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Subject: The Ad Astra Per Aspera Gathering - Utah 2003
From: Butterfly Bill <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sun, 20 Jul 2003 07:02:00 -0500
The official motto of the state of Kansas is "Ad astra per aspera", which means "to the stars thru difficulties". This is the nickname that I have given in my private thoughts to this gathering, the 2003 national in the Uinta Mountains of Utah. It was a difficult one for me, physically strenuous, with many obstacles to overcome in its early days. The main meadow was at an elevation of 9500 feet, and Bus Village and Welcome Home above were at 9800. The rarified air was part of the problems, but the cold was more; the temperatures got down into the 30s F most nights and rarely climbed above 70 in the day, and I didn't have the luxuries of my van available but had to sleep in my tent down in the center of the gathering. But there were many stars attained: friendships warmly renewed, electric music jams beheld, a stirring ongoing drama with the Forest Service that ended in understanding, peace, and hope, and discovering that my heart condition had not disabled me as much as I feared.
I left Lawrence, Kansas, my hometown, early on Sunday, July 22nd., spent the night in Ft. Collins, Colorado, and by noon of Monday I was on I-80 in Wyoming just coming in on Rock Springs when rain started hitting my windshield. I said to myself, "Oh shit, is it doing this at the gathering too?" It looked more and more like it was as the rain intensified and continued all the way to Exit 41, where I got off to go to Lyman. I found one of the motels that Principle had included in the list that he had posted on a.g.r., filed its location in my mind for future reference, and proceeded to follow the directions in the continuing rain. There was an error in the directions, it told me to look for a nonexistent road leading off the highway I was on - but I followed the highway until the pavement ended and found three dirt roads branching off. One was marked with what looked like it was a pile of three rocks before the top one had fallen off. That and all of the other dirt roads leading off that I had seen on the way were covered with shiny mud. I tried driving on one of them for a few hundred feet, and after some slip-sliding away I turned around and went back to the pavement.
I decided that, even if I did succeed in climbing all the way up to the site, I would be cold, wet, and miserable, so I decided to return to the motel and spend the night, hoping that it would clear up by the next day. On the way back I stopped at a Maverik convenience store, and the woman working there confirmed that the gathering was indeed up the road where I had found the marker. "I've had a lot of people asking me about that."
The weather reports on the motel TV all predicted that not only would the rain continue all over Utah thru Tuesday, but that there was a chance of snow in the higher elevations of the mountains. It was supposed to start clearing up on Wednesday, and I figured it would take at least a day of sunshine for the roads to dry out enough to drive on, so I decided to make my next try on Thursday. There not being much to do in Lyman, Wyoming, I decided to go to Salt Lake City to kill two days. There is a Motel 6 there within walking distance of downtown.
So on Tuesday morning I was in Temple Square, a place I figured was quite possibly the farthest place I could be sociologically from a Rainbow Gathering. I have always had a simultaneous fascination and revulsion with the Mormons. On one hand, their rigid moral code leaves little room for alternate gender types like me and doesn't even let me drink coffee much less smoke the weed, but on the other hand, I have always admired the industriousness that enabled them to cross the country while pushing handcarts and then build edifices like the Temple and the Tabernacle and put musical groups like the Tabernacle Choir in them. Theirs was arguably the most successful of all the nineteenth century utopian experiments. They share with the Rainbows many values about helping one another, and they take care of their own often much better than the government does.
The streets of downtown Salt Lake are wide and immaculately clean, but difficult to find a place to park in, and there is an incredibly diverse collection of ethnic restaurants. I went to the most lofty and elaborate public library building I have ever seen to post a message via Google to a.g.r. about the error in directions, and later I went to the main store of Deseret Books where I dropped about $100 on assorted books and Choir CDs.
And I demonstrated that it is indeed possible for a man to walk the streets of Salt Lake City and visit Temple Square while wearing a rayon floral print dress. In the square were many young girls with nametags bearing flags of various nations, who appeared to be completing their missionary training. They smiled and said hi, asked me where I was from, if they could give me any more information, and I took them up on their offers several times.
On Thursday morning, July 26, the sun was out and I returned to the road leading to the gathering, and found it mostly dry and hard, tho there were still a few puddles here and there. For all of the rest of the days I was at the gathering, the sky was clear and sunny. It never once rained, and there were therefore no rainbow sightings.
On the way up I came up on a herd of few hundred cattle standing right in the road. I rolled down my window and looked questioningly at a cowboy on horseback in jeans and chaps who looked like he came right out of a cigarette ad, and he said to me, "Just drive on thru, they'll get out of the way." So I inched my way thru many cows with suckling calves hanging from their teats, and finally got thru without injuring any of them or my van. As I climbed higher I began to see large patches of snow on the ground to the sides of the road, all melting rapidly.
At a fork in the road, I came upon three cars with folks who were undeniably Rainbow standing around them. I asked if this was the correct way to the gathering, and they said yes, but the rangers "might not let me in". I proceeded up anyway, and when I got to near the top of the hill I saw three Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer SUVs parked at the side of the road, and a Rainbow brother working front gate who confirmed that I indeed could not go onto the road leading into where the gathering was, and that vehicles leaving would not be allowed to re-enter.
