Flagstaff, Arizona is a quaint mountain town with an abundance of beautiful, creative and well-intentioned individuals. The earthly vibration of Soggy Bottom Ranch was the ideal space for this magically mindful gathering. Scattered with chunks of volcanic rock and aromatic ponderosa pines, this private land became a safe haven for many to unwind and blast off into bliss as they explored their inner cosmos of potential.
Each year, building on the momentum from the last, Firefly brings new surprises and adventures, and although this was my first time at this particular gathering I felt a familiarity and comfort as though I had been here before. Before arriving in Flagstaff I stopped at an organic produce stand for eleven cases of fresh strawberries, to begin my quest of ‘spreading the sparkle’ and gifting them all to the other fireflies. This was a record high weekend in Flagstaff, with temperatures reaching over 100 degrees, so we decided to establish Sparkleberry Camp on the perimeter of a shady nook and completed the camp with the famed Sparkleberry Lane sign high in the trees.
Familiar faces from adventures past floated around as we secured our shade and shelter under the shining sun. All who wandered by Sparkleberry Lane were granted a juicy, red jewel and a smile encouraging all to spread the sparkle in their own way as they continued their day. I called it an early night on Thursday, and on Friday awoke to the sound of laughter as I anxiously searched for the zipper of my steamy tent. I spilled out of my tent only to see the smiles of my Firefly family buzzing around. As I returned to solid form the reality of Firefly sunk in. It was so surreal to me that this small mountain town that I had grown to love so much was hosting such a brilliant get together such as this. The undeniable love and good intentions of everyone who participated in this festival were the foundation and support for the good vibrations that were steadily flowin’ throughout the weekend.
After reviewing my schedule with Mara (winner of Sparkleberry Lane Firefly ticket giveaway) we decided to go to the workshop area to “illuminate self discovery through the writing process”. Lead by the soft spoken Stephanie Flood, each of us took turns sharing our heart felt realities. There was such a huge variety of people participating in this workshop: prophetic poets, couples, and kids, all people who just needed to express. As each person continued sharing, the collective consciousness became more and more apparent. Although we were all very different we were all coming together under similar circumstances with similar intentions. Expressions of belonging, love, openness and gratitude swirled around us as if we were all picking words out of the same collective thought bubble. This workshop proved that we really are all reflections of one another, and that this was a very productive and supportive space to explore your creative potential without judgment. I knew by the depth and intensity of that workshop that it would be a gathering to remember; I was so excited to share my experience with all of these beautiful people, and it was just the first day!
Down the hill, through the trees, just past the water barrel on the left is where you found Sparkleberry Lane. Just a skip away from the Namastage. The wooden dome-like structure felt as though we were watching the show from inside the bow of a huge wooden ship. The curvature was such that the sound effortlessly amplified its way to our ear canals while still maintaining the fullness and warmth that allows for complete submersion into the musical experience. While still in the comfort of Sparklecamp I was able to enjoy a one of kind auditory adventure through South America as the music of Hojarasca played victoriously in the background. The sound of the pan flute serenaded my soul and allowed me to reflect on the amazing workshop I had just experienced, and all of the goodness around me.
Meanwhile, at the Firefly Stage, the legendary bless master, Bonz BlessIt, held a powerful heart amplifying opening ceremony, setting the intentions for love and acceptance, not only at festivals but in all of life’s chapters. Emphasis on connecting to Source, and to others, and remaining open to receive and reflect love was one of the most important messages conveyed throughout the entire festival, everyone emanating the light within- truly embodying what it is to be a Firefly.
After the opening ceremony a red fox appeared on stage, literally. A man in full fox outfit identified himself as R3DFOX and began his set. It was hot outside. I could only imagine how this guy was feeling in his foxy get up. I stuck around briefly before succumbing to the sunshine and retreated back to the shade for hydration and nourishment.
Even as a first timer at this gathering, the evidence of family and community was well pronounced. The energy was humble, gentle, nurturing during the day, many people dwelling in their comfy camps connecting with the passerby’s, sharing stories, and keeping cool. When the sun started to fall the music slowly got louder, and the Fireflies came out to play. Once I saw the people on stilts I knew it was probably time to break free from the camping area, which always seemed to draw me back in like a magnet. On my way to the main stage I witnessed what I believe to be Circus Bacchus doing some pretty impressive stilt tricks despite the terribly uneven and rocky ground.
