Tell Your LIB Story: Kari Tervo LIB 2012
Posted by: Lewey Knox
LOVE IS TOTALLY NORMAL
a Lightning in a Bottle 2012 experience
by Kari Tervo
I needed to get out of town.
Well, I needed to get out of my apartment, at least. Crossing the street on a walk light about a month before, I was slammed by a Prius in the crosswalk. Now, I was severely injured and in a lot of pain. And the worst? I couldn’t walk. I was using a walker to move around, wincingly edging my way around my dark one-bedroom apartment. My boyfriend, Matt, was at work all day. My cat was getting a little freaked out by my crying jags. Things felt pretty awful. I couldn’t walk, and walking is one of my favorite things. I make up excuses to go to the post office just to get in a quick walk. But now, it took agonizing minutes just to drag myself to the bathroom on my walker.
A fluffy cloud of goodwill had emerged early after the accident. Good wishes and flowers arrived from shocked friends, and even strangers. But that happy cloud had all but passed, my support system overburdened by my enduring needs. When would I walk again? When would I feel okay again? It seemed like things just kept getting worse. I was stuck in that apartment by myself all day, feeling physically and emotionally helpless. I couldn’t clean up due to my injuries. My increasingly-cluttered apartment reflected the mess inside my head.
Like my apartment, I needed some love.
Lightning in a Bottle 2012 was coming up, but it was doubtful Matt and I would make it for our third year. How could we get around the grounds if I was on a walker? I couldn’t contribute physically; how could Matt put together the trip on his own? And how could we afford it? Limited by my injuries, I was working much less. It seemed like LIB 2012 was not happening for us.
But I needed some love. And when it comes to LIB, love happens.
Despite my glum pessimism that we’d never get there, Matt rallied. He concentrated his last energy into coordinating our camping trip. He would get us to LIB. To that love. To that place you’re going to feel okay–no doubt. He gathered up our tent and coolers from years past, took trip after trip to the stores, and packed up the car. We rented a wheelchair, and he maneuvered it, like my injuries, into our usual pre-LIB routine. He allowed me to wave commands at him from the couch like a cranky, injured general. Finally, we were ready to go.
We made it to Oak Canyon Ranch four hours later than planned. We limped onto the disabled-access campsite. Matt pitched the tent in the dark while I wearily aimed a flashlight aloft. I wasn’t feeling the same excitement as in previous years. However, a spark of hope flickered in my heart as the flashlight flickered across the tent poles: Here, I can feel okay. I’ve felt great at LIB before. Surely I can get to okay.
Finally, our campsite was ready. LIB 2012 was happening. And it was happening for me after all, thanks to Matt’s love.
And then came the LIB love, that indescribable, palpable element that washes over you the second you set foot on the grounds. That gleam in the ether that jolts the earth onto an axis of understanding, not evil. I couldn’t dance like in past years, but that LIB love was there, no different than any year. I shuffled onto the main festival grounds on my walker. Three feet towards the Bamboo stage, I stopped. I felt overwhelmed. The beats pulsed at my brain, reminding me who I was, where I was: one with the earth, these people, this frequency. The music soared, and I soared with it. The relief and release were almost encumbering. Tears flowed down my cheeks. I felt more than okay. I felt the love.
I spent most of the second day in the nearby hospital, tending to the pain from my broken bones. Sleeping on a thin camping mat on the hard ground wasn’t helping any. The doctor wanted me to stay in the hospital. But I said no. I needed to get back to LIB. It’s true it didn’t feel exactly the same as other years: I wished I could dance! I wished I could wander! I wished I could complain with everyone else about trudging up Lumi Hill! But the love was at LIB, not the hospital. LIB was where I needed to be. I *oofed* back onto my sleeping mat and rested.
The third day–our first full day at LIB–Matt pushed me around the grounds in my wheelchair. He avoided jolty bumps on the rocky terrain as best he could. We stopped and talked to a lot of friendly people. Many times, they’d ask why I was in a wheelchair, and I told my story. But we talked about other things, too. Like it was totally normal. I felt wanted, respected, understood, and liked. I started to feel better.
LIB love was working on me.
The last night, Matt and I were exhausted. I was in pain, and he’d been pushing me around in that wheelchair for days. We napped through the evening. We woke up after the main stages had closed down for the night. We were disappointed to miss the show, but decided to go down to the grounds anyway. Matt strolled, and I rolled.
We aimed for a metal heart sculpture, 10 feet in the air and lit pink with neon. The music was over, but right here in front of me was some love. Here was where I needed to be. We settled across the path and gazed at the heart. I breathed in. I exhaled. I allowed myself to feel the love in the air. For the first time in a long time, my roiling thoughts were still.
Suddenly, I heard a New Zealand accent: “Are you enjoying the heart?” I looked to the right and there was a man grinning next to my wheelchair. “Definitely,” I smiled back. He turned out to be the heart’s artist. He was wonderful to talk to, friendly and funny and kind. Some other campers joined us. The artist clambered up into his heart art and did flips and posed inside it while we laughed.
Mid-shenanigan, the artist fell out of the heart. Matt rushed over and asked if he was okay. The wind knocked out of him, he gasped, “I just want to lay here for a minute.” Out of nowhere, a group of strangers gently laid themselves upon him as if to say, “We care; you’ll be okay.” The artist recovered, laughing as he rose.
That kind of random healing happens at LIB. It is totally normal.
The artist asked why I was in a wheelchair, and I told him what happened. He told me that several years prior, he had been hit by a car, too, and both of his legs were broken. He couldn’t walk for six months, and he felt helpless. Tears streamed down his face when he said, “The day I could walk again was the happiest day of my life.” He looked me in the eye and said, “You’re going to make it. It’s hard. I know what you’re going through. But you’re going to make it.” He gave me a hug and he left. With his words, I felt bolstered. With his love, I felt hope.
Since my injuries, Matt had been calling me a flightless bird. The name of the artist, who had also been hit by a car? Kiwi. That kind of coincidence happens at LIB. It is totally normal.
Matt and I enjoyed the after-hours music at a DJ booth shaped like a space ship. We sat on a blanket on the hillside. We enjoyed the scene for a while: the music, the dancing people, the costumes, the lights, the smiles, the love and the joy. A remix of “You Got the Love” pumped from the space ship’s speakers. Yes, I had the love. I knew I had the love. Everyone here at LIB, we all had the love. I exhaled and smiled at the scene. I felt peace.
The sun began to rise. Later that day, with the sun setting, LIB 2012 came to an end.
LIB 2012 is over, but the sun still shines through that love. Before I arrived, I felt lost: a flightless bird without hope, unable to progress. The love that LIB encourages came through for me just when I needed it most. I felt the love through the music, the art, and especially the people. It’s a feeling I revisit often when my mind needs to get out of town, or at least my apartment. Matt took this great photo of Kiwi’s heart art, and it anchors my positive memories.
After months of physical therapy and the magic of life and healing, I can walk on my own again. This year at LIB, I’ll be dancing instead of wincing (in costume–keep an eye out for Dancer the Rave Deer!). I know that sometime in the meantime, I’ll probably wince again. Events conspire to create moments of pain. Life happens. But there exists a mind oasis where we create a community, a buffer against the bad, a place we’re aloft, above it all, in peace. At Lightning in a Bottle, love happens, too. It is totally normal.