After I asked why, I was given the first version of a story that would be changed and slowly given more details until I finally got the complete and correct version two days later. He told me that "some A-campers tried to stop a car from being towed and threw rocks at the rangers." After the brother had left me, two lady rangers came up to my car window and said that I would not be allowed to enter and that I should go back down the hill to a parking lot that had been set up below and wait for a shuttle, but that "there was a chance that the road block would be lifted soon". I got out of my van and went up to a male ranger in one of the LEO vehicles, who said that there had been an "altercation" where some rangers had been "assaulted".
As I was returning to my van, one of the ladies said to me, "You're Bill, right? Butterfly Bill?", to which I said, "Yes". I had never met either of them before, so I surmised that somebodies in the F.S. were perhaps indeed reading a.g.r. As I went down the hill, I saw two RVs parked in a field by the road, and I drove up near them. There I met Strider, who said he didn't mind if I parked there for the rest of the day and the night. I listened for a while as he talked with a local who was very anti-government and anti-authoritarian discoursing on about the legal challenges he had made to various people, then retired to my van to ultimately listen to the silence. My plan was to wait until dawn and see if I could sneak in.
(to be continued)
Subject: The Ad Astra per Aspera Gathering - part 2
I was up at first blue on Friday morning, July 27, and scraped frost off my windshield and then started to drive up again. But I had barely gotten onto the road when I saw three pairs of headlights coming at me. The driver of the first car turned out to be another Rainbow brother who told me thru our opened windows, "They won't let you in." For the second time I let stubborn faith guide me and went to the top anyway, where I saw a single LEO truck still parked where the others had been before, and a brother working gate who told me that the road was still closed. As he was talking to me, the LEO briefly turned on his headlights.
I figured I would be more likely to get a ride back up from the main lot below than from halfway up the road by Strider, so down there I went. It was several miles from the top. I found a good place to park for a long while, loaded up a backpack with my tent and some eating gear, then walked to the shuttle point. I accepted an offer of some coffee, and settled in for perhaps a long wait, it being so early in the morning. But before ten minutes had passed a clean and new Dodge Caravan appeared with the words "Shuttle" in big vinyl letters on its side. The driver of the van stopped to ask for some directions, and I learned that this was in fact a shuttle from the Salt Lake City airport, and that he was looking for Welcome Home, where he had been asked by a sister to leave a backpack that an airline had misplaced as luggage. I told him sure, I would show him to Welcome Home, and got a ride up.
At the top of the hill again, I heard a new version of the story. This time it was some "kids from Chaos Camp" who had thrown some rocks and snowballs at rangers on horseback after they had circled a tow truck. The roadblock was "to punish us" for that. People were allowed to walk in on the road, so I walked what seemed like about a mile and a half to where a bus village had grown in the days before the roadblock. I asked about the trailhead and was shown down a rutty and now very muddy side road that had many cars and busses parked along it.
A few hundred yards down I heard someone shout "Bill", and found that the voice belonged to Marken. He was in his live-in panel van, and he was just getting ready to take a load of stuff down for Information. He piled the covered plastic tubs and tarps on a little red kid's wagon and wrapped a few ropes around them and the wagon. I decided to help him as he got it down, he pulling while I kept it from tipping over. This way I could also be shown the way down into the gathering.
The trail was over many large rocks in some places, and wet swampy grass in others. Marken told me that there had been over a foot of snow on the ground for three days. Today it all was still melting and saturating the ground. (There would be no fire danger this year!) He had on rubber boots, and I had some too, but they were now at the bottom of the hill. I was wearing old high-top jogging shoes that were starting to develop cracks, and my feet got thoroughly cold and wet. One of the tires on the wagon started going flat shortly after starting down. It took over an hour and a half to get all the way to where Info was being set up, at the tree line overlooking a huge meadow, with another flat mountain ridge in the distance over which the sun would be setting in the evening.
I found a place behind to set up my dome tent, then started to walk back up. Marken had said that there was another route that was less steep, but longer in distance, so I decided to try it out. The former Sparrow Daydancer who was now asking to be called Sage showed me the way as she walked with me. It lead down a jeep road thru the trees to another meadow behind, where it circled around on ground with only some low rolling hills to another small bus village, behind which the forest service road climbed back up to the top. I spent about an hour having snacks in Sage's bus, then proceeded up the road. It was indeed a gentler grade, but it was certainly longer, about five miles. I walked all the way up, taking a wrong turn down a side road and having to come back, and my feet were hollering at me as I was practicing the deep breathing with aftergulp technique that I had developed when I was still working construction during the worsening days of my congestive heart failure symptoms back in 2000. But by the time I got back to the top endorphins were setting in, and I was invoking as a mantra the words of Myrtle Fillmore, co-founder of the Unity Church, "I am a child of God and I do not inherit illness."
By the time I got back out to Welcome Home it was still about four hours before sunset. I was planning on getting a ride back down to parking and my van, but I heard "Hi, Butterfly" followed by "I'm Carla" as this woman with her hair dyed purple came walking toward me. I gave her a big hug, and then decided not to go down just yet, for it looked like the movie was up here - and especially if it was going to star Carla, whom I had previously only gotten the chance to behold in person for about ten minutes at Arizona. Two brothers were also working gate with her.
I sat on a rock by Welcome Home for a little while, but soon I was getting up and going up to cars coming in. There were approaching from both directions on the road, from the route I had taken in, and from another that came in directly from Evanston. "Are you just getting in? Welcome Home. That road over there leads into the gathering, but they've got it blocked off right now. Go (back) down the road for about five miles and there'll be a parking lot, and you can get a shuttle back." I watched Carla as she explained the situation to other drivers, some of whom were rather annoyed by the inability to drive in, and observed her sweet and sympathetic voice which I am sure suits her well as a social worker.