We made a nest beneath one of the three squatty pyramids and marinated in the juicy sunset. The sky evolved with the music and we continued our quest into the night. Excited to get a break from the heat of the sun, we surrendered to the night with open arms as Amani of Desert Dwellers played through the sunset. Channeling a root rocking tribal warrior essence we danced our way into Dela, who little did I know, would continuously rock my world with multiple sets and a lovely Yoga class the following morning.
We floated back and fourth between the stages and camp appreciating art, each other, and the music. Delta Nove put down an awesomely funky spacegroove set seamlessly leading way to the beloved Endoplasmic.
We then flocked back over to main stage to get a taste of Bird of Prey. The heavily layered soundscapes and swooping bass lines were the perfect blend of both organic warmth and synthetic crunchiness to keep the crowd bouncing around in a lyric-less trance. After Bird of Prey was done no one was ready to leave the main stage area, illuminated with fiery warmth and still lingering with the energy of the day. From there people either went back to camp or up to the Resonance Stage for some late night boogying.
After a long day of sunshine and dancing the Resonance Stage seemed way too far for me to venture to and I chose to go back to camp. Sparkleberry Lane was buzzing with life as everyone talked about how wonderful their day was and how Firefly was doing it right! I don’t really recall when I went to sleep that night but when I awoke I felt 100% refreshed and ready to explore another beautiful day. After breakfast we headed over to the yoga area and saw the familiar face of Dela ready to take the floor.
Dela did a great job guiding us through the variety of poses while emphasizing breath as well as internal and external alignment. I left there in such a meditative and calm state that I stepped bare foot directly onto a jagged rock. Embracing this unfortunate occurrence as a blessing, I decided it would be a great opportunity to take advantage of the healing sanctuary.
Within the sanctuary each healer had their own special space to perform their miracles, some doing acupuncture or massage, as well as energy healing like Reiki. In the center of it all was a huge shrine surrounded with sacred geometry, crystals and objects of all kind that formed a feast for the eyes. The coolest part about it all was that it was all donation-based. I noticed that there were a few people waiting to be healed, but my visit to this centering space was healing enough for me to continue my afternoon until my opportunity for healing arose. On my way back to camp I noticed a bunch of people in the workshop space getting ready for Docta Nick, my favorite essential oil wizard. I learned so much about the benefits and uses of essential oils. I enjoyed a buffet of smells that satiated my hunger for yummy bliss-based oils. Everyone was tingling with happiness and anticipating the next sensory exploration as ylang ylang water was served with a crunchy mixture of healthful treats which also incorporated essential oils.
As I finished my last sip of yummy flower infused water I heard the orchestral sounds of Plantrae resonating its way to my ear canals. This was my second time seeing him. Everyone was stoked when a refreshing mist of rain began to fall from the sky! The rain was so cleansing and we all wore our bliss on our face as we smiled towards the sky.
I wondered around the vendors to show some appreciation to their creations, and as I made my way up the hill towards camp I discovered my other half, Matthew, and our friends inside of a Mongolian yurt filled with instruments, stirring up an improv jam session . The creative muse in the air was as rich as the oxygen we breathed. I sat in amazement as layers of new and exciting sounds formed. From time to time the passerby would hear the music and come in, sometimes even join in on the fun. Although my friends may have not been on the actual line up, or playing on a stage, they will absolutely take the win for my favorite performance of the weekend.
After dinner I found myself under the pyramids of the main stage again waiting for the thriftiest of works to begin casting spells. All the Fireflies swarmed around the stage like moths attracted to the lights. The ominous wobble of Terry D then flowed out the speakers, everyone committed to the pterodactyl dance moves. He played such a variety of his music and sufficiently weirded out everyone in the best of ways. Blurting out nonsensical things such as ‘Campbell’s Soup’ and ‘Coachella 2012’ was definitely a good sign that Thriftworks was getting just as weird as us. I didn’t want the insanity to end, and I didn’t think anyone could possibly follow that performance until the spoken words of Biolumigen took the mic.
