) is how dense the natural wonders are.  Only three hours east of Las Vegas offers the first access to adventure, Zion National Park.  From Zion you can take anywhere between a 60 minute and 3 hour drive to experience Bryce Canyon National Park, Page, Arizona and Horseshoe Bend, The Grand Staircase National Monument, and Grand Canyon National Park.  Woven into those more noteworthy map stops are endless stretches of preserved lands, wilderness, and recreation area.  During summer months it's not uncommon to run into the same groups of people at the same stops along the route.  For our trip we had five days to explore as many canyons, rivers, and vistas as time would allow.  Budgeting for a brief stay at the Grand Canyon allowed us the chance to spend a full day on the Colorado River rafting around Horseshoe Bend before committing the bulk of our time in Zion.  Page, AZ is a magnet for slot canyons tours, but I must say, not much else compares to rafting Horseshoe Bend.  Make sure to look up Colorado River Discovery when you make your trip, their guides are top notch and the experience is not to be missed. 

August afternoon adventures.  Page, AZ.

Painting masterworks courtesy of the artist known as time.  Page, AZ. 

Different from water level.  The view of Horseshoe Bend from the actual bend.  Page, AZ.

An engineering feat, the Glen Canyon Dam.  Page, AZ.

 

 

Zion National Park was the lynch pin in this trip.  My sister and I went back and forth discussing where the best use of our limited time was spent, and it's no surprise that Zion was the winning ticket.  During summer months Zion Canyon is only accessible by the park's free shuttle, which is actually a blessing.  The six stops (within the canyon) provide dozens of hiking and exploring options and shuttles arrive every seven minutes making planning effortless.  Having explored most of the stops, I opted to lead everyone on a hike to Angel's Landing.  Since some of my nieces and nephews were a touch young, we refrained from completed the whole hike.  Angel's Landing is arguably one of the most dangerous trails in the National Park System, and thus we weren't going to temp fate by navigating the narrowest sections where drop-offs exceed 1000 ft.  Despite our conservative approach, we were still able to hike the intense switch backs and climb hundreds of feet about the valley floor.   

The path of Angels, but yet far from their Landing.  Zion National Park, UT.

A quicker rise in elevation than anticipated.  Zion National Park, UT.

A departure from the typical Zion color palate.  East Zion National Park, UT.

The terrain of eastern Zion is surprisingly different from the main canyon.  Zion National Park, UT.

With two bighorn sheep a mere 30 yards away, it was no surprise that others appeared above us to investigate the situation.  Zion National Park, UT.

 

 

If we were going to Zion, I wasn't passing on hiking The Narrows without putting up a fight.  Thankfully persuading the crew was easy and we all agreed it wasn't worth missing.  Often it's nice to diversify and experiment with new routes and different adventures, but diving straight into The Narrows for a second time was something I'd been yearning for, and more importantly, was excited to share with my family.  I prepped them on the challenges of the terrain, the risks of the weather, and advised everyone on what gear to use.  With the help of some clunky canyoneering boots and gnarled wooden walking sticks, Zion Adventure Company set us up for safety and success.  Foremost on our mind was safety, as entering any slot canyon poses serious risks, especially in monsoon season.  While The Narrows only flash floods a few times a year, one of those times was a week prior and park officials were giving plenty of reminders about safety in the canyon.  With some overhead clouds swooping in and out, we hedged our bets and took the world famous hike head on.

Prehistoric and primal.  Zion National Park, UT.

Inner sanctuary.  Zion National Park, UT.

Team trudging.  Zion National Park, UT.

Reverse route light.  Zion National Park, UT.

Zion National Park, UT.

I'm pretty sure the kids had more go left in them, but their vacation time had run short.  In only five days we had rafted the land altering Colorado River, shared rocky slopes with bighorn sheep, and navigated a world renowned slot canyon.  While I was just getting warmed up, Erin and I also had to wind down and start planning our next week on the road as my family headed back to Vegas for their return flights.  Like any adventure, there's always a wish list left at the end.  Hopefully this excursion becomes ritual, leading us to year after year of checking items off that newly born wish list. 

Playtime.  Zion National Park, UT.