There were now three LEO vehicles parked in a line by the side of the road opposite from Welcome Home, and six officers. Two were women, and they looked like the ones who had spoken to me the day before. One's nametag said "Corky Hamilton", and she had a very noticeable Texas accent and a warm disposition, and she did most of the first talking with people. The other four men did a lot of standing by the sides of the trucks, often with their arms folded in front of them in the body language defensive position, and apprehensive looks on their faces. They all appeared to be very uncomfortable. One of them asked me "How are things going with you?" seemingly as a translation of "Who are you and what the fuck are you doing here?", and I said I was good friends with Carla as she nodded in agreement.
There were now two separate shuttle routes operating. The shuttle from the parking lot below was not allowed to enter and go all the way to the dropoff point in Bus Village, and the one coming from Bus Village was not allowed to come out onto the main road. All the luggage had to be transferred from one vehicle to the other, and the place this was happening was right in front of A-Camp, about 50 yards in from Welcome Home. One of the shuttle vehicles at the time was an old shortie school bus, and to back it into the entrance of the gathering road so that it could turn around to go back down took the aid of two people outside shouting instructions to the driver. There was one time when I and one of the LEOs were both giving directions at the same time, and he blew up at me for interfering with him. I backed off without a word and let him finish. A few minutes later it was time for the bus to move again and I heard one of the Rainbow brothers ask, "Do you want to direct this one, officer", and this time he declined, letting the Rainbow people do it all.
Before we could let any vehicle into the gathering road, we had to go over and get a LEO's personal approval. We were being allowed to let in those that were carrying supplies, and they always came over and looked thru the windows to make sure that there was indeed stuff that looked like bulk supplies inside. One time a pickup truck with a big plastic water tank on the back came up, and I heard one of the officers say to another, "Go over and check to see that that's really water they're carrying in there." The drivers of the vehicles being let inside had to surrender their driver's licenses to a ranger, to be retrieved when they came back out.
After a few hours there was a changing of the guard, some of the LEOs left and were replaced by others. One of the new ones was a bald-headed black man who was really curt and abusive in his speech. He seemed to have an inferiority complex about his race, and it came out in his dealings with people.
In the course of this, I got my first coherent version of the incident leading to the roadblock. A tow truck was connecting up to a parked car. A bunch of "kids", not connected with A or Chaos or any other established camp, sat in a circle in front of the tow truck. Some rangers on horses came and moved in on the circle, and the kids started to throw snowballs at the horses. Some of the horses spooked and went directly into the circle, stepping on some of the people sitting there, and injuring one enough that he had to go to hospital. The kids responded by throwing rocks, finally breaking a window on a LEO truck.
My first stint of working front gate went on for a few more hours until sunset was approaching. A brother from A-Camp had come out to help, and he had some real problems with the way I dress. "Why don't you put on some pants? You're a man." I told him early on that this was the Rainbow Gathering where I can wear anything I fucking want, and a few people nearby and hearing applauded me, but still the tension went on. Finally I asked for a ride down from the driver of one of the cars that was just getting in.
She was a woman in her late teens, and there were two other women her age in the car, which was a Dodge Caravan. There was also inside a middle-aged brother with a dog, and it soon became apparent that he was drunk. He started to ramble on about how he used to be a Hell's Angel. Several hundred yards down the road, he realized that the car was going all the way downhill and asked the driver to stop and turn around. She offered to let him out, but he started insisting that she turn around and go back up. Then a Shanti Sena situation developed, with me finally very gently talking him into getting out of the car. "You've gotta get out of the car, you're making this sister very nervous." This was all complicated by a door handle on the side door that was broken so that it could only be opened from the outside. We finally got him out and I jumped back in the car, closed the door, and said, "Skedaddle". This had been her first time approaching a gathering. I tried to explain about A-Camp and how he was not typical of Rainbow Gatherers, but I don't think I succeeded very well. She said to her friends, "I'm leaving as soon as we get down", and she probably won't come to another gathering.
(to be continued)
Subject: The Ad Astra per Aspera Gathering - part 3
I slept the night in my van, got up at dawn on Saturday, June 28, filled a big army backpack I've got with blankets and cold weather clothes and other assorted survival essentials, and carried it and my aluminum folding bed to the shuttle point. The pack felt like about 40 pounds. This time I had to wait for an hour and a half for the shuttle. I got off at the top and walked it all in to Bus Village and stopped for a brief while to again talk with and get offered breakfast from Marken. Then I proceeded down the hill and got lost in the woods. Finally, using the principle of walk downhill until you find a waterway then follow it, I found the gathering, except in this case it was finding a PVC water pipe. I stumbled into Kid Village, where I met Heather Reese who helped me carry the bed all the rest of the way to Information.
I unloaded the pack and set up the bed in my tent, crashed on it for about an hour, then got up to explore. I came across the banner for Rainbow Crystal Kitchen and soon Gary Stubbs came out to greet me. He asked if "I was going to the meeting", I asked, "What meeting?, and he answered, "The one between Garrick and the Forest Service people," It was to start in only about fifteen minutes, so I accompanied him as he went, he showing me for the first time where Garrick Beck's tipi was, and well as Robbie Gordon's right next to it.
