November 8th 2020
This time last week, I was tentatively preparing myself to step upon the main stage at a transformational, music and arts festival called Zen Awakening.
Having left Louisiana the previous day, my bassist, Twiggman, and I were once again driving the ten hour trek from Louisiana back down to Florida with mixed emotions all bundled up inside of our bodies.
Florida was open once more and, after such a long and socially condemned hiatus due to the pandemic of 2020, I was certainly thankful to be heading towards the soft embrace of a festival culture that is so very dear to my heart. My art, after all, had been born only a few years prior, deep in the dusty womb of Australian festival magic & alchemy. And the thought of coming together beneath the same sun once more in order to share the arts, dance beside the fires of our truth, employ some meditation and inner work as well as the ability to share our collective & individual talents to a completely receptive audience, sounded altogether like the kind of journey that my soul was crying out for. It had, after all, been over a year since I felt that I had properly performed, therefore, I allowed the winds of change to push Twiggman & I forward with the force of a deeply creative longing upon our backs.
Absolutely pumped about being asked to play on the main stage on a Friday afternoon (a total score for the humble poet such as myself), I was in complete awe. What an honour it would be. An honour worthy of celebration and ceremony. In my alternative lifestyle, I so very often float on down that winding river of travel & adventure and am so deeply moved by the currents of philosophy and poetry that I know I may never employ a normal life. I may never marry, have a baby, a christening, or graduate from anything else other than my very own daydreams… but although I may never invite my loved ones to the kind of traditional ceremonies that have come to be the milestones within all of our lives, my offering of Story & Song has always been that of a ceremonial nature. And this gig was certainly a big deal to me.
However, as I drove down to Florida, I was weighted with the knowledge that, for their own reasons, not a single member of my Floridian friends or family would be able to attend the festival. Mixed emotions rose & fell inside of me like the sun & moon. That emotion, along with a hostile social situation that had just occurred back in NOLA, encouraged a general feeling of disappointment in my loved ones that also quietly accompanied me to the festival, sitting upon my shoulder blades like the devil himself. And although I had the ever faithful Twiggman to accompany me in real time, swatting away that devil with incantations of his support, I still felt let down.
Still, pressing my foot further down upon the pedal and attempting to offer my full attention to the moment, I vowed aloud to give the best performance that I possibly could, no matter what. Because, as it has been for the past four years, my devotion lies entirely in this creative journey. I would give it my all because deep down, I know that my energy is always better spent in the simple serenity of ceremonious soothsaying as well as in my humble offering of ceremonial Story & Song. And, in truth, I knew that my energy had certainly been distracted and wayward of late.
Touching down at my sister, Shannay’s house in Tampa, Twiggman and I met with our fire dancer, Alana Luna so that we may convoy to the festival together. Alana arrived full of the soft joy that she perpetually embodies and warmed my heart with her firefly green eyes. During our reunion, I also used the time there to try and persuade Shannay to accompany us to the festival with an offering of a free ticket. However, just as she had agreed to attend, did the universe insist upon another plan of action: Bubbling over with joy towards Shannay’s declared attendance, I pounced upon my sister, hugging and kissing her with great affection. In the commotion of it all, her house cat lost its composure and began to viciously attack the other cat. With my sister screaming and crying at the sight of her two fur babies tearing one another apart and scaring the shit out of themselves, I sought to remedy the situation and grabbed the psychotic offender by the scruff of her neck. Immediately, the cat clamped down on me and stuck her fangs so deeply into my left hand that my vision blurred.
Instead of injuring the cat in reflex, all I could do was wait for her to let up. And when she
eventually did, the blood poured out in rivers from my hand and the pain pulsed in waves of night and day. My pinkie finger had been shredded in such a way that my flesh protruded from the skin and my hand immediately began to swell and redden. When the initial pain had subsided, I brushed it off. Luckily enough, along with being an exotic fire dancer, Alana is also a very practical nurse and, with the calm cool of her profession, she stopped the bleeding and doctored me up. Then, on a time crunch, I begrudgingly left a distraught sister behind and continued on to the festival with my crew.
