Wednesday, June 29, 2005

~*...the festival formerly known as om and pride in toronto...*~

what an incredible weekend. god i love birthday month, especially in toronto. there are so many things happenning every weekend, and the weather is always fabulous. every weekend, starting in june, there is a free outdoor festival in toronto to attend. torontonians realize that we only have three months of excellent weather to take advantage of, and we take full advantage of summer. its like canadians have spent all winter ripening just waiting for summer to peel off the layers. and daam this city is full of hawties, of every race, creed, colour, and orientation.

last thursday i left the big smoke of toronto and headed towards the self proclaimed most talented town in canada, bancroft. we actually were heading to a small town outside of bancroft called shutte to attend re:union, the festival formerly known as om. om evolved into re:union and took on a different approach. it was a members only celebration, but anyone could be a member. to be a member you had to contribute both monetarily ($42 membership fee) and through volunteer time (5hrs of volunteer time). this eliminated all spectators, and left only participants who consciously made a choice to contribute their time and money to make re:union happen. the result was the tip of the spear when it came to the quality of the people there to celebrate with. re:union was a full week long event, but most of us were only able to make it up for the weekend.

i left early thursday morning with my friend neil, devi, and her friend christi who was visiting from sarasota, florida. we packed up our rental car and began our trek towards the canadian shield of ontario. our first stop was in a town called tweed to grab groceries, beer, and lunch at kelly's restaurant.
our next stop was a quick visit to neil's kitty kat mojo. mojo is currently living with neil's friend wendy who lives in a beautiful little cottage on the black river in tweed. of course we had to take a quick dip in the river before heading to bancroft, so we started our
weekend nakedness a little earlier than expected. the current in the black river was very intense, so i grabbed on to some of the rocks and let my body flow with the river. with water rushing over and under me, i let gaia remind me that everything flows back into itself...and that saucy tart also massaged me in ways that i never thought she could. gaia, you dirty little slut ;)

we left tweed and arrived in shutte an hour later, with time to spare before sundown. after checking in at the gate, we parked our car and went to survey the land in our search for a camping spot. the land was beautiful, the air clean, and the lake clear and refreshing. breathing in clean air was such a change from the smog we are used to in toronto. its easy to forget the big city when you can walk around barefoot in a forest with other like minded people.

after dropping off our food donation at the kind kitchen, we set up our camp right off the main path and immediately began our canadian ritual when out in the bush: we cracked open a few beers and smoked a joint. god i love this country.

many people who were at the site had been there since the beginning of the week. there were about 150 people when we arrived. that number would double by friday night. with a smaller number of participants, and no spectators, re:union was a very intimate and tight vibe.

the om mission statement: to create an environment that encourages freedom of thought and responsibility of action through a ritual of celebration and education where we can come together to build a sustainable future.

over the past few years it became more difficult to keep the spirit of om alive in all of the om participants because of the number of spectators, people showing up expecting a party and not willing to contribute anything more than the cost of their ticket. re:union brought things back to the original grassroots mentality that om was built on, community. there were no spectators, only participants. and of course the leave no trace mentality was practiced by all, especially seeing as there were no garbage cans on the site. if you brought it with you take it with you. no one should have to pick up after you, and you should not have to pick up after other people. a very simple concept that was easy to practice which resulted in a very clean venue to celebrate on. the bathrooms however could have been better. hippie holes in the ground with a wood structure built over top of it is not a porta pottie. i really felt sorry for the females who had to perfect the hover.

it was refreshing to be out of the city with so many incredible people. there were no sound stages on the thursday night, so most of my evening was spent with friends that i had not seen in a long time. my friend corrinne was visiting from newfoundland, and i was so excited to see her. i've spent many oms with corrinne, and it was a pleasant surprise to see that she made it this year as she had recently moved to the east coastwith her daughter. if you're reading this corrinne, spending time with you at re:union was one of the highlights of my weekend. *mwah*

on friday i woke up and had something to eat at the kind kitchen, some incredible fruit salad and a bit of cereal. the kind kitchen is fueled by donations, run by volunteers, and provides vegan meals for all re:union participants throughout the celebration. at 10am, neil and i reported to the front gate for volunteer duty where we helped direct arriving cars to the parking lot (with lots of frisbee tossing in between). after our five hour volunteer shift, we headed towards the lake where we spent the rest of the day basking in the sun and swimming in the lake. its so refreshing to be surrounded by people who are comfortable being themselves, especially naked. i kept on hearing my mother in my head saying "don't you have any shame?" as i donned my birthday suit i was reminded that i am not ashamed of my body at all, and neither was any of the other naked beach goers this past weekend.

