Saturday, July 19, 2008
Lost in the Woods
For three sticky summer days each year, the Oregon Country Fair transforms the forest into the state's fourth largest city. The people are transformed too...
Fairgoers wore elaborate costumes or nothing at all. Old gray women and very young girls painted flowers on their breasts and danced carefree in the sunshine. Men became purring tigers and bug eyed butterflies, robots and unicorns.
I walked the looping dirt trails for hours, dodging impromptu parades and spiked dragon tails. Two old men in kilts, with long black beards braided into octopus tentacles, offered magical herbs from a small carved box to anyone who mistakenly wandered under their tree shade. The purple suited ghost of Jimi Hendrix, guitar in hand, called me "foxy lady" both times our paths crossed, and an ice-cream gooed baby fell in love with my glowing pink tights. Without fear, the little smiling monster escaped his parents to come touch them...several times. I saw no one I knew, but met no strangers.
By midday the sun had boiled my brain to a fine custard. Desperate for relief, I removed my shoes and sat on the dusty ground. A treehugging logger spoke about his life in the forest and the struggle for sustainable harvesting. He learned to listen to trees. To sit with them quietly. To taste their bark. "People love life. People love people. People want progress for themselves and for others. For their world. But, people are not necessary for life to continue on this planet. The trees...the trees are. We are simply ornaments."
I looked up into the spiderwebbed branches shading my head. Cool breezes drifted past and gently touched dripping emerald leaves. They glittered like a rippling lake. Among them green apple buds dangled threateningly, growing heavy with sour juice. A nesting robin clasped a white flower in her beak. It appeared delicate as a snowflake against her rust red breast. I closed my stinging eyes and floated.
At 7pm crew members joined hands and made a sweep of all 280 wooded acres. I took a crowed bus back to Eugene. There were no seats left, so I stood during the 40 minute ride. My body was black with mud. My crusted nose and dirt filled sinuses longed for a hot shower and my aching muscles for a soft clean bed. The real festival begins at sundown. With the public gone for the night, fair vendors and artists camp on site in wooden structures that look like grounded treehouses. The music and other psychedelic goodies flow until morning. Next year I'll hide in a tree until the stars twinkle.
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