Arriving at the luscious festival site, I looked around at the green grass, the setting sun, an array of colourful characters full of anticipation for what the weekend may bring and i almost forgot about my shredded finger and throbbing hand that continued to casually swell in size with each moment that passed me by. The crew and I, parked in the heart of the small and intimate festival, set up our camp for the weekend and, as the warm sun put her rays to rest upon a perfectly beautiful day, we employed our first and only collective practice. Living in Louisiana meant that we had only been able to practice with Alana Luna via video calling and there was still much work to be done.
The set lists that I have come to compose, with their storylines, visual stimuli as well as
musical accompaniments, are very much like theatre and, just like many other artists, a lot of work goes into the production of the performance that no one may ever know about. It had been well over a year since I had worked with my memoir, A Version of You, however, and as we had been assigned to the Goddess Takeover stage, it felt only right to dust that 550 page book off and share it's divine goddess magic.
Throughout the chapter reading, I had also paired 5 cover songs that complimented each piece and during those songs, Alana Luna was scheduled to come in with her fire and mesmerize us all. Along with Twiggman’s aspirations to transition seamlessly in and out of looping from Story into Song, it was important that we all had our timing down to a T. Practice sounded very much like school.
“Please refer to page 343 of your books, scene one, paragraph two.” The soft sound of pages turning, fires lighting and cogs twirling filled up our campsite. That night, we ironed out all the boring details of our set list and the crew and I were officially as ready as we would ever be.
After practice had wound down, we were graced by the cosmic presence of our collectively dear friend Mercedes who, after hearing our call for help regarding merch sales & photography, had driven, last minute, up to the festival in order to support us and lend a helping hand, if only for the night. I only had one good hand after all and I was never happier to see Mercedes’ sweet cherub face. We spent the remainder of the night catching up, connecting and snuggling in my sweet ass van, Melody.
The following day was game day and as much as I would have loved to have risen with the ferocity of a tiger within my own wild heart, the truth of the matter is that I woke up in tears. My watery absolutions were not due to nerves or anxiety, although I do experience them both in equal measure, but such tears had been born from the deep throbbing pain that had kept me awake for most of the night. Upon waking, my hand was swollen like a balloon, as red as one could ever be and as hot as an unnecessarily suppressed sexuality. The flesh in my finger also protruded in such a way that it looked all too similar to that of a very well done pizza roll and, at the sight of myself, I just felt sick all over.
The previous evening’s camp set-up hadn’t helped my hand at all, however, I was lucky enough to have nurse Alana in my midst, as well as Twiggman and Mercedes there to console me. When I eventually got myself together, we each headed towards a morning meditation and yoga class. Because there we were, at Zen Awakening Music Festival and, in the spirit of festival magic, it was time to leave all of ones troubles at the door and motha FUNkin’ drop into the magical moment.
As I stretched and moved my body back into life, I realised that I could not quite employ some of the yoga practices. There were now limitations to my physical body. Being a healthy and physically fit young woman, this was new for me and, as an overachiever, I began to experience a great amount of shame within my shortcomings. Everyone around me smiled and breathed easily; happy, ecstatic and at peace. My own pain felt harsh and out of place and, because of it, I began to feel as though I didn’t quite belong amongst such tranquility. Therefore, just like the pain and disappointment that had been quietly eating away at my heart all week, I covered up my truth and masked myself to fit my environment.
With our performance just around the corner, it is fair to say that I felt flat as fuck. I might as
well have been the ground. My inner resources had run dry and right up until I stepped on stage, I was only able to draw encouragement from the spirit of our crew. Mercedes in particular, became the cheerleader that my heart so very needed and the group collectively pushed me forward. However, when the afternoon finally found us and I did eventually step up on that big black stage, I looked upon the casual grass dwellers and remembered my vow to self. I would put my best foot forward and give the crowd, no matter how big or small, my full self. Because, despite everything else, this was my day in the sun; important to me if not anyone else and no damned cat bite was going to come in between me following my dreams.
With Twiggman’s ever steady melody resonating out to my left in deep, bassey waves and Alana Lunas light work flittering to my right like golden fairy dust against the setting sun, I finally allowed for the spirit of performance to ignite the tender tinder’s of my soft, poetic soul.
