Photo credit: Eric Allen (I pulled this from the Envision website)
Saturday night is upon us, day three, the pinnacle of the festival. All the big names play tonight, the crowd is swelling, excitement building in the air. My companion at the time is Julie, a beautiful, athletic woman of Indian descent who’s striking grey hair belies her thirty-some years of age. We met earlier that day, and evening found us starting the adventure together. As daylight fades, we join the throng leaving the festival grounds through the rear gate to reach the beach. A short stroll on an uneven path through jungle leads us to the market, a narrow walkway lined on both sides by outdoor shops selling a sundry range of food, drinks, artwork, and trinkets that create a dazzling visual miasma. Vendors clamor for attention while music blares from a dozen different directions in a as many different styles. Aromas from grilled, sautéed, and fried foods blend together in an amalgamation of savory and sweet herbs and spices. The cacophony of sensory stimuli continuously morphs as we shuffle through the bazaar, immersed in the excited chatter of the crowd.
Eventually we spill out onto the beach, Playa Hermosa, which literally means beautiful beach. The name is well-earned, it’s a vast, sandy, expanse that seems to stretch on to the edge of infinity. The wide, shallow beach yields row after row of breaking waves, continuously rolling in after each other in an endless parade of white water. The sun hangs low on the horizon, illuminating a sky shrouded with clouds lit up in dizzying fractal patterns, layer after layer unfolding, like an Escher painting in peach, amber, and fire. Stunning, absolutely stunning.
The scene on the beach is even more raucous than the market. Thousands of people clump together in disparate bands. Performers of all kinds ply their crafts, fire dancers, acrobats, drummers, everywhere I look, some feat of physical prowess is on display. More stands line the back of the beach, each one blasting its own music, creating a sonorous soundscape that shifts as we amble along the beach, yet is seemingly united by an underlying beat that pulses through the masses. Paragliders soar in the sky, swirling and spiraling in the eventide glow before swooping down and landing on the beach to wild applause from onlookers.
It’s chaos, electrifying, exhilarating chaos, so much stimulation, in countless forms. Thousands of people, all doing their own thing, yet all part of this whole. Raw, unfiltered expression, creating a multitude of different energy lines swirling together, merging and splitting, joining and departing in constant, effulgent motion.
As the sun sinks into the ocean, a curious phenomenon materializes. Bursts of dynamism swirl down the beach, causing people to spontaneously whoop and holler as they feel it pass. You can see and hear it roil along the beach, a coalescence of all the mingling energies into some kind of emergent power vortex that whirls through the crowd. As it sweeps towards us, my body instinctually responds with a whoop of its own, starting with a low “wooo” that spikes in tone and intensity as the wave washes over me with a palpable, visceral sensation. It continues to churn through the masses, wheeling back around and passing through us again. Once more I let out a whoop in response, giving voice to the thrilling feeling.
Then the last edge of the sun disappears behind the horizon, and the vortex dissipates as quickly as it appeared. Julie and I look at each other, wordless, wondering if that really just happened. It was fascinating, I’ve never experienced anything like that before, a spontaneous efflorescence of the combined creative expression of the mob.
Envision calls us back inside. The horde slowly drifts back to the gate, like cosmic detritus sucked inexorably towards a black hole. The night is young, the party is just beginning.
For some context on Envision, click here: Going with the Flow