“Because every dream needs a voice.”
We look up into the cool dark desert sky and one by one the lanterns rise up and form a magical blanket covering us with all our hopes, wishes, and dreams. We are mesmerized. We lay down on the ground unable to remove our gaze from the lantern lit evening skies. So peaceful, so spiritual, so enchanting. Are we dreaming?
“RiSE is a traditional lantern festival that brings people together,
so they can rise a little higher.”
I can’t remember how I found out about the first RiSE Lantern Festival, but whatever drove me to notice it, I am thankful it did, because as my attitude is in most events in my life, there was a reason for it. We were meant to be there, all of us — me and Richard, my sisters Roselma and Liza, David and his daughter Samantha. RiSE will always be etched in our memories as an event that brought us together for a time of reflection and inspiration.
“RiSE elevates hope, ignites dreams,
and creates memories you will never forget.”
We started the weekend like a typical weekend road trip to Vegas, last minute packing with breakfast on the go. Texting my sisters that we were on our way, since they were leaving from Anaheim. About six hours later (yes, it took long, we made a couple bathroom and Starbucks breaks, including stopping at one off ramp that felt like we were in the Twilight Zone), we hurriedly park at the Rio, wait in a long line to check-in, and quickly change — since we took our sweet time, we were now rushing to get to the festival shuttles. Conveniently, my sisters’ room was right down the hall from ours, so we meet up and get our booties out to the convention center parking area. Whoa, there are lots of people here already waiting to board. I had heard there would be about 10,000 people participating, and probably half was here at the Rio while the other half was catching shuttles from the Gold Strike Casino, which was closer to the event.
It didn’t take too long before we were on board one of the buses, back on the freeway towards the Jean Dry Lakebed. You can tell just from that bus ride that it was a calm crowd, all here trying to seek something…something evolving from their own personal experiences. It was nice to see children too, including our own Samantha. My own boys were home for the Homecoming Dance, but I was now wishing this was happening when they were younger, when it was easier to drag them places.
Soon we exit towards Jean Lake and see the large number of shuttle buses dropping off the swarms of festival goers. Since there was a backlog, buses were letting people off in all sections of the desert road and we looked like tributaries all converging into a central river. It was not an easy path where we were let off, highs and lows, bumps and bruises, soft and hard earth. Much like our paths in life, it is never as smooth as we think it should be, but eventually you get there. We, along with everyone else, were on our own pilgrimage towards what? Enlightenment, spirituality, peace, love.
The walk towards whatever we were searching for was a long one. Lots of time to reflect and take in the moment and the serenity of the desert. The colorful hues of reds and oranges were captivating, which eventually melded into the deep blues of the night.
We were welcomed by large white letters that spelled RiSE. There were apparently lots of candles leading the way, but since we arrived with a later crowd, they were all taken away or blown out. We reach the entrance and edge of the festival circle, look at the map and find the center aisle towards our section on the other side. We pass many others who arrived earlier and claimed their spot. We locate the 1A sign and look around for a couple areas for our group of six. At first it reminds me of an old drive-in movie theatre, since the rows of unlit torches look like the drive-in speaker posts.
Each of us is provided a yoga mat and two lanterns, so we lay out our mats to form a close grouping and plop down our bags and our weary bodies. And we were all hungry so off to the food tents to collect our pre-ordered meals. Those were a breeze to pick up, but you couldn’t pre-order alcohol and snacks, including huge chocolate chip cookies, so we wait in those lines too. While waiting we learn that people have come from many different areas, primarily greater Los Angeles, but some as far away as DC. Everyone is so friendly and calm. We make way back along the maze of yoga mats and lanterns to find our our group, and leisurely eat our meals, which were very delicious by the way. Of course I selected the surf and turf meal — shrimp and steak with orzo, oh there was some salad in there too.
Sitting there underneath the night sky, eating and drinking, music playing by Joshua James, thinking about what messages we wanted on our lanterns — I would think it may have been how Woodstock felt, I mean without the sex and drugs. This is a family event.
Time to think about what to write on my lanterns. We each have two, and the lanterns are much bigger than what I expected, so there’s lots of writing space…and I love to write. Okay, down to business. Why am I here? What message, hope, dream, or resolution am I feeling? Who do I want my thoughts to focus on? Do I write about my family, my career, my future, my lovelife? There is so much, I can write a book. Hmm, we try and concentrate on our lanterns. We’ve had over a month to think about this festival and our messages, but life is always evolving and what you may have been thinking about a month ago may not be what feels right, right now.