Performing a chapter from my book entitled, Phoenix Sun Risin’, I waxed lyrical for an entire
hour about finding one’s own voice, of overcoming our fears and of finding the courage to step up to the mic. As I stood there on stage, once a novice to such acts myself, I aimed to empower others through the self-fulfilled prophecy of my work. Because there I was, as always, using my own life as a simple example for others. And if the shy, quiet girl within me can come this far, then I know in my heart of hearts… that anyone can.
Gripping my book tightly in my swollen hand, I forgot of my own wounds and also spoke passionately of sisterhood and the solidarity we receive when supporting one another in our dreams. Above all, I spoke of the creative responsibility that we each have as artists to sooth and to heal a world that so desperately needs all the healing that it can get.
Being up there on the Goddess Takeover Stage, I truly felt like the highest version of myself. The bass echoed out across the horizon, the fires warmed the dark spots in all of our hearts and our sultry symphonies transitioned smoothly from Story into Song like a wave breaking softly upon the shore. We were a full symphony and those who were meant to be there and hear us, did. It felt epic.
After our performance, the crew dutifully packed up our gear whilst Mercedes and I tag-teamed the merch station. The grass dwellers made their way over and totally dossed us all up on love and compliments, supporting my work without question.
I did the signing whilst Mercedes, in her adorable April Lee Fields crew shirt, took payments, hyped up my work and captured each precious moment for us all. We had done it. And what a team we had been.
After I had wound down from my high and, without further responsibility, dropped even further into the festival… then came the pain. For the next 24 hours, my hand, no matter how I tried to ignore it, demanded my full attention. It persistently pulsed with the same consistent rhythms as the drums from the sacred fire and it ached in the very same way that “the dawn aches to meet the day.”
Initially, Twiggman and I had planned to do impromptu performances throughout the rest of the festival weekend, however, what the mind wants and what the body wants or can even offer, are sometimes worlds apart. It was a paradoxical position to be in.
“I feel as though I’m letting us both down.” I confided in Twiggman and he adjusted the frizzy buns in my hair and fashioned me a sling from some pink, silk material that I had lying around.
“You can’t ever let us down, girl. You are always doing all you can, every single day, to move us towards the goal. And that’s a fact I surely recognize.” Twiggman promised, rasping with this thick New York accent whilst casually finishing the knot in my sling and unconsciously tying together the undone pieces of my life.
That afternoon, after I had appropriately matched my eye shadow with my sexy new pink sling, I spent the day walking around the festival and soaking up the beauty of it all. It was so soothing to witness such a colourful array of souls taking the time to do the work on themselves. Whether it was through yoga, meditation, reiki, ecstatic dance, or simply attending a workshop that allowed their bodies to become but a vessel of transferred knowledge, the inner work was certainly being done. Because, as they say, you cannot fill others when you yourself are empty. And the ultimate goal has always been to fill every single heart with love and with wisdom.
As I walked along the outskirts of the festival that day, in more ways than one, a funny thing began to happen. One after another, random people began to approach me, sometimes in order to pay tribute to my performance, other times to simply ask about my hand. It was in a bright pink sling after all and there was no way for me to mask it or ignore it any longer. Then, one by one, the Zen tribe began to hold space with me and my injury. Throughout the sun drenched Saturday afternoon, people blessed my hand, performed reiki upon me, put first aid healing ointments upon my wound, iced my fire, covered me in natural remedies such as raw honey and Dr Love, a doctor of Chinese medicine, also gave me complimentary acupuncture, all the while, complimenting me upon my performance. It was more than my little heart could bear.
That night, fresh from an ecstatic dance class that had been given by two powerhouse goddess babes, (half of which I simply laid upon the grass and allowed their ancient tribal sounds to carry me back in time,) I sat encircled in a ceremony of gratitude that was led by the beam of light, DJ ShewXolf and her musical partner, DJ Br33zzyy.
“I am grateful to be sitting beside the wonderful poet, April Lee Fields,” remarked a soft-souled Indian gentleman to my left.
My eyes just about burst open in disbelief and this ‘who me?’ feeling of unworthiness quietly continued to sit with me. Personally, I was thankful to be sitting amongst so much genuine love, especially with the undeniable reality that we all live within a world so terribly riddled with fear and greed. Therefore, I brushed off my own fear of unworthiness and tried to believe… to believe… in… me.