There was a circle of people forming, and Garrick sitting on chair among them. I walked up to him saying, "You God damn gathering-hijacking, permit- signing ... TRAITOR!", and he smiled and we had a big hug, followed soon after by one with Robbie. I conversed and got caught up with Robbie after not seeing him for seven months as the people arrived for the meeting.
The meeting started with about a dozen Rainbow people, and several uniformed Forest service people, including Malcolm Jowers, the incident commander, Stephen Ryberg, the head ranger of the Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Tim Tidwell, a man with white hair and moustache who was the resource (as opposed to law enforcement) superintendent, Peter Prince, another sympathetic resource ranger, and the aforementioned Corky Hamilton. Malcolm Jowers had a slim athletic build, sandy blond hair, a large jaw almost like Jay Leno, and talked with a thick Alabamish southern accent. His eyes were hidden behind tinted sunglasses. Most of the Rainbow people found something to sit down on, but most of the FS people remained standing.
Garrick started it off by passing around a letter that he had gotten from Ryberg explaining the roadblock, which I am posting separately. It gave the Forest Service's version of the tow-truck confrontation, which mentioned the rock throwing and window breaking, but not the injury to the man from the horse. As it went around he made a few remarks. "We believe in nonviolence, which includes the right to mouth off, but not go beyond. I advocate the Smile and Wave Policy, which means that when we encounter Forest Service people, we smile and wave, while thinking whatever we want."
After Garrick finished the people in the circle started to talk in turn going around the circle (we didn't pass a feather), and most, including I, just introduced ourselves with our names. One brother started to ask about Bus Village, talking about the hardship of some of the people who had brought live-in vehicles and were not able to have easy access to the gathering. Garrick tried and succeeded to cut it short, saying that this would all be addressed in detail later. Another sister went off briefly on another tangent, expressing her "concerns for the health and safety of the people at the gathering" and talking about shitters and water filters. The rest mostly just introduced themselves.
It got around to Gary Stubbs, and he said, "I am not one who necessarily endorses a smile and wave policy. Malcolm, - I - am - Gary - Stubbs", he said, saying each word slowly and distinctly. Jowers nodded and said the he had heard about him. Gary then went on to deride the parking incident, where "one of the sweetest, kindest persons in the family was kicked and trampled by one of the Forest Service's horses. This was despicable and unnecessary." He talked on some more, his voice rising, until a bunch of people started talking back trying to calm him down, and an om was finally started. Gary calmed down, and as it proceeded on around from him, Plunker and several regular people in the parking crew arrived.
It got back to Garrick, who, starting off with saying, "The nature of the problem is this..." described in detail how the permit had been partially rescinded due to the parking lot incident.
He said, "I'm not into road closures. Why do something to all of us for something done only by a few?" He said that at a meeting on May the 8th with the rangers it was agreed that parking would be worked out with the parking crews who were directly involved, and not with himself. He went on, "We have always had operating plans, separate from the permit. Montana Mud, Bright Shining Light, and Yo Mama's kitchens were all asked to move because they were to close to waterways, and they all did. Some people have suggested perhaps having a system where vehicles would be given playing cards that indicated their function. Clubs would mean shuttle, spades supply, hearts C.A.L.M., and diamonds special vehicles used in Shanti Sena." (This proposal was not ultimately adopted.)
People then began to talk back and forth across the circle, without much confusion resulting. Gary spoke again, "This punishment is draconian and wrongful punishment", then he went on more about the "trampling of the sweetest gentlest heart on earth". "If the LEOs screw up, we have no recourse." Plunker spoke for a while, "Most of the details of the operating plan we have no problem with. Dogs on leashes, OK, we need that to protect the wildlife. Keep kitchens 300 feet away from the streams to protect the fish, all right with us. But now lets talk about the gate conditions..."
Malcolm interjected, "Lets talk about the riot with the tow truck." The word "riot" got some disagreeing reactions around the circle, but he went on. "We felt a lack of willingness on the part of the Rainbow Family to handle parking problems. If there had been some Shanti Sena people around, we would have preferred to deal with it thru them, but there were none around. The towing was not being allowed, we had to bring in our horses to get the prisoner out. Warnings were given 2 or 3 times, but not heeded. One thing you learn in the USA is that an officer's order must be followed. Not to follow is a safety risk for every one."
"Now the parking area below is a problem." Plunker responded, "We have taken to calling that 'the Mud Pit'", and there were laughs all around to that name. "We need to be tighter. We are and will be handling our vehicles. Now I want to address the issue of vehicles stopping and loading on the side of the road. We need a place where they can pull off and do this. One area that looks like it might be good is what we are calling the Elk Camp [referring to the social club, not the animal]. We also need a place where locals who just want to come in for a few hours, the spectators, can park and walk in easily."
"I'll tell you something I've learned over the years: hippies are stupid. They will walk up and down the trail and out into it sometimes oblivious to the cars coming and going. We need a place where they can park out of the way of other cars. We don't want to cut off their playground."
"Some people LIKE to do shuttle, for them it is a free sideshow." Right after this remark was the first time I saw Malcolm Jowers crack a smile. "There should be no cruising, going down and then back up, around and around. There are some locals who look just like us, but if you ask the shuttle guys, they can tell who's who." Garrick said, "There have been good calls at the gate mostly, there was only one case of a supply vehicle being turned back."
