Listen up, because you’ll want to hear about this experience! First, I suggest you all add the RiSE Festival to your bucket lists! I am going to start this off by saying that I have a bucket list, & this was one of the few things off of it that I’ve actually checked off. I won’t have many of these breathtaking posts where my family & I are off doing amazing things like this. Let’s face it: having a family, home, bills & adulting duties usually take precedence. But every once in a while my beautiful hard working husband makes it happen for us <3 My wonderful mother & father in law also joined us on this once in a lifetime adventure; a memory we will all never forget.
We left the downtown Las Vegas strip at 4:45pm & headed 32 miles northeast bound. As we were driving down the two lane highway, I knew what I was going into, but I didn’t know what quite to expect. I looked behind me to see the bright flashy Las Vegas lights start to dim & disappear in the rearview mirror. The further we went down the highway, the more the sun was setting, the more tumbleweeds rolled by, the more chill you felt in the air, & the more the sky became a beautiful palate of sherbet orange & pink hues. We arrived at the festival at 5:30pm & as I looked to the sun, it shone brightly in my eyes just before disappearing behind the hills. It was at that moment I realized how remote & beautiful this location was in the vast Mojave desert. I got out of the car & looked all around me to see nothing but hills surrounding us on every side, & the dusty rocky field below my feet that went on & on & on.
It was almost a 3/4 mile walk to the location where the magic would soon begin. We were legitimately dead center to all of the beautiful hills that felt like they were put there to protect us all & keep us safe. I can only describe the feeling similar to when a loved one hugs you—comfort, safety, home. As we presented our tickets & proceeded to get our mats & lanterns, I grew exponentially anxious. Why?! I don’t know, maybe the unfamiliarity of not really knowing what to expect or not knowing the perfect thing to write on my lantern. It goes without saying that there was obvious nerves about being at a festival in Vegas just days apart from such evil. While the tragedy that took place left so so many people behind, hurt, & scared… here 10,000 people were together, standing side by side & ready to RiSE! It was such a bittersweet & pivotal moment. CHILLS.
I put my mat down & opened my two lanterns, eager to begin writing! Each person gets two sky lanterns & you are able to write whatever it is you would like. A wish, a hope, a dream, a sentiment, a tribute… literally whatever your heart desires. I didn’t know what I was going to write until I sat down in the field, absolutely covered in dust, & under the twinkling stars that engulfed the pitch black sky. I sat for a moment, closed my eyes, & heard the murmurs of thousands of people that were all there with nothing but great intentions. What a feeling it was to be surrounded with only GOOD VIBES.
I wish I had taken more time making my words prettier or spaced evenly… but I just wrote the first things that came to my mind. My first lantern I wrote for my beloved Dad, & the second lantern for a dear friend who was taken entirely too soon; his name is Darren Hendrickson. He made such a difference in my life at such a young age & I wish I was able to tell him just how much he meant to me. I wanted to honor him as best I could. For him I wrote, “I love you, Darren. You are beautiful”. It may seem cliché but it is what instantly came into my head & I wanted to be true to that. I also wrote one thing on the top of each lantern that would face upwards into the vast night sky. One is a bit more personal & I will just leave that between me, my lantern & the beautiful sky! The other literally just came to me as I sat there. I can’t tell you why… but it was in my head & I just had to write it down. I’ll post a photo below :) My husband let my son, Caleb, write on one lantern! He wanted my husband to draw dinosaurs (duhh, of course). We traced the hands of daddy, mommy, & Caleb, followed with my sons name & birthdate.
It was almost time to let the lanterns soar! There was a stage in the middle of a sea of people, where some great musicians played the soundtrack to make it a night none of us will ever forget! They announced a moment of silence for the victims lost in the terrible tragedy. The murmurs instantly hushed & all you could hear was the wind howling through the peaks & dips of the hills. I think me & every other person there can attest to instant chills. Not the bad chills, but the kind of chills you get when each individual person becomes UNITED. In that moment it wasn’t ours—it will forever be the victims... I can promise we will not forget. Rest in peace my friends <3
It was time! The moment when all of us who traveled from different places would light our lanterns & send them soaring into the dark twinkling sky! I thought I would “ooh & ahh” when I released it; but what followed was unexpected. I grabbed my first lantern & my husband helped me hold it under the bright flame to light it. When it was ready & full of hot air… I held it up with both hands ready to release it!! Strangely enough, I was having had a hard time letting it go. A majority of the people had released their lanterns & with a trembling voice I kept asking my husband if he was ready. I think I was really asking myself if I was ready. It had my dad’s name on it & I just held onto it for one more minute. With both hands gripping the lantern, I stretched my arms upward as high as I possibly could before rising to my tip toes, not ready to let go just yet. After a moment of gazing at his name lit brightly behind the orange glow of the lantern; I started to loosen my death grip on the edges & I felt the lantern literally start to pull upward. I knew it was ready. I knew I was ready.