When the circle was reduced further in size and just a few of us remained beneath the pale moonlight, I began a dialogue with DJ Br33zzyy's partner, David. With his yellow night time sunglasses on, David declared that he was a man of science, yet through his genuine love for the wave of creative beauty that is the embodiment of his partner, Br33zzyy, David had also begun discovering the correlation between the scientific and the spiritual. For just like the opposite elements within their own coupled characteristics, science and spirit also run parallel. David asked how I would feel about mentoring the quiet poet that resides within DJ Br33zzyy and, looking upon the starlight in her eyes, I assured him it would be an honour.
Soon, the discussion moved towards my pretty pink sling and as I eventually showed the circle my hot, swollen and cheese grated hand. David employed the practical man that so many of us aloof artists need in order to keep us grounded and safe and insisted on me going to the hospital. At first I declined and felt that my silly cat bite could wait until Monday, however, I was collectively schooled in the reality of Cat Scratch Fever and its potentially deadly outcome.
The following morning, David took charge of the situation and, with the beautiful Br33zzyy at his side, took me straight to the hospital himself. As a person often leading the cavalry, it was a nice change for me to relax into the protection of another capable and confident person. In my total treatment, I got antibiotics, received a tetanus shot in the arm, a pain shot in the left buttocks and an emergency shot of antibiotics in the ass that hurt even more than the bite itself. I was also advised that if I would have waited much longer then the infection, because it was indeed very infected, could have led to blood poisoning and even been fatal.
After the hospital, David, Br33zzyy and myself all had a beautiful lunch by the river and we each toasted to strangers who, through our trials and tribulations, life changing and even life saving moments, end up becoming the forever kind of friends that one couldn't imagine not ever knowing.
Back at the festival and feeling so very grateful to be alive, I grabbed Twiggman and, as originally planned, we spent the rest of the last day of the festival performing our act of Story & Song. With their shakers, drums & guitars, fellow musicians joined us. As we each surrendered to our creative play, the spirit moved us. And as the clouds above heaved and hoed, the rains eventually cleansed us.
Continuing our musical sound journey back at camp, I looked upon all the beautiful people that were sitting and standing all around, their eyes closed in relaxation, their smiles saturated in appreciation, and with my gazebo/van/storytelling space finally in full fruition and my soul in the trance like state that music always brings me to, I gradually came to understand as to why such a physical wound had surfaced on my body.
The sensitive and poetic heart of myself had certainly felt fractured upon arrival, yet I had
spoken barely a word of it, even to my crew. I focused only upon the healing that I may offer others through my art. But even healers need healing sometimes. On paper, I have never had trouble spilling my guts, yet in real life, I know that I can be somewhat quiet, aloof and often reserved. My wound however, had certainly served as an invitation of love, coming from a person who has always found great difficulty in asking for it.
At the closing ceremony that night, I listened as Chief Black Fox, in all of his native wisdom, channeled his message of love and responsibility that we each have towards the world… and I felt every single word that he said as if it were my own. An enchanting songstress named Brynnevere followed, singing to my soul a sacred lullaby and I also saw myself reflected back in her divine offering.
In that moment, I knew that we were all one. Each of us coming together, stepping up to the mic of our very own lives and trying to make the world a better place. And with each blessing of love, care and conscious healing that I had so sincerely received from my tribe of Zen Rainbow warriors who, even though their healing had only ever been intended for my physical body, had each loved on me so hard and held me in such high esteem that they had also subconsciously healed my emotional body and replenished my fractured spirit.
What had initially plagued me as unworthiness had finally left me and instead, I was gifted with the creative validation that I so needed to hear and feel. Something inside of me felt healed. And, just as I have already done and will continue to do so many times in this lifetime, I once again broke out of the darkness of my own self-imposed cocoon and, stretching my rainbow smudged wings to the soft light of a new day, I began to fly back into the light of the divine. Because, no matter how far we each come in our spiritual journeys, sometimes we must start anew. The true work is never really done. However, because of Zen Awakening Music Festival, I was officially recharged, transformed by the light of a new day and even inspired to return to my craft of storytelling, with a brand new tale to tell.
Written by April Lee Fields
Thank you Zen Awakening Festival for all that you have given me. In return, I offer back unto thee a humble literary example of festival therapy through the union of our soul tribe's alchemy.
Written by April Lee Fields
& various members of the Zen Awakening Tribe