At Sunrise Ranch, we just finished hosting the Arise Festival. Today, the Arise staff will walk through the fields to pick up any lingering evidences of the Festival.
It’s not everyone who has thousands of people in their backyard to hear great bands like Ziggy Marley, Elephant Revival, and the Travelin’ McCoury’s! From my bathroom window, I hear the sounds of the Festival and see tents and camping trailers.
The Festival is a wonderful combination of uplifting music, workshops, yoga, a kid’s village, and much more. It’s like Brigadoon—a community of people who come together once a year to be with friends old and new.
The Arise Festival is gaining the reputation of being one of the best-run Festivals around. Paul Bassis, one of the visionaries behind it, is a music industry veteran and previously the producer of the Reggae on the River festival in northern California for many years. Along with co-producer, Tierro Lee from the band Kannal, and the entire Arise team, Paul has created a family-friendly, leave-no-trace event for people in Colorado and beyond.
A highpoint for me was a Sunday morning event, The Big Reconnect. It was an opportunity to celebrate the spirit of the Festival in the Dome at Sunrise Ranch with Paul and Tierro, and others. It celebrated the collaboration between Sunrise Ranch and the Arise staff that creates the event. Julia Butterfly Hill—the woman who climbed into a redwood tree for two years so it wouldn’t be cut down—spoke so beautifully of our co-creation:
And so it’s so beautiful that the theme this year is the Great Reconnect, because not only are
we talking about it here but we’re getting to experience how beautiful it is and how healing it can be to think about and plan connection at every possible step. I’ve been, every time I interact with another Sunrise Ranch community member, I’m like, thank you—y’all are bold! You have like thousands of people hanging out in your yard! I love all of you. I don’t know if I’d be that generous!
I also know, from doing work across perceived boundaries, how hard it can be to make a festival like this happen, with all these different needs and all these different personalities and everything. And I’m a hundred percent aware that the incredible experience that all these thousands of people are having, they’re having it because of personal relationships that have been built between the core team of Arise and the community at Sunrise Ranch. That it is that personal relationship, that core essence of connection, that allows for when the challenges and ickies and hard things come up, to work through them in a way that causes connection instead of furthering the disease and disconnect.
Julia reflected on her own experience of taking direct action regarding an environmental issue when she climbed up into the redwood that she named as Luna:
I love this idea of the Big Reconnect and that it came from this recognition of the disconnect. Many, many years ago—actually, it started while I was living in an ancient redwood tree.
When I climbed up in the redwood, I first climbed up because I wanted to help the redwoods, and I’m still doing work for the redwoods and for our forests around the world. (Applause.) Thanks! We’re all needed. But when I was up there for awhile, and I got involved in the hardcore part of this direct action movement, I didn’t have any direct action experience at all. My very first action was climbing a tree and hanging out there for a couple of years. And so I learned the hard way.
While I was up there, there was this one day when I was on the phone—I had a solar-powered phone in the tree—and working with activists on the ground, and we were trying to plan an action. And wouldn’t you know it, all of our differences started to arise. And here’s the thing: Everything in the natural world of which we are a part teaches us that our differences, as diversity, are vital and healthy and beautiful. It brings out the best in us. And because we’re human beings with a lot of wounds, our differences can also bring out what not-best in us. And so in this conversation, the not-best in us was really coming forth. And when I hung up the phone, I started climbing around on Luna, and I was actually crying, because I was like, wow, if this is the best we have to offer…? And I suffered a huge amount of despair in that moment, because I was like, wow if this is our best, we don’t have hope.
And as I was sitting there crying and hugging a branch of Luna, I was wondering, how do we think we’re ever going to end clear-cutting if we’re so effective at clear-cutting one another? And as I was seeing for miles, I could see for miles in every direction from Luna’s branches, I could see these patches of gorgeous forests and then these decimated clear-cuts where they cut everything down and then they go in and light it on fire with diesel fuel and with napalm, so that all that’s left is like it literally looks a bomb has dropped there. And as I was looking at it, I got this aha that we all know, but I got it in this very real way: that all the wounds in the external world are the manifestation of the wounds that are within us. And then we act it out on each other and we act it out on the earth, but they exist within us first.
And so in that moment, I realized that even though I was in the redwoods to help the forests, that I got this whole new level that every single issue, whether it’s the destruction of our ancient forests, nuclear war, genetic modification of food, the prison industrial complex, whatever the issue is, that every single issue is a symptom of the disease of disconnect. Every one.
Thank you, Julia! By the way, she is a truly amazing, wise woman.
This spirit of reconnection that Julia spoke to was behind the whole festival. It is a big coming together. I’m not just saying, “You should have been there.” This coming together—the Big Reconnect—is happening around the world. In the face of all the issues that we are in the midst of as the human race, people who see a new future for humanity are coming together.
There is the outer part of that coming together—projects, events, and movements. Then there is the inner part—the compulsion within us that inspires hope and urges us on.
That seems to be how it is for us human beings. There are the external things we handle. And then there is the inner journey that we are on. Learning at all levels!
This is what the Arise Festival is all about. And it is why I’m involved, along with the rest of Sunrise Ranch.
If you can make the 2017 Arise Festival, I can promise you an amazing experience that I can only begin to describe. It will be from August 4-6. But whether or not you show up at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado next year, make room in your life for the Big Reconnect. That’s what is happening on the inner part of the journey that makes all the rest make sense.