I took a deep breathe & I let it RiSE. I wouldn’t take my eyes off of it for well over a minute; not blinking in fear of losing sight of it in the thousands of lanterns that lit up the night sky with a warm orange glow. As I was watching it, not blinking once, I had tears streaming down my face. The feeling was SO overwhelmingly beautiful, powerful, moving, & just straight up MAGICAL!! It is unlike any feeling I have ever experienced, & I’m an emotional mess so that’s saying something. When I finally broke my gaze with my dad’s lantern I literally inhaled so deeply, not realizing I had been holding my breath. That first breathe of air has never felt as refreshing & NEEDED. I truly felt a weight lift from not only my shoulders, but from my heart. As I am typing this with dust still in my hair, I am insanely choked up remembering the feeling. I will never forget it. I love you, Dad.
As I was firing up my second lantern, I grabbed my son & I held him in my arms. There were fewer, but still tons of glowing lanterns floating across the immense black sky; I figured this lantern would be easier to keep track of. Losing Darren not long ago, I needed to hold on to the innocence of my son. To his mom, Carlotta, may this bring you a little peace. I watched as Darren’s lantern rose higher, higher, & soared up, up & away to the bright white stars high in the sky <3 I didn’t break my gaze until it finally joined the other lanterns & continued to soar away with the orange radiant glow that looked like a river in the sky. Much like the first lantern, I couldn’t hold back the tears. Again, I felt that weight lift. I kissed my son, thankful for another moment with him. Thankful & grateful for my life, what we have, & every person in it. It was insanely HUMBLING. Darren, until we meet again <3
It sounds selfish but I had been so caught up in my lanterns & what they meant to me… I didn’t stop to look around me. Both my lanterns were lighting up the sky & I began to look around at the thousands standing beside me. These beautiful people were crying, laughing, hugging, smiling, & all of us just standing in awe at the extremely powerful moment we had all shared. The glow of the lanterns were now lighting up the hills beyond us; they flew FAR. I walked beyond the radius of people to stand back & take it all in. I was still carrying my son & we were just looking up into the vast lit sky; all of a sudden I felt my husband put his arms around my son & I, & I knew I was HOME.
Together we RiSE.
V I D E O: You better have read my post first guys! I know, I know it's long; but the video will make much more sense & be that more beautiful after :)
DISCLAIMER: I'm a total amature photographer & can't take photos in the dark to save my life! You get the point though.
^^ Because I thought we were trying to be serious for once? Joke's on me!
This was such a beautiful read! Had me in tears! It could be the early morning hour (nursing a newborn) or that this experience just hit me. I could feel how powerful this was in your writing. Beautiful!
Thank you so much!! It could very well have been the delusional early morning hours for you ;) Buuuuut I'm going to go with it was moving! Haha! It was truly an experience of a lifetime & I'm pretty proud for capturing the details really well. It's my favorite article <3
I love it, thank you for sharing ❤ I hope to do this one day!
Aww Thanks Liz!! It is worth every penny & more!! I hope to see pictures from yours one day! :)
Great read. Had me in tears while i held my 2 year old in my arms. I could feel all the love in your words. I remember your dad too. Thanks for a great read. Hopefully my fanily and I get to experience this one day.
Awww thank you very very much. You had me tear up just saying you felt all the love in my words :) That's exactly what I was hoping for! I definitely hope you & your family get to experience this one day as well!!! <3
Beautifully written and photographed, Katrina. You are really talented at both. Thanks so much for sharing <3
Thank you!!! That means the WORLD coming from you :) :) !!
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