The discussion went on to more detailed descriptions of what had happened and what we wanted to do about the parking. One brother mentioned how someone who had had her car towed now had to pay a $650 towing fee before she could get her car back, or even have access to her possessions inside. Jowers brought up how some people were starting to park and camp on a piece of private land nearby, and Garrick promised, "We'll stop 'em." Jowers said that "the two way radios have been a problem", and it was replied that many of them didn't have the power to get all the way down to the Mud Pit. The conversation proceeded mostly very smoothly, with no yelling and little interrupting.
At one point Jowers was talking to Gary, and he said, "I'd be tickled to call Shanti Sena, if I felt like you were protecting MY rights. Gary replied, " Malcolm, You have my promise that I will never engage in an act of violence against you or any other Forest Service officer, and I will personally intervene and protect your safety if I ever see anyone else attempting a violent act."
Ryberg and Jowers asked that what we were deciding all be written down, and Garrick said that we would be doing that as soon as this meeting ended. He was asked when we could again start driving in, and Jowers replied, "Process must be followed", and said it might take the rest of the day for the rangers to look at the Elk camp field and relay to him their OK.
The second to last comments were from Plunker, who went on about how the horses were sometimes walking into the sensitive areas, and another person piped up, "What, no poop bags?", and Jowers replied, "This ain't D.C., brother", to which there were giggles all around.
The meeting started breaking up and Robbie Gordon and I stood by Garrick's chair and kibitzed as he wrote the letter they had requested, which I also include in a separate post. It was handwritten in ballpoint pen on pages torn out of a spiral notebook. When we were done and those who cared had gotten a chance to look at it, Garrick said he was going to show his approval with a "smile and wave". He asked someone to hold the paper in front of him, and he smiled and gave a wave with his right hand, and it was given to one of Ryberg's assistant rangers.
After the meeting Gary Stubbs walked up to Malcolm Jowers and reiterated his promise about protecting him from violence, and I wish I could have had a camera to record the long handshake that followed.
(to be continued)
Subject: The Ad Astra per Aspera Gathering - part 4
My feeling near the end of the meeting between Garrick and the Family and the Forest Service in front of Garrick's tipi was such that I thought, if this were a movie, in the background music the strings would be lush and soaring and the brasses would be coming in for a tutti crescendo. I left lifty and drifty and walked around the camps and just let myself happen in on the happenings -and they were many and good that afternoon. There was a drum show by Trading Circle that with complicated and together rhythms, that included the likes of Fantuzzi, the Hare Krishnas were harmonious and spirited at the Arizona devotees camp, a sister with a soft and sweet voice intoned "we are one in harmony, singing in celebration..." back behind the counter at Information. Here were some of the stars I was getting to thru the difficulties.
As evening approached dinner circle was called in Main Meadow. It could all be observed from the Info booth, slightly up a slope at the edge of the trees. I was walking toward the circle out on the grass and crossed paths with Marken who was coming down with the Magic Hat buckets. He extended one of them to me and asked, "Do you want to pass the Magic Hat?", and I did a fake histrionic rendition of "Oh, my God", but I had been more or less expecting it. On the road at the top of the hill the previous day and that morning two people driving by had asked if I was going to be on the bank, and responded approvingly when I said probably. The hat pass was low key that the first time, with no musicians.
The following morning, Sunday June the 29th., I went back up the hill to see if the roadblock might have been lifted already, but it wasn't. I had decided down below that if it still hadn't been lifted, I would stick around again for a few hours and help work front gate, so I did. There was not that much traffic on a Sunday morning, and all of the people on the regular parking crew, including Carla, were probably still asleep. I went back down around noon, and this time finally found a trail that led me in. (However the following day I didn't, but chanced on a different one that still worked. I don't think I ever took the same way back down twice.) I took a nap and spent mostly a low key not that spectacular day, a period of respite that refreshed me. I was over by Robbie's and Garrick's that evening before circle, and Garrick told me that the roadblock was finally down.
The morning of Monday the 30th., I returned topside, went out to Welcome Home, and this time found no LEO vehicle parked there. There was only one young sister working the road. I got a shuttle ride down, started up my van, and drove back up. When I asked the sister about driving in, she said, "Wait a minute, I'll have to talk to Horse." Horse turned out to be a brother with whom I had worked the gate Sunday; he walked toward my van, recognized me thru the windshield, and beckoned me in without saying a word. I found a small and level place just off the road, parked for the duration, and took down another 40 pound load. To keep my energy up I used the A La Verga mantra, which goes, "A la verga, A la verga, Verga verga, A la a la; A la manga, A la manga, A la Manga, Manga manga, A la a la" -with the "verga" pronounced vur-guh with a thick gringo R. I didn't get lost on the way down, but got lost down in the camp. There were two smaller meadows containing kitchens and other activities separated by bands of woods, and clear trails were never marked thru them.
From Info I could look across the meadow and see Garrick's and Robbie's tipis, and whether the doors were open. When they did open, I went over for what Garrick was calling The Morning Show. A succession of visitors came and went until about one in the afternoon, when he closed the door and had no misgivings about kicking people out, he wanting his afternoons and evening free. I went over to copy the letters that he had passed out at the meeting Saturday, and had to leave before I could finish. Since those were the only copies he had of the letters, he refused to let them leave the tipi. He would also let me have only one document at a time. He kept strict muster on all his documents, and I appreciated his feelings and didn't object.
