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Lightning in a Bottle, where do I even begin? Once again I’ve been enchanted by my favorite festival. Once again I’ve left thinking that this time it was even better than the last. Once again I’ve left inspired, recharged and more comfortable with who I am.

It’s always hard to put into words exactly what this festival is about and what it means to me. When I come back after the weekend everyone likes to ask, and I find it hard to use just a few words to explain the feelings it gives me and the world it creates. So this piece might be a little rambly and long, but I want to paint a picture for you of the full experience.

LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE - THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM

On Friday, we arrived Lightning in a Bottle (LIB) bright and early. This was the first time we’d decided to do car camping. We were there by 10 am and I found the car camping area to be pretty packed already. It seemed that Thursday was the busy night for the LIB team, with the bulk of campers arriving then. Luckily we had a friend who came in Thursday night and saved a nice space next to his tent for us.

Let me tell you, car camping is a total game changer. I will never not car camp again at LIB. Moving our stuff from the car to camping was 100x easier. It also really helped that it was overcast Friday morning when we arrived. By the time we set up our tent, the sun was clearing out the clouds and warming up the day.

We got a new tent this year too. It was a Coleman 10 Person Instant Tent. We got it at Costco for about $200 and I have zero regrets. Previously we used a six person tent – which holds six people if you’re laying side-by-side next each other in sleeping bags with literally nothing else in your tent. With the 10 person tent, and four of us in it, we were able to fit two queen air mattresses, stand up to get dressed and have a lot of room for all of our other stuff inside the tent this year. We didn’t even need to set up a canopy to keep us shaded because it came with a really great one that attached to it.

Setting up the tent and seeing the lake was totally amazing. For those of you who don’t know, this was the first year that LIB has been at the San Antonio Recreation area with a lake. It’s incredible to see that we had so much rain this year in CA.

After setting up our camping area, we grabbed some beers and went for a walk to check out the lake. It didn’t take us long to realize how the lake was affecting the San Antonio recreation area. Over the course of the weekend we saw two snakes, some half-dollar-sized spiders, and lots of little flies/mosquitoes. Surprisingly, none of these bugs bit us and I don’t have any marks which was a really nice surprise. The snakes were also harmless, mostly just scary. This was solved though by a guy next to our campsite who we ended up dubbing “Jake the Snake”. This crazy guy collected the snakes for us and moved them away from our campsites. (Thank you, Jake the Snake).

It also turned out that the festival had to be reorganized a little bit, because of something else the lake brought with it. Where the Woogie stage used to be, a bald eagle had made a nest and laid some eggs in the tree. Talk about amazing. Some people even got to see it. We tried to look for it once but we couldn’t find her or the nest.

We had one friend arrive at our campsite after us because she had to take a separate car. To offset the carbon emissions, LIB charges single car drivers $30 to park at the festival. Once she arrived, we changed into our first looks and headed into the festival for the first time.

Friday we themed “holographic space lamb”. My group and I really like coordinating themed outfits. I wore my Glamorous UK blush pink mesh maxi dress, holographic J Valentine bottoms, lightning bolt pasties, and some new platform pink boots I had purchased from Hot Topic. It didn’t take me long to need to put some insoles into those shoes. They were cheaply made but became much more comfortable once I had the shoe pads in. They were a ton of fun to frolic in around the festival. I always recommend bringing a pair of insoles to any festival. They can be a totally game changer.

The weather Friday was perfect with the morning haze, then even still once it cleared up. During the day it never got too hot and then at night I layered my look with some leggings and this really cool faux fur jacket I got off Poshmark for $20.

Once changed we headed into the festival to explore. The Thunder and Lightning stages were the same beautiful set up they’ve always been. A new Pagoda Bar, Woogie stage and other some other new structures were set up with beautiful bright colors reflecting on the lake.

Because of the way the festival was reorganized, it did feel a little squished in some areas. I felt like there was a stage near the Gong Sanctuary and The Cauldron tents that was a little too close. The music overpowered speakers there and the meditation space. I also felt like there were a lot more vendors than previously, which was fine, but it just took a little learning curve to learn the new festival grounds.

We checked out a class in the Learning Kitchen, “Digestive Psychology” on Friday. It was about how we often just try to treat an problem vs finding the underlying issue. For example: perhaps we have back pain and we’re dealing with a lot of stress; we should learn to deal with the stress primarily vs medicating the back pain, because the stress could be causing the pain.

Friday night was a lot of fun bouncing around to check out how art pieces transformed into glowing night structures, dancing to music at multiple stages, and eventually closing the night with Rufus Du Sol. We’re not really the group of people who stay up past 2am haha, we were beat and called it a night after 2am. There’s of course music all through the night for those who want to stay up.