“Hope Always Rises”
The time has come. Everyone is asked to light their torches, and the desert glows in unison. From that moment on, you could feel the electricity in the air. You knew something special was about to happen. Now everyone is asked to light one lantern and wait a few minutes for them all to fill up with hot air, which takes at least two people to hold onto each lantern, meaning about 5,000 lanterns to rise at once. The anticipation is too much for a handful of people as you see a few lanterns prematurely released. Hold on people, we’re almost ready, and yes, now — let go of your lanterns. WOW.
Words cannot describe the moment, yet there are so many that capture your feelings. Magical. Spiritual. Peaceful. Enchanting. Amazing. Emotional. Exhilarating. Joyful. Inspiring. Many words can be bantered about to describe the beauty of the simple act of letting go of the lanterns, and watching them rise against the black night. The glow of the lanterns gives you hope amid dark times.
We lay down on our mats to look upward towards all the rising lanterns. We are witness to something special. To see all the people gathered this night releasing their messages truly was a magical moment. Strangers who have come together to experience a special connection. I don’t want to stop watching the rising lanterns. This moment will forever be etched in my memory and my heart. I think everyone there feels the same way.
“Together We Rise”
There are more lanterns to write on. More messages to give, more dreams to live, more resolutions to create, more memories to make. The experience was poetry for our souls. We are inspired again to continue writing on our lanterns and watch them rise to the heavens above. You can feel it in the air, the exhilaration of that first wave of lanterns continues for the next hour.
Groups let off lanterns together, couples rekindle their love for each other, family members remember those they have lost. The lanterns mean so many different emotions for so many people, yet only together could we have created something so extraordinary. Our group does the same. My sisters Roselma, Liza and I send off a lantern. Richard and I. Liza and David. David and Samantha. And our whole group in unison.
Once we were done, we wished we had more lanterns. And wishes come true. A group next to us heard we were here for part of my 50th birthday celebration and gave me another lantern. No matter what you think, there is good in everyone. My last lantern was dedicated to my 50 Weeks to 50 journey. As I watch it float skyward, I can’t help but be thankful for the wonderful year I have had. The varied experiences with so many many people; that lantern brings a soft smile to my face, and warmth within. The lanterns have become a symbol of our lives.
I didn’t want to walk away. I would have loved to have spent the night underneath repeating images of the rising lanterns. I know I will RiSE again.
The first RiSE Lantern Festival meant many things to many people, and we all felt very lucky to have experienced it. I want to relive the moment over and over again. I do so by checking the RiSE Lantern Festival Facebook and Instagram pages to read about other stories and watch their videos. There were a number of marriage proposals, dedications to those who passed away, and celebrations of a free spirited life. So much gained from such majestic simplicity.
You have got to wonder…in our lives we strive to collect so much stuff, which I am guilty of as anyone else. But think about the many simple earthly wonders that make us happy. The colorful beauty of sunsets, the soft rustling of leaves in a forest, the powerful crash of ocean waves, the glow of lanterns drifting away. That’s the memorable stuff I want to collect. Accepting simplicity brings you peace.
“RiSE Festival is a celebration of the life, joys, dreams, hopes, and blessing of each participant. Those are all unique, but something we all share is a love for the planet.”
A week later, I still am left feeling that trying to describe the RiSE festival in words doesn’t relay the experience fully. You really need to experience it for yourself. Many of you have expressed the desire to attend the next one, and I assure you we will plan one big gathering. We may need a bus for our own group. Go to www.risefestival.com, follow them on Facebook and Instagram, and read about the many stories. They will inspire you today.
(Note: There was a big snafu with 10,000 people trying to load buses at one time, but it was the first RiSE event and I’m sure it will get fixed for next year. Richard and I stepped back from the negativity, sat on our yoga mats, and shared chocolate chip cookies. One girl thought we looked so serene against the madness she wanted to video us kissing, so we obliged. That’s not going to be sold later is it?)
I crave the magical experience we had, and for me, I think it will be a new travel opportunity — lantern festivals around the world. First on the itinerary…Bali is calling me.
*Quotes are taken from the RiSE website and printed materials.