there was such a variety of people that made up the re:union community this year. from families, to gnomes, i even saw a mack daddy go for a swim. i also learned that membership doesn't necessarily mean that crazy people aren't allowed to join. i heard that there was someone who posted a sign off the main path in the forest that said "women only" which lead to a masochistic man's tent who was wielding an 8 inch hunting knife. what the fuck? i'm so glad that i never came across that guy. word is that his knife was taken away from him, and later that weekend he was removed by police from the site.

as the sun was setting, we left the lake and headed towards the kind kitchen for some dinner. on our way back, we noticed a large group of people in the field holding hands. of course we had to find our what was going on, and it seemed like we weren't the only ones being drawn towards that energy as many others followed. it was a workshop about the mayan calendar being held by an old hippie. we held hands and praised the sun as it set, then chanted and danced. seeing as there was no om circle this year, this was the closest thing.

the sound stages began that friday night. there were two stages, the hOMe bass stage by the om bus complete with a screen for projections, and another man made dome created by the omshawa crew (they built rOMe at last year's om). the music at hOMe bass began with a great variety of breaks, drum and bass, and jungle. dancing barefoot in a forest under the stars is such a magical feeling.

at 10pm on friday night, we were treated to a 7 minute trailer for peter mettler's latest documentary on om. peter directed the film gambling, gods and lsd, a three hour contemporary dream following the visible and invisible currents of our synaesthetic world. he filmed most of the content for his om documentary last year, and i was honored to spend a good amount of time with him at last years celebration sharing with each other on and off film. i remember him asking me questions which he called "triggers". i love that word. the questions he asked triggers certain parts of people's personalities, parts that make people question themselves and at the same time encourage them to feel comfortable about themselves. i 've also learned that the truth is always distorted by the presence of a camera. cameras immediately stimulate the parts of people's personality that is on film.
there were many familiar faces in peter's trailer for om, including a short clip of peter and i sharing. it was interesting seeing myself up on a screen, to hear others rekognize my existence on film, but the highlight for me was the effect my words had on the people around me. i had so many people come up to me after the trailer played and express how a few words that came out of my mouth captured on film positively affected them. i'm just as blown away by the people i share my life with, and its so easy to tune into a positive energy when you are at om. there are two ways to spread light,
be the candle that creates it or the mirror that reflektz it.

what did i say in the trailer? i said "if you wonder where the vibe went, maybe you left it at home or in the car. om is what you bring to it. don't expect others to give you something that you aren't willing to put on the table yourself. the vibe is contagious, and it starts with you."

the rest of my weekend consisted of dancing barefoot with beautiful souls, swimming naked in a refreshingly cool and beautiful lake, attending workshops on topics such as alternative fuel resources and dreadlock maintenance, eating, drinking, enjoying lifted spirits, spending quality time with incredible people (hi zanzae) and of course lots of frisbee tossing. did i mention how addicted to frisbee i am? playing frisbee in the lake was too much fun. diving catches in the water took frisbee to new and refreshing levels for me.

this past weekend was also pride in toronto, a weekend that i look forward to every year. it wasn't a difficult choice when it came down to re:union or pride. as much as i love being in thebig smoke with hundreds of thousands of gorgeous and proud people, i enjoy being barefoot up north with omies just a little bit better
as we packed up sunday afternoon, i was pleasantly reminded how blessed we are to live in canada, and how beautiful ontario and the people who i share my life with are. after a nice dip in the lake we made a quick stop at the local dump where we dropped off our recycling and garbage that we accumulated over the weekend. we then had dinner in bancroft ( that once lived) and continued our four hour journey back to toronto.

i arrived at my home in toronto at 11:30pm where i bid farewell to my omie crew of neil, devi, and christi. but my evening was not over yet. i dropped my gear off, and then jumped into a cab determined to catch the tail end of pride celebrations. there were still many people walking around church street, but there were no more sound stages and most of the booths were being taken down. i still ran into some very colourful and proud revellers that littered the streets. spending the day naked by a lake with hippies and ending it surrounded by colourful and proud fagz in the big smoke...what a great weekend. i ran into some friends at zelda's on church and had a few drinks with them. we then proceeded to an after hours on yonge street where we danced until the sun came up.

i love june. i love birthday month. i am so very thankful for the people i share my life with who give my personality shape, and thankful to live in the most diverse and multicultural city in the world (it may not be perfekt but no one does it better). as i post this blog entry, canada has now become the third country in the world to rekognize same-sex marriage. i'll leave you with a quote by the good reverend al sharpton. when asked what he thought of gay marriage, al sharpton said "i have my own views on gay marriage, but those are my own views. but the moment you tell someone else that they are not entitled to the same rights and freedoms that you are entitled to is the moment you tell someone that they are less than you."


i've placed pikchaz of my weekend and previous om celebrations in my pikcha archive. they will give you a window to what om is all about, but the only real way to know is to experience it. enjoy.

- normurai \m/^_^\m/