I’ve heard some people describe Doe Bay Fest as magical. I guess if you call a ton of hard work, thoughtful management and a collective of people who truly believe in the power of art as a transformative experience magic, well, there you go. There’s your magic.
Last year, immersed in my first Doe Bay Magic, I nearly divorced my husband. FYI, going off your “happy pills” depression is never a good idea. Everything is a little intense. In my defense, I lost my health insurance the month before and decided to tough the weaning process out on my own, without telling a soul. Our air mattress kept leaking, and I kept ending up on the cold ground – clearly grounds for divorce.
Also, I had my ex-BFF to contend with. We had successfully avoided contact for the previous two years, despite living just a few miles a part in Tacoma. But at Doe Bay, there was no avoiding the heartbreak of seeing my former best friend of fifteen years, the one who had ended our relationship over email and without explanation, at nearly every turn. It was a gruesome emotional march for me, that first festival.
The only thing that saved me, the only thing worth facing my deepest anguish on either ends of my heart, was the music. Music had saved me before, saved me like others who reach for meaning when there is none. It’s the music that carries us to our personal salvation on the backs of melody and harmony. It’s the music, the thread that connects us, the thread that connects us to a bigger human voice. It sings to us, exalting: you are here. You are here. You are here.
I took pictures, too. Like I always do. I photographed the event as if they’d hired me, in hopes they would. Pictures, too, remind us we are here. That we are a part of something bigger, something more beautiful than the fucked up corner we’re stuck in at the moment.
It worked. This year I came back with a badge: validation in the form a lamination held around my neck by scratchy-as-hell twine. It itched a constant reminder: you are here. You are here. You are here. The itch implored to bottle the experience. My equipment the time capsule, the festival as the contents, the people the music.
Because, at least at Doe Bay, the people are the music. There is no fourth wall separating the talent from the audience, the dismantling happened when you weren’t looking: over at the campfire, in the café, by the espresso stand. It’s the grass fights, the slip-n-slide, the midnight meteor shower, the secret shows. It’s busking, it’s weird face painting art, popcorn sales and cliff diving. It’s letting go of a friendship to let new ones to take its place.
And this year, there was no talk of divorce. I bought myself a cot.
Here are my still images – way too many for you to weed through, most likely. You can also check them out here if you want copies. If you’re a fan of Jesse Michener Photography on The Facebooks, they are on my page. Feel free to tag yourself and share with friends.