hippies, hippies everywhere

reflections from our family trip to the oregon country fair 

we would have been crazy to camp.

we did try. we bought the tent on craigslist, got a great deal on the camp stove, dug out the old tarps (because in the pnw, you just never know). our first weekend away as a family of four, and we were going to spend 4 nights on a 10×10 patch of grass (either meaning for the word “grass” works here) surrounded by tapestries, revelry, pot smoke, and bugs.

2 days before we were due to leave, we booked a hotel room, which was pretty much the best decision ever.

the oregon country fair is one part craft bazaar, one part music festival, one part circus, and packed with hippies of all ages and state of dress (or undress, in some cases). it seems to serve the function of a hazing ritual for oregon’s peacemongering, hippiest left-wingnuts to claim their membership in the tribe of “middle class repressed suburbanites who want to feel edgy for a weekend.”

“hey,” we thought, “that sounds like us.”
so we piled more luggage than i’d like to admit in the back of our rav4 (which, by the way, is not a car that would secure its occupants a place in hippie heaven), drove to eugene, and came away with a few reflections.

daddy and the kids in our hotel room, dressed for fair success.

oregon country fair

first lesson of the weekend: if something that looks like a rock climbing wall and is next to a graveyard, it’s probably a mausoleum. not a rock climbing wall. don’t call it a rock climbing wall; apparently that’s disrespectful. oops.

joel rocks the carrier and the stroller in the parking lot as we head for the middle of the forestIMG_0447IMG_0449

second lesson: if one is not disposed toward relieving oneself in an egregiously named “honey bucket,” one has the option of achieving, through conscientiousness and perfect timing, rock star bladder status. not that one would know from experience.IMG_0460IMG_0458IMG_0456


first things first: diaper changes and snacks in a colorful corner.IMG_0470IMG_0485

the beautiful and the bizarre comingle in small, but well stocked, vendor booths.IMG_0486IMG_0487IMG_0490IMG_0496IMG_0497IMG_0499IMG_0510IMG_0516IMG_0534IMG_0535IMG_0536IMG_0539IMG_0538



lesson four: tie dye is an acquired taste. after spending a few days marinating in it, it starts to look kind of … beautiful.IMG_0509IMG_0494IMG_0500IMG_0541

the art. my word, the art. wherever people weren’t, art was there. fairy gardens and tree-people, huge sculptures and human-sized kaleidoscopes, banners, strange shapes and beautiful designs in every corner. art infused the grounds with vitality, beauty, spirituality, and of course, plenty of photo opps. even the garbage areas were decorated!IMG_0533IMG_0507IMG_0543IMG_0519IMG_0488

there were at least ten stages for music and spoken performances of every kind. the performances weren’t limited to stages, though; wherever there was a few feet of extra room, performers fiddled, knitted, walked about on stilts, led impromptu drum lines, and dressed up as adam and eve, bumblebees, disney princesses, orca whales, fairies … the list goes on.IMG_0532IMG_0514IMG_0548

aerial yogaIMG_0508IMG_0520

this man operated a human powered woodcutting machineIMG_0522 

orca whales diving on the backs of “the ocean” on stilts.IMG_0523

more stilts!IMG_0544


finding our birth years.
strangely enough, the posters reflect our personalities quite well.IMG_0531

pit stopIMG_0550IMG_0553IMG_0556IMG_0560IMG_0565IMG_0574

a certain small human did not want to end the pit stop.IMG_0579IMG_0591

dusty paths = dirty feetIMG_0584

aaaaand, we’re off!IMG_0593

we stopped for an early dinner, and the kids fell asleep by 6:30. having fun is exhausting!IMG_0597IMG_0595IMG_0602

the next morning, ash prepares for the return to the fair with some simple yoga poses. (the “simple yoga pose” in this picture was sustained for about 1.5 seconds.)IMG_0621thunder and lightning and cheering and music and mud and coffee and the last day!IMG_0640IMG_0645IMG_0657IMG_0660IMG_0664IMG_0649

i initially thought, “we won’t fill in all the gaps, but that’s ok. at least we’ll have our family picture!”
until we got home, and uploaded the photos to the computer, and i looked at it and cried. the large peach with the little holes, no doubt moonlighting from its regular job as a pumpkin during fall, i’m sure, was made for our little family. our faces poked out from the peachy pink flaps, joel and i smiling, ash shaking his head warily, and aida blowing bubbles. and one face trapped behind that hateful accursed peachy pink flap, somewhere in between us and the peach. some days grief is stark, and some days it is absurd. nevertheless we have our family picture, and its portrayal of our family is more accurate than we had hoped or wanted.
in spite of the surprising moments of grief, it was a happy trip. the last lesson we learned was an intangible one, related to self expression. the beauty of individuality was bright and whole, and yet, even as people made their beauty more pronounced, the extra vulverability revealed the broken inside each dancing swaying laughing face. the biggest question i found myself asking was, “why?” why is that man dressed up like the devil; why is this one dressed up as jesus? does this woman wear wings because she wants to fly; does that one wear little clothes because she wants to accept herself? bodies and souls were bared as each person turned inside out, and placed a profound level of trust in the other 44,999 people there to provide a safe place.
it was overwhelming, and beautiful, and overwhelmingly beautiful. self expression is one tool in the toolbox of individuals fighting their demons, and the struggle is brave. it is radical acceptance of the idea that we aren’t valuable in spite of our brokenness any more than we are valuable because of it. we simply are. there is value in lines of worry underneath a face-painted butterfly, searching eyes behind a devil mask. each person pictured the divine, the image of god decorated with glitter, sporting tutus, cheering for the thunder, and dancing in the dusty path.IMG_0668
they didn’t want to leave, and neither did we. it was a beautiful trip.IMG_0671
the most special part of the fair was finally finding replacements for our nearly-10-years-old wedding rings. we had decided that they don’t really fit our personality anymore, and i was eager to ditch the blood diamonds, so we switched them out for a couple of inexpensive but good quality puzzle rings. a perfect way to end our first family vacation since kids.IMG_0679