Saturday I wore matching tie-dye overalls with my boyfriend, which we dyed together the weekend before. This look was totally his idea and they turned out amazing. Everyone loved them, I swear I got more compliments on my outfit that day vs any other day. We purchased the white overalls from Forever 21 and got a tie-dye kit from Michael’s with a coupon. I actually ended up having to dye the overalls twice because the first time we didn’t properly fill in all the white space. That worked out fine and they turned really great. I loved having all the pockets and it wasn’t too warm to wear during the day because we didn’t wear any shirts underneath. and at night, I just added my coat again and I was perfectly content.

Saturday we ventured out and checked a few different classes. First was “Sex, Love & Awakening: 4 Keys to Ecstatic Partnership” at Haven. Let’s be real, we wanted to check out at least one class that had sex in the title. I really ended up liking this class and the speaker. She was super well spoken and had a lot of interesting points. She talked about the fours stages of a relationship that she’s studied as a psychologist, and my friends and I had some great discussions after about our own relationships.

Then we went to “Tarot Readings with the Tarot Woman” at Craft-Folk Arts. Each reading was $20. After, we went and checked out a favorite from last year, Benjamin Pixie and salmon skin tanning. This year the class was hands on and we saw a little of the process he uses. Mr. Pixie has some great stories and a love for sharing them that makes his smile quite infectious.

We checked out another Learning Kitchen class Saturday called “Flavor Tripping: A Trip Down Sensory Lane” which was really cool as well. This one was presented by New Belgium Brewery, and they had some beer samples for us while they talked about the process and different tastes of each. They also told us about this thing called a Miracle Berry and let us experiment with it. It’s a plant native to West Africa that contains glycoprotein, something that causes sour foods to taste sweet temporarily. We all got to have one of these little pill versions of the fruit, then they passed out lemons and limes to taste. It was totally crazy because you really did have a tastebud change!

Saturday we also checked out the 2nd Annual Soapbox Derby which was so awesome, and spent most of Saturday night at the Grand Artique which is set up like an old Western town, and played some arcade games. I won a rabbits foot on my first try.

While it may sound like we had very organized days, it was was really made up of a lot of hopping around. We’d taken a look at the schedule before and picked a few things that sounded interesting, but for the most part we would check out a class here, listen to some music there, grab a snack or sit by the lake. There’s really no set schedule you have to abide to at LIB and that’s one of the things that makes it so much fun. We weren’t living by the clock and rushing to keep to a schedule. Most people also have no service at the festival, and you either decide it’s too frustrating to try to keep to posting things, or you just don’t care anymore and you put your phone away to just experience everything.

Sunday was the hottest day. We woke up feeling hot for the first time, and decided it was time for us to venture down to the lake for a swim. The water was so refreshing and felt so nice. The shore was rocky but once in the water you could swim or float without touching it. Everyone was in the water Sunday AM it felt like. Pockets all over the grounds were filled with colorful floats. One of my favorite things about LIB is how we all accept the fact that just because we’re adults doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy life and have fun. We still like to play in the water, climb on playgrounds and be silly. I love that we’re given this freedom there. I love that no one judges anyone there. The festival had artists build a few climbing structures on land, then a few floating art pieces as well for us to all play on to further facilitate our play.

I think what always keeps me coming back to LIB is this overarching theme of freedom. I get to wear all my “crazy” outfits with lots of colors, dye my hair pink and do my makeup with tons of glitter. I get to play dress up and people don’t stare at me like I’m a weirdo, but appreciate the creativity in it. I get to walk around with a backpack filled with cold beers and drink responsibly instead of trying to drink a ton before getting into an event so I don’t have to pay ridiculous amounts to drink once inside. I never feel harassed by security or pestered by rules. It’s an adult playground; we’re given the freedom to explore, take charge of our own bodies, take charge of our own time, and express ourselves in our own creative ways. It’s one of the most freeing experiences of my life each time I go.

Sunday we went back to Craft-Folk Arts to listen to “Storytelling - Animal Awareness with Rainbow Dreamer”. It felt like story time in school again- Rainbow Dreamer was a flawless storyteller, with a mesmerizing cadence. From there we went to one of the last Sound Healing sessions at the Gong Sanctuary. Here you lay down with your eyes closed and they play all these sounds around you like rain sticks and gongs for about 20 minutes as a mediation session.

We then hiked up to Mediation Point to take in the view, and ended the day like every other day, watching the sunset from a cliff with other festival-goers. This is always such a magical close to the day, and it was even more beautiful this year with the lake reflecting the light. After howling and clapping at the sunset, we changed for our last night at the festival. Sunday night was the coldest and the most windy, but we had a great time again closing with Bassnectar.

