Sunday, June 14, 2015

Travelogue: Lightning in a Bottle, Part 5

What: An Art and Music Festival with a New Age Twist
Where: Bradley, CA
When: Friday, May 22nd to Monday, May 25th
With Whom: my friend Ashley and her boyfriend Matt

Part 5: Dress and Hygiene

In true festival form, a large proportion of people (mostly women) wander around in little more than bathing suits and boots. I don't feel comfortable in this kind of dress. I'm not young and attractive. I'm a teacher, and there's always the possibility of running into students, as I've just learned.

Besides, I've no idea how people saunter in the blazing sunlight without getting fried to a crisp.

The first day, I wear a black sleeveless camisole shirt, black stretch pants, and a floozy ballerina skirt. Even though conservative by Lightning in a Bottle standards, I feel exposed, and my shoulders turn a lobster red. I don't feel like myself. I feel like I'm trying to blend in and projecting  a false impression of myself.

The next day, I wear my favorite dark blue yukata with white cranes.

I love my summery Japanese kimono. I feel pretty and modest and unique. The robe protects me from the sun and the dirt; it's cool enough for the afternoon and warm enough for night. And when I wrap the robe around me, I feel clean.

Cleanliness is important as there are limited opportunities to wash up. Two identical tents on either side of the camps, each called the Oasis, offer showers for a minimum $8 charge, but one Oasis is co-ed and both have long winding lines to get in. I make due with a fist full of baby wipes, a spray bottle, and a stick of deodorant.

Over time, I develop a morning cleansing ritual.

First I purify with the baby wipes. I carefully remove last night's make up from my face and then rub my hands clean of dirt, before moving down to my arms and the rest of my body. I put on my camisole and stretch pants and deodorant. Then I brush and braid my hair and pin it to my scalp. I don't know why, but brushing my hair makes me feel civilized.

As I apply make-up to my eyes and start rubbing my body down with sunscreen, I consider how to best protect myself from the elements, namely the sun. Will I use a parasol? A head scarf? I don't want my shoulders to burn. And what about dust? I tuck in a clean handkerchief into my drawstring bag, alongside my fan.

I never think about these things when I go to work, because I sit all day in a cushy classroom. But the sunburnt stripes on my back remind me to respect nature and to take the time to consider my environment.

At night, I put on my ugly-but-incredibly-warm brown windbreaker and add a single green glowing band to my wrist. Light is necessary to anyone planning to use the porta potties at night. Ashley and Matt both have headlamps they wear around their necks, and Ashley has a belt with a patch of pink lights on her hip that makes it easy to see the ground. Matt shrugs on a jacket with a glowing blue diamond and a homemade hood with a mosaic of tiny mirrors. These catch the lasers and occasionally send off spurts of prisms.

I'm fascinated with the way the mirrors break up my reflection. No matter how much I stare into it, I cannot see my face, not a whit of it.

* * *
To Be Continued...

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