The Kibitzer

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It’s the Trees

By Billy Fried

The first thing you notice is the cicadas. Thousands of them. Maybe millions. You don’t see them. But you hear them. One massive, supersonic sound wave, like the Blue Angels buzzing a football game, but on an order of magnitude exponentially bigger. It travels across entire regions.

They are here to remind you that you are but one species among many, not only in the lush jungle of southwest Costa Rica, but everywhere. And if you listen, they tell you a lot. Not only about animals, but also of all the thriving, sentient beings among us. And the essential role they play in the balance and harmony of life. And if that doesn’t convince you, one of the “village witches” (resident herbalists) will reveal how nearly every plant around you can be used for medicine or food. Or to bathe the air in perfume. It’s a potent reminder that no matter how much disruption and sound 8,000 humans can generate over a four-day yoga and music festival, it is a meaningless trifle next to the velocity of nature.

I was there for the paradisiacal experience by the sea known as the Envision Festival. Where set and setting – humans and nature – are so profoundly woven together that one cannot help but be deeply affected by the primal profundity of it all. It’s warm and balmy and in a lush jungle adjacent to a ridiculously perfect palm-fringed beach where people drum, dance and celebrate the daily descent of the sun. By day they do yoga, ecstatic dance, ceremony, and learn about deep ecology and regenerative living. After the sunset, it’s cosmic beats until daylight. One beautiful, international community bringing their highest selves, engaged in celebration, self-care, and personal growth. If there was ever a Pandora on earth, this is it.

It’s all part of the festival culture that has shifted many young people away from materialism and towards sacred experiences that emphasize spirituality, creativity, community, and a deeper connection to mother earth.

There are a lot of elements that make Envision special. It’s conscious and sustainable, and strives to teach you to be so, too. Every sign is hand painted on natural, mostly found materials. Every structure is built with native materials like bamboo. They plant trees every year. There’s zero waste with food. No paper or plastic. You rent and recycle your plates and flatware. They teach you about permaculture, herbal remedies, elixirs, activism, conflict resolution, and new ways of living.

And then there are the pavilions and performance stages that can only be described as temples of transcendence – communal gathering places that fuse nature with sacred geometry, rooting us in a sense of our past – and the potential of our future. You feel the provenance of the Mayans and Aztecs. It’s all madly overwhelming and makes you weep over the human potential for beauty, abundance and love, and how we’ve messed it all up.

But nothing at the festival – not one thing – compares to the scale, mass, and beauty of the trees that share the space. Not to mention their essential, vital function as shade. Envision could not exist without them. Nor can we. Massive, bodacious trees with undulating branches and lusting root systems that cradle festivalgoers in a warm embrace. The same trees that nourish cicadas and are home to howler monkeys, sloths, and countless other species. A vast, interconnected web of life from the branches to the roots. All lit provocatively at night with stage gels and hanging lanterns.

It’s heaven and it’s here on Earth. And it’s the giant, sprawling, oxygen-producing, life-supporting trees. And they can save us if we let them. They sequester carbon, provide shade and cooling (decreasing energy costs), stop erosion, provide wind and fire buff, and of course, are the source of countless fruits, herbs, medicine, and building materials. Costa Ricans knows this. So while every other country is de-foresting, Costa Rica is busy re-foresting.

I’m glad Laguna has declared itself a tree city. Just take a walk now in our open space and behold their majesty as they sprout anew. Feel their primal power and capacity to withstand droughts and floods and provide a home for birds and insects. Trees have always been the essence of Laguna’s unique eco-system. You can live in any beach town in Southern California. But not many trees-by-the-beach towns. And those afford the best views and quality of life of all.

Let’s honor, celebrate and propagate what we have. Planting and maintaining trees, seed collection, cloning, mulching, composting and soil amendment should be a part of every classroom’s curriculum. And a part of our daily lives as humans. It’s critical life skills. At a critical time in life. Let’s be that shining, shaded, tree-lined city on a hill.


Billy Fried hosts “Laguna Talks” on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. on KX93.5 and can be reached at [email protected].

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