NERD ALERT: FAERIE LIGHT TECH - The North Forest By Sunset
I don't know about you, but I need a palate cleanser after all that. Writing so much about my college days, I've been musing about who I would have become if I'd made other choices in my educational curriculum. If I hadn't been in that Medieval History class that led me to that trebuchet demonstration. If I'd switched to a Literature Major, sucked it up, and taken Professor Tripe's Fiction 101 anyway.
The other month, as I was wandering the woods, I discovered a geeky marvel that got me wondering what would have happened if I hadn't dropped my Theater Major, but only switched from Acting to Tech.
As we'll see when we dive into the biggest dance shows in my history, I have often felt more at home among the Tech Crew than with certain crowds of my fellow performers--especially those who treat our Techies like peon dirt. That hails all the way back to my university days. The majority of my closest friends and college roommates were costumers, set designers, lighting geeks, and stage crew nerds on track to direct some day.
I have the knack for that kind of stuff, too, and a personal interest in each area, so I could have easily switched my theater emphasis. The biggest reason I didn't was because of who I would have wound up with as an advisor--some of the same butts I had refused to kiss as an actress. I just canNOT do that reindeer game thing. But if I'd been able to connect with any of those instructors the way I did with every one of my history professors, I probably could have been happy in any of the Techie disciplines while keeping dance and history as my minors, and belly dance as my passion.
Apparently I don't suck as a director and producer, because the only time we didn't sell out was when we split into a two-day show after turning away too many people. Then we merely had two nice, plump houses. I also build costumes for fun, and I always wished we'd had more makeup and hair instruction than we received in the general theater curriculum. I place objects and then move them half-an-inch or half-a-foot or into a completely different room or out of my house because they tell me they don't belong there. And y'all know how I am about lights.
Remember my favorite art exhibit EVER? Like...ever in my whole life? It was that extravaganza of faerie lights out in the woods that I would have gone to night after night and danced in them until dawn if they'd let me.
Well, after three winters running, Crystal Bridges decided to close North Forest Lights. Foreverrrrrrrrrrrr.
Ahem. I'll be okay. Sorta. Someday.
I get this way about my favorite art. One of these days, I'll tell you about the snivelly state I'm thrown into for weeks every time I finish the last page of my favorite book series. The state of depression I experience is ri-goddam-diculous. Sometimes the only way to assuage it is by creating a music playlist that I obsessively listen to hour after hour until it finally abates. Other times, there is only one solution.
The SYFY series Magicians sums it up:
Julia: I had a friend who used to do that. Once he got to the end of his favorite book, he’d go back to the beginning again.
Young Quentin: Endings are the worst part. Characters grow up, they move on. Some of them die. It feels like –
Julia: Your best friend in the whole world’s abandoned you.
This was the state I was in shortly after the North Forest Lights exhibit ended, because--like an idjit--I had also just torn through that darned reader-craic of a book series for the...well, it was the sixth time for Book 1. It was the third time for Book 2. We're still waiting for Book 3 after more than a decade, and reading the amazing sidetrack novella only makes things 8385 times worse. If you've been waiting along with us then you probably know exactly which series I'm talking about. 🤨
Honestly, I'm afraid to ever read "The End" of this series because then I'll probably be so depressed that I'll have to go back like I did the first time and start at page 1 all over again and then one more time and I'll never be able to read anything else for the whole rest of my darn life!
But not really. Because knowing that there would never again be faerie lights in the North Forest only splatted the ice cream onto the concrete of my already pouty, mopey post-book depression.
So I binged my "Dew in the Bracken" playlist day and night. I watched the videos I'd made of the North Forest Lights. I danced obsessively to them all, and consumed ice cream in winter. The only other thing I could think to do with my preposterous ass was to hie myself into the North Forest on the off chance that some residue of Felurian's Fae Realm still lingered to provide a bit of wound-lickery.
To my shock, there was way more than residue.
Did you see them, buried in there amongst the winter forest pretties or standing out starkly against the blues and golds of the sky? The speakers and the cords, the dry ice pipes and--yes. Mr. Squirrel. At this point, if you have no idea why I am geeking so hard over these little hints of techie magic, perhaps you want to go and see the North Forest Lights as they were in the dark when this LED spectacle lit up these trails.
Or heck, maybe you want to stay here with me and peek behind the scenes first, then go see what all of this electronic witchery painted upon the night.
As I strolled the trails again by daylight, at first I was merely struck by nostalgia and a different view of this place that had brought me so much awe and inspiration. Rather than the flashes of neon against a black canvas and the cool LED tones, the forest was warm. Soft. Hushed. This time, the only music came from birdsong or the rustle of tiny feet scurrying through the husks of leaves. The sun was setting upon the clinging reminders of fall. The beech and oaks don't shed their leaves here until the spring. To top it off, the moon was half-full.
I don't mind half-empty. It means there is plenty of room for something new.