The next morning, July the 1st, was the last morning that I was able to enjoy a few hours of drum-free silence, from about five until about seven. From then on until the sixth, I could hear somebody playing drums somewhere 24 hours a day. Information was located in the loud part of town, there was screaming and yelling and drum playing and horn blowing all night long getting loudest from midnight until about three in the morning. It was near enough to Haribol kitchen to hear clearly the Hare Krishnas that they kept up for six hours every evening. But I was still able to sleep; there was so much of it that it all blended into white noise that I could shove into the background, and I had learned in the jailhouse that sooner or later you will get so exhausted that you fall asleep no matter what you hear going on around you.
And this exhaustion usually set in between midnight and one every morning, as it does in Babylon. I have found that I don't need that much sleep, 5 hours total per day is enough, and I am quite possibly the morningest morning person in the RFOLL. When the sun gets up, so do I. Around 1 in the afternoon my hypertension pills make me want to take another nap of an hour or two. And this makes me out of phase with most of the other people at a gathering. I have to pack in my own granola and powdered milk to eat in the morning, because no kitchen will be serving breakfast until 4 or 5 hours after I have arisen. I didn't witness any of the music at Granola Funk or eat any of Lovin' Oven's wee hour pastries, because by the time they usually really got going, my get up and go had gotten up and gone.
I went over to Garrick's to finish the copying of the letters, and found him very meticulously sorting out many pieces of paper, folding them up, and putting them into plastic baggies. "This is my filing system." Every morning he tidied up his tipi in a flurry of rapid activity, moving everything back into the precise places he had designated for them. He was quite possibly the most fastidious housekeeper in the camp.
The main event of the day was to be the "official" Rainbow Council, where Plunker had said he would stand up and explain all his actions. Garrick was also going to do the same. Round about noon we all came into Main Meadow, and most of us discovered for the first time that in the previously empty field somebody had erected a peace pole. It was straight log about ten feet tall, and somebody had started to carve some totem pole faces in it, but this was still unfinished. Plunker immediately expressed his disdain for its presence there, saying he didn't like totems, that he preferred an empty field where each individual can envision whatever he or she wants at its center, and asked that the circle not form around the pole, but off to its side. The rest of us honored that request, and the pole wound up standing a few feet to the outside of the circle we sat in.
I asked that the council not begin until Robbie had arrived, so we all waited and talked informally among ourselves, mostly about the pole. I finally went over to where I could see around the slight hill in the meadow, found Robbie walking very slowly while supporting himself on the back of his wheelchair. I went over and asked if we could rickshaw him in. His wheelchair had two logs attached to its sides sticking out front, and Barry Sacharow had been supporting one of them. The two of us got together, one on each handle, and carted him in.
(to be continued)
Subject: The Ad Astra per Aspera Gathering - part 5
The council then started with 17 people present, but others continued to arrive over the course of its three or so hours, until there were eventually about thrice that many. Plunker started out by asking that the feather be passed around in silence, Kai'om expressed her agreement, and we passed it around the circle, many holding it to their foreheads or doing some other kind of gesture of reverence to it. When it got back to Plunker, he began to speak, "I believe today that we are in a state of peace, the first time we have had relative peace with the Forest Service since 1983."
He then launched into a historical narrative, year by year, about past altercations with the Forest Service. There had been periods of increased tension alternating with times of more calm. He talked about how in the beginning we would contact the Forest Service on our own initiative, in a spirit of love, and we would give each other our word, and then we would carry thru with what we had promised. Then he talked for a while about consensus, how the circle is not a governing body, but a place where we can discover what our true consensus is. The true consensus was in what each of us do in our day to day actions. He talked at length about the Texas gathering, which was so near to the road that trucks could easily enter main meadow, and there were all sorts of problems. It was the repeated and constant effort of many people acting as Shanti Sena that managed to keep the consensi alive. He told another story about how a little girl stood with a staff in the road and said, "I can't breathe", in response to all the smoke around, and how this had led to the consensus about no personal campfires. These were all examples of how consensus really worked.
Then he said, "Now on to the permit thing. Permits have been signed before. The first time was in Montana in 1976, someone signed a camping permit, even tho I personally objected. Permits were also signed in 1977, 1978, and 1979. Then a permit was regarded as a piece of paper down the road, there were no real objections." He said that some of them worked for us, they resulted in less harassment by the FS, and some didn't, the harassment was more. The First Amendment issue had not come into play until the 80s when Garrick had started to get more into the legal aspects of the gathering. But he then talked at length about the very first gathering, how he and the other founders had contacted the Forest Service in advance, had a meeting in Denver, then were ultimately denied permission to have the gathering - but the people came anyway.
Then he went to the next stage of his presentation. "We need to say what we are. Are we a group or aren't we?" For us to be able to get any standing in a courtroom where we might want to challenge the Forest Service, we need to be some entity with a name.
He talked for what seemed like an hour and a half, and to be able to recreate it all, even with my scribbly notes to go by, would be too difficult for me. And the path of the words frequently returned back onto itself, and several points were repeated. So I won't try to give all of the sequence from now on, but will just present some of the more salient points I remember in paraphrase:
Right now the Forest Service wants to criminalize us, so they can be justified in giving us any harassment they want. By refusing to sign a permit, we play right into their hands. Now I personally still don't think we should have to have a permit, but the realities of the situatuion must be acknowledged.
The Supreme Court decided in 2002, in the case of Thomas v. Chicago Parks District, that the privilege of entry into public land can be restricted. For instance, even tho the Post Office is public land, you can't go inside during the hours that it is closed. Likewise the county courthouse, you cannot enter when they've locked the door. They can say that in order to have the privilege of using the public highways, you must have a driver's license. This was a 7-2 decision, it wasn't just the conservatives who made this.
