You wouldn’t guess this from me right away, but Tangled is my favourite movie. The friendship, the love, and the big dreaming all melt my frozen heart in ways that almost nothing else can. The first time I watched the scene while Rapunzel and Flynn sang “I See The Light” under a sky full of lanterns; I couldn’t stop crying at how beautiful it was. I also felt unbelievably jealous of these fictional characters for getting to experience something so full of hope in the make believe world of magic. I wanted so badly for that magic to be real. I wanted to stand under a sky full of lanterns and let go of all my fears, elevating the existence of hope in a destructive world full of ambiguity.
I found out about RiSE Festival by accident. It was as easy as scrolling through Instagram at the exact right time to see the perfect picture of the dream I had imagined for so many years: a sky full of lanterns, and a crowd inspired by hope. It was almost too perfect. The dates of the next RiSE Festival in the Mojave Desert landed on a long weekend, and I had just enough money in my Bucket List savings account to afford the trip from Calgary to Las Vegas where I would adventure out on my own to achieve this dream. After buying all my tickets for one, my mother decided only a few days later that she wanted to join me. And I am so grateful she did. Go alone if you need to, it’s an enchanting experience no matter what. But if someone wants to join you, please let them. That way someone will thoroughly understand the feeling when you describe how easily you forgot how to breathe as everyone let go of their lanterns in our first collective release.
We took a RiSE shuttle bus from the Paris Las Vegas hotel all the way to the Moapa Valley reserve in the Mojave Desert. A 15-minute walk from the parking lot to the festival location may have caused some impatient aches in a few, but I felt like I deserved to be there even more once I sweat my way across the Desert in the above 30 degree Celsius weather. Besides, it was snowing back home and I wanted to take advantage of that Desert as much as I possibly could.It’s easy to forget how beautiful something is when we see it everyday; which I try not to do with the Rocky Mountains that have lived outside my window for most of my life. I try not to forget that with the people in my life either. So I hoped that those nearby travellers could understand that – how wonderful it was to be on such sacred ground. How the sunset shone over the RiSE letters, how the sand dirtied our black shoes, how the wind gave us a chill once the sky went dark, and how the stilled sky waited patiently for us to send parts of our soul on fire into the universe.
As ten thousand lanterns lit the sky in our collective release to a slow instrumental melody, the circle of torches creating a chamber of sound, I started shaking because I had never felt so excited, happy, inspired and moved in my entire life. I jumped around in circles like a little kid seeing a unicorn for the first time in the land of limitless cupcakes. That night was the proof I needed to be reminded of magic from the imaginary world, and to recognize the existence of magic in my own.
I stood up on the sand and looked around at all the people: A young father holding his newborn baby, staring at his wife with pure love bursting out of him. A couple laying down on their mat, holding each other and kissing with no worries of who was watching because in that moment it was just them who were there. A group of friends helping each other as their lantern started blowing away in the wrong direction, supporting each other to make sure those dreams made it up with all the others. All those lanterns, with words of love, loss, hope, pain, dreams. I called my first one “Letting Go.” I filled it with song lyrics of how I held on to things for so long because I’ve been afraid of changing (extra points if you got the Fleetwood Mac reference). And I wrote the names of every single person who ever broken my heart, rejected me, or made me feel I was less than worthy. And then I released them. I let them go.
Although the hot wind caused holes in some of the lanterns making them unable to rise, and flames flew close to peoples’ heads as the premature lanterns fell to the ground; it was inspiring to watch as we all protected each other. Making sure we were all safe with the touch of danger that was required to light up the sky.
I’ve got a sneaky feeling that if you look for it, you’ll find that…
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