I stood in amazement as his words of wisdom stirred in my mind, immediately reminded of the writing workshop I had done. This artist was most definitely picking from the same collective thought bubble. His profound poetry was so grounding and so heartfelt my only choice was to take in his beautiful music and dance. I wondered around with his words on my mind appreciating art and every individual that came to make it. I saw from where I stood at the hammock village that the sun was going to be up before I knew it, and as the horizon became more illuminated an overwhelmingly beautiful sunrise occurred. It dawned on me that this was the absolute perfect time to spread the sparkle, and get the sparkleberries poppin. I busted out the strawberries and the champagne and began telling the story of how Sparkleberry Lane got its name. In case you are not familiar with the story here it is! Once the sun was up, I was down, and I slipped into peaceful rest with my love by my side.
I awoke to the sound of Thunder and the smell of rain. I quickly got up to secure Sparklecamp and cover my tent. As the thunder boomed you could hear howling throughout the campsites as we continued personifying animals. Sunday was a slow and peaceful day. I walked around the vendors taking in the fresh air when I came across my friend Lisa. I told her about my predicament of stepping on a rock and showed her the big bruise that formed on the arch of my foot. She then offered acupuncture to help speed up the healing process. Granting myself this moment of healing I took a seat and let her work her magic. I immediately went into a dreamlike space for the remainder of the session and when we were done my foot felt a lot better, and my mind felt so rested, even despite my few hours of semi sleep. I thanked her and pranced merrily on my way to the jam tent, where I was sure to find my friends. When I arrived I saw a couple new faces participating, one of them being a Hare Krishna monk. There was plenty of inspiration to keep them playing, caring less about who was on stage and instead sporting such genuine smiles as they basked in their creations. It was a truly mystical experience to watch three people who have never played music with each come together and make something truly amazing.
Sunday was so full of love, as I walked to my camp I saw a group of people hugging in the middle of the walkway. So I did whatever any sparkleberry would do, I joined them! I came to find that this was actually a healing with hugging workshop held by Bonz Blessit. We learned how hugs can improve your health and state of mind- the more the better! We also learned the many ways to hug, including but never limited to the hand hug, the knee hug, heart hug and my personal favorite spiral (aka cinnamon roll) hug. My heart was so illuminated by this experience of extreme openness and unconditional love; just when I thought it couldn’t get any better I was elected to be the center of an ooey gooey massive spiral cinnamon roll hug. We formed a huge circle out in the field and everyone walked in circles around me with hands interlocked until one gigantic love cake was formed. Layer by layer I was surrounded by love! As we swayed back and fourth some huggers began to howl, others began to purr, and then we all eventually were ‘om’ing as one. Once released from the hug I swear I have never felt more alive. It was such an honor to be a part of such a heart opening experience. This will take the win for my favorite workshop of the weekend. As the workshop came to an end we were all asked to go out there and spread as many heart hugs as possible and reach out to others. So we all fluttered into the forest and started spreading the love into the night.
I tried returning back to camp that evening but the sounds of AZ local Frequency Animals on the Namastage lured me back out into the night. I brought my blanket and laid down on the ground. I’m not really sure how to explain their music, jungle space quest comes to mind. The heavy effect pedal in combination with distortions and vocal effects reverberated my consciousness into a dreamy hypnotic state. I’m actually not even sure if I was awake at the end of their set. Without effects I hear “Is anybody out there?” in the attempt to retrieve the remains of their audience from deep space. I opened my eyes and began clapping into a silent night. Frequency Animals took me on a cosmic journey and I look forward to seeing them at other events in the future. I continued my dream that night with ever need met, and my heart full of love.
I really appreciate Firefly for creating such a beautiful space for everyone to receive unconditional love, music, arts of all kind, and most importantly community. Firefly raised the bar and went above and beyond what was expected and provided an unforgettable forest festival packed with memories. There’s nothing quite like a gathering in your own back yard. As an Arizona native, I felt so proud of Flagstaff, and there’s still so much to look forward to. Kaleidoscope Kamp out is right around the corner (September 6&7) and will bring us yet another year of fractalized fun! If you were at Firefly you already know, and if you weren’t then Kaleidoscope is a great opportunity to get involved in an amazing community.
Photos by Zac Cirivello
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