The bittersweetness of this day was just another of my adventures stalking death and sunbeams. It let me say goodbye to the lights more tenderly, more intimately than my grandiose farewell hurrah when I had attended the exhibit amidst hundreds of other people for my RebirthDay. This afternoon, I mostly had the forest to myself.
It always begins with the long walk in. Trees, meandering trail, a smattering of art. In daylight, the familiar installations of the permanent collection could now be admired in better detail.
Through the trees on the far side of the ravine, the Fly's Eye Dome peeked through, beckoning me to come play with it. A few days later, I did.
I'll show you what else I discovered that day, but for now, let's stick with the North Forest while they were dismantling Moment Factory's spectacular-spectacular. (2) After the long, subdued, contemplative walk in, the first installation was the Crystal Grove, that ethereal faerie realm dotted with innumerable will-o-wisps and the miniature Wild Hunt that rushed across the ground between the trees. This is the modern magic that created it:
You remember Forest Frequencies, right? The pounding visual orchestra of light bars dancing to the five-part heavy-metal caravan? Here is its undercarriage. To my delight, some bars still faintly glowed in the sunlight.
Ohhhhhhhh, Earth Mama. I finally got to meet Her up close for the first time. Alas, they had taken down all the voice-analyzing moon-globes. But SHE isn't going anywhere. I got to ask Her, touch Her, hug Her, lean on Her, listen to Her, purr to Her, and lie down beneath Her magnificence. Our conversation this time was very different from when we had sung together.
Yet it was exactly the same.
The Hearth was the exhibit that still had the most visible tech remaining, as well as all its groovy camouflaging. Fortuitously, the sun lit up its heart oh-so nicely just for meeeee! When I moved to get different shots, it flickered much like when it was glowing from within. The big black eyeballs are those ballyhoo lights that shone beacons into the night sky and bounded arcs among the trees.
When I was lured back a few days later, they'd dismantled all the ballyhoos as well as the outer shell of the Hearth itself, letting us admire its metal guts. Ooooh-la-la... And as always, more of the permanent art and the forest's (im)permanent collection woos us on the way to the final installation.
Alas, I couldn't get very close to the tech behind Memories of Water. The hillsides where the Blue Faerie Brigade came rushing down and where all those starbursts shone up at us were fenced off with "Danger, Will Robinson" posted all around. But we certainly got some fabulous beams shining down upon that bridge from a very different light source. No glow-worms though. Except for me, wriggling in glee as I nerded out.
SO FRIGGIN' COOL!
I've said it before, I'll say it until I no longer possess breath. Like cooks and dishwashers in a restaurant, Tech Crew doesn't get nearly the attention they deserve. Without them, all we starlets on the front side of the scrim would be dancing nekkid to no music in the dark before an empty auditorium.
In the case of all those lights dancing in the North Forest, Tech Crew also extends to Tech.
So here's a round of applause to stark black machinery, boxy metal cases, military camouflaging, plugs and corded eyesores. Huzzah to screws and nails and drills and bolts, to speakers and hi-fi and laser canons blasting wonder into the night. Woot to the generator. Whoop to the extension cord and the people who painstakingly wind them around elbows. Cheers to the storage crate. Salutes to packing materials. Great gobs of ballyhoo to trucks, construction machinery, shuttles, trash bins, and their operators. Yee-haw to the utility boot and the designers of tread that make it possible to traverse every one of those steep hills. Also, knee-braces.
May I take a moment to bow down to the people who poked every one of those gazillion faerie glow-bobs into the dirt (and took them all out), and to whoever stuck every bloody "stick" onto that Hearth. Worshipful reverence to every artistic engineer who aligned a light, computer-generated or eyeballed a trajectory, adjusted a sound board knob, or moved a rock. God-rays upon the almighty wi-fi. Angelic choirs to computerized synchronization.
All Hail the Tech.
As the final sunflares vanished behind the hills, I made my exit like before, exhilarated and mournful. Inspired and more than a little choked up. Also, like the last time I had walked those trails, my phone ran out of juice right at the end of it. I did get to capture The Buckster by sunset though. (3) With--yes--the hint of a massive crane in the background. Woot!
Thank you, Crystal Bridges. Thank you, Moment Factory. What a wonder!
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE
--UP NEXT: The other art & nature photos I took on these two adventures: WINTER AT CRYSTAL BRIDGES
--OR: You can go see the North Forest Lights through my eyes if you haven't already.
--What is Crystal Bridges? My home away from home.
4) The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. The only book I have ever read six bloody times.
And yes. I have completely discordant reactions to the sensations of screws drilled into living trees so that we human-centric creatures could enjoy this miracle. Being an HSP is incredibly fun. Simultaneously, it is excruciating. We simply learn to live in dichotomy. Or it eventually drives us mad. Sometimes that's part of the fun... Hail, Dionysos. 🌿🍇✨😈✨🍇🐍