The question for us now is, to be or not to be. We need to figure out how to fit into their scheme of definitions. We've drawn the line at saying "Rainbow Family". Last year we tried to call it an "Alternative Rainbow-style Event", but got turned down. Some people have given totally fictitious names, like the Church of Divine Compost. This year Garrick called us " Individuals Assembling for Expressive Activity and Meditation for Peace", and they accepted it.
We have figured out how we want to do it this time:
The permit will be signed in the open, not in secret at some secluded spot, as what happened in Idaho, where a frightened woman after receiving some threats from the Forest Service rangers signed in the parking lot and then left the gathering. (This time Garrick signed on the land and a videotape was made of the signing.)
The person signing will not do so as a representative of the Family or anyone else, but as an individual.
The Rainbow Gathering for some can be a big soapbox to stand on. Political action by individuals, that is peaceable, is possible and can be acceptable at a gathering. There are quite a few who believe in the permits. How can we outlaw them? (He then told a story of how our own attempts to "outlaw" Trading Circle had ultimately failed.)
Somebody in the circle interjected, "What about the billing?" Plunker replied, "In Montana I was presented with a $100,000 law enforcement bill, and a cleanup bill for $7,000. The judge ruled that I didn't have to pay those. What about the future? I don't know. This is something that remains to be seen."
Just before the end of his presentation he said, "And by the way, I have a little bit of news to share with you. Malcolm Jowers is going to be retiring in August." This was followed by cheers.
His closing words included, "Again, to be or not to be. We must define who we are. Individuals must be willing to come forth to do what is necessary to preserve out ways. We can choose the way of peace, and open the door for future generations. We can render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to the Spirit what is the Spirit's. This is Home. Let us not take it away from our grandchildren."
(to be continued)
Subject: The Ad Astra per Aspera Gathering - part 6
When Plunker finished his piece, he said, "I would like for the next speaker to be Garrick, so I ask that you pass the feather around to him in silence." This was done for him, and Garrick took the feather and began to speak: "I want to tell you what happened, why it did, what I did personally that had to do with it, and how it happened. But before I do, I want to thank you all for the peace. I would also like for us to send out some good thoughts to Badjer, who is in jail at this very time for the offense of camping illegally." A brief pause for this followed.
Then he continued: "There is an old Chinese curse, which goes: may you live in interesting times. Right now we are in an interesting place. We are witnessing a struggle between forces to expand out freedom, and forces to limit it. This is not necessarily between good and evil, but between more or less tolerance." He gave some examples, including the border patrols and the Forest Service LEOs.
He then talked about how resisting these attempts to limit by direct defiance and confrontation were often not the wisest. "We all know we shouldn't smoke a bong in public, however we feel about marijuana laws. We can accomplish more free than in jail."
Then he went on in a speech that was almost as long as Plunker's, and again I will just give in words half his and half mine some of the more memorable things he said, rather than trying to present the whole sequence:
We are a mystery not only to ourselves, but also to the Forest Service. They have been trying to figure out for the last thirty years exactly how to deal with us. First they tried just leaving us alone. Maybe we would just self-destruct in a few years. After ten years they saw that this was not happening, so they adopted the tactic of limit rather than destroy. They tried to limit our numbers, with such things as the Mass Gathering Act, which was found unconstitutional.
Now this was all in the era of the Earl Warren Supreme Court, but in later years we had to start dealing with the Reagan era courts, which ruled that you can have limitations, but these limitations have to be applied equally. In other words, if you limit the Rainbow family, you have to limit the Boy Scouts and the hunting clubs and every one else. You can't have special limitations for just one group.
Lately the Forest Service has gone to the tactics of intimidation. They have spelled out their method. First they will ticket us, then they will arrest us. If we go to court, they will first fine us, then send us to jail. What next? It is possible that the Forest Service may attempt a full closure on us.
After this, Garrick told the histories of some other government suppressions in the past. The Ludlow strike in Colorado in 1914, where some National Guard troops opened fire with rifles and machine guns on a tent encampment set up by striking coal miners, then set the tents on fire while people were still hiding inside. The charred bodies of 13 women and children were found in the remains. Coxey's Army, 500 unemployed men who marched on Washington in 1894, and were arrested en masse for walking on the grass of the Capitol lawn. The Bonus Army in Washington in 1932, where Army troops advanced on an encampment of unarmed civilians with sabers, bayonets, and tear gas, and caused hundreds of injuries and the death of one baby. He warned, "They are not above doing this to us."
What can we do? We need to get a process. Can they slam and clobber us? Yes. Can they exterminate us? No. Can we go on for years waging war with the FS? Possibly, but it is not something to be looked forward to. One person has to sacrifice some of his own personal rights, and take on the responsibilities that the Forest service wants of us.
The Agriculture Department has already given us some compromises:
We have to be some kind of organization, but they don't say exactly what kind we have to be.
There will be no personal liability for the signer.
The signer can be a lone individual, not selected by the group to be a representative.
I have decided on several things for myself about signing the permit:
I will waive my right of confidentiality, and let everybody know I have signed.
I will do it on the land, not in some place distant from the site.
I will insist on a nut and bolts operating plan, worked out with the resource rangers.
I will demand a closure letter at the end of cleanup, stating that everything was to everybody's satisfaction, so they can't be coming around months or years later to make more demands on us.