Sunday I wore a hot pink metallic one piece swimsuit I had been pining over since I first saw it online. I waited for a good sale and purchased it, the brand is Motel. I wore it with some fun alien hoop earrings my boyfriend got me for Christmas, and at night with some glitter tights. During the day I had a faux fur purple vest with it from Poshmark, then at night again my faux fur jacket to stay warm.

There’s so many things to explore at LIB, but my friends and I felt like we didn’t miss a thing this year. We experienced it all as it was meant to be, by fulling allowing ourselves to journey through the festival. We went to some great classes and lectures and then took those further into wonderful discussions together as the sun set each night. We grew together over this weekend, and I know we won’t forget the memories we made anytime soon. I love this feeling I leave LIB with, and I hope it stays with me for a long time until it’s time to be refreshed again next year.

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Rare Snowfall Blankets Dunes in The Sahara
An amateur photographer in Algeria captured beautiful images of a rare phenomenon this week: the red and white swirl of snow dusting sand dunes in the Sahara.

On Monday, a rare and beautiful thing happened: There was a dusting of snow on the red sand dunes of the Sahara.

The snow fell on the northern Algerian town of Ain Sefra, which is known as the “gateway to the desert.”

Karim Bouchetata, an amateur photographer there, grabbed his camera and took a number of photos before the snow melted later that day. He uploaded them to Facebook, where the surreal images quickly went viral.

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Map of the River Nile from its estuary south to Cairo, 1525

One of the golden ages of cartography occurred in the late middle ages and the Renaissance. Here we see a masterpiece of the period from the Ottoman admiral, Piri Reis. The manuscript map, taken from a larger work called the Book of Navigation, represents the Nile river as it approaches Cairo, including Rosetta, namesake of the famous stone. Maps like this were extravagant works of art destined to adorn the coffee-table or bookshelf of a wealthy Renaissance merchant.

Photograph: The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

America’s Growing News Deserts

As local newspapers have closed across the country, more and more communities are left with no daily local news outlet at all. Here are the number of audited daily papers per county, according to research from Ohio University and the Alliance for Audited Media.

Hollowing out: Rural America isn’t the only place local news is disappearing. It’s also drying up in urban areas around the country.

Source: Yemile Bucay, Vittoria Elliott, Jennie Kamin, and Andrea Park

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Erie, Pennsylvania, a city of roughly 100,000 residents, contains seven food deserts. In these locations residents don’t have reasonable access to healthy, affordable food. But one refugee-run grocery story is reversing that trend.

Located in the heart of Erie in a 4,000-square-foot space that was previously inhabited by a music store, U.K. Supermarket opened in 2013 and has been selling more affordable vegetables, lentils and other foods. After living in refugee camps in Nepal for most of his life, the store’s founder, Pradip Upreti, moved to Erie in 2009 at age 20. Now he’s providing a much needed service.

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Buzz off! Lions’ snooze in the shade is ruined when they are attacked by a swarm of pesky bees (Photographer Andrew Forsyth)

This is the moment a sleepy pride of lions had their afternoon snooze in the shade interrupted by a furious swarm of bees.

The lions struggled to defend themselves when the insects launched an attack near a watering hole in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa. Despite their fierce reputation, the big cats were too slow to swat the angry bees away and become increasingly frustrated in the 40C heat.

The African bee is known to be more aggressive than European honey bees and while their sting is no more venomous, they usually attack in greater numbers and target more frequently. 

The pictures, captured by wildlife photographer Andrew Forsyth, 47, who likened the scenes to a boxing match.

He said: ‘It was like watching a contest between a lightweight and heavyweight boxer, with the lightweight just moving around scoring with little jabs that slowly wore the opponent down.’

He said the Kalahari lions were relatively easy to spot with daytime temperatures in excess of 40C.

'Lions spend much of their daytime sleeping so for wildlife photographers most our time with lions is spent waiting for something interesting to happen. The intervention of the bees provided some welcome entertainment, although the lions weren’t amused.’

During the process of photographing the animals, Mr Forsyth himself was stung by one of the bee.

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Solar Cookers in Tibetan Areas of China

Solar cookers sponsored by the Canada Fund, the German Embassy, and other Western donors, along with a substantial local contribution, have provided Tibetan residents of, particularly, Qinghai, Gansu, and Sichuan, an environmentally-friendly way of heating water and cooking. Collecting fuel is often defined as a woman-girl activity and in areas where dung and wood is scant, the cookers have been very helpful by giving women and girls more time to do other activities. They also have substantial health benefits, e.g., less time is spent in smoky kitchens.”