We have friends, people in various branches of the government who support us. Some resource people in the Forest Service showed us three sites, one of which became the one we are on today. Malcolm Jowers made us go to the Utah Department of Health in the hopes that they would turn us down unless we met a bunch of requirements they knew we'd never go for. There was even a conference call involving Summit County health officials and Attornry General Ashcroft himself. Instead, the Dept. of Health declared us a "primitive camping event", and that we were meeting all their requirements. After that, Malcolm Jowers had no choice but to sign and grant us our permit.
The billing? We don't know yet. It still remains to be seen what will really come of this.
Garrick closed his rap with, "I want to thank all of you who have given me your support." Both Plunker and Garrick had kept their audience in spellbound attention for the lengths of their speeches, there were no interruptions except the one about billing, and no attempts at shout downs. None of the heavy opponents of permits that I have read on a.g.r. showed up to this council, and the people who had come who were known to be opposed chose to keep quiet about it while the two were speaking.
Diamond Dave was sitting next to Garrick, and he took the feather and stood up and improvised a brief poem on the spot. Then the feather came to me, and I said that this had been quite possibly the most focused and respectful council that I had ever seen. The feather went on to a few more people, who mostly commented supportively of Garrick and Plunker, then it got to David Alexander English, who went into a long discourse on the Brazil gathering and the upcoming one in Costa Rica. After about fifteen minutes of this, I decided to leave, and Robbie said later that the focus of the circle had indeed started to vanish with that.
(to be continued)
Subject: The Ad Astra per Aspera Gathering - part 7
On the 2nd., I went over to Garrick's for the Morning Show, and found him about to dictate a letter to Robbie complaining to Ryberg about the black LEO, the one I had seen at the front gate, whose name was Oates. Out of several instances of overzealous enforcement of petty infractions of regulations, Garrick picked out five of the most blatant, and placed them in a "Notification of Noncompliance on the Part of the Forest Service." (The text of this letter is in another separate post.) We were sitting in chairs in front of Robbie's tipi, and I was beginning to wonder if it was ever going to get done, for people started coming around to visit, and Garrick couldn't resist telling stories to all who asked. I wondered if I should have started being an ogre and trying to shoo people away, but decided not to after observing that most came around with words of support and encouragement that I knew he was needing.
I left before the letter was done because Two on the Second, the time and day for the a.g.r. meeting was approaching. I made my way to Instant Soup kitchen, which was at the end of a long path up a hill thru the woods. I was disappointed with the turnout; there were Ben Masel, Rob Savoye, Space Man, and Your Favorite Insect here, but no other heavy posters to the group. Most of the twenty or so people there introduced themselves with, "I mostly just lurk."
I then went back down for the much discussed Prom at about 4. I wore my most elaborate tiedye tanktop dress, but nothing glittery or fancy like one normally associates with a prom formal. Robbie had asked me to be his date and I accepted, but I wound up standing him up because I had been at the a.g.r. meeting instead of over by his tipi. I met him as his wheelchair was already parked over at the event. A lot of people came, perhaps 150, and there were quite a few people, guys as well as girls, in lacy prom dresses. I surmised that Faerie Camp had contributed a large bit to this turnout. There was no music, and the area was far too crowded to dance. There were being served fruit and raw vegetables, and the line for it stretched all the way down the path to C.A.L.M., and I decided I didn't want to wait in it. But ten minutes later I found a bowl of that chow that somebody had left at Info.
At dawn on the 3nd., I went up to my van to bring down a third load, mostly food. Before going up, I went on a breakfast quest. Most people after they have learned the ways of the gathering know to adopt a single kitchen to hang around and camp by, and do lots of work for. This way you are always there when the batches of food come ready, and if something like a few hamburgers show up to be cooked in the back, you get in on those. You also get offered any of the joints and pipes that get passed around behind the bliss rail. But if you choose to work in a place that is not a kitchen, as I do with Info and the hat at Dinner Circle (where I am usually too occupied with the hat passing to eat), getting food can turn into a matter of just happening to show up at the right places at the right times.
This morning chow was scarce. I came upon Kid Village to find a grill full of pancakes just nearing completion, but then saw them all go into a covered pan and heard a man yell, "Circle." Now I have learned that the time from the "Circle" until someone who is not a kid or a parent can finally get served some of the food there is at least 45 minutes, often longer, so I searched on. Just as I was about to go up the trail, I found at Kickapoo kitchen the carcass of some kind of bird on a wooden cutting board. I asked one of the few people there awake how long it had been there, and he said, "since about 3 this morning." The temperature was still cold enough for the quilted coat, so I figured that since it had been in the refrigerator all morning, it was safe to eat. I bared the bones.
I brought the pack down, this time using the "Beans, beans, the musical fruit, the more you eat the more you toot, the more you toot, the better you feel, you should have beans for every meal" mantra, and got back down when it was past 11. I went to Garrick's to copy the letter about Officer Oates, and again got kicked out of his tipi before I could finish. After that it was a mostly uneventful day, where I caught up on some rest. The peace pole was gone, and the rumor was that somebody had stolen it. The zipper on the front door of my dome tent crapped out, but I was able to find a small tarp in the Info supply tent and hang it over the opening.
On the morning of the 4th, I woke to find that another peace pole, perhaps the peace pole to end all peace poles, had been erected in the meadow. Upon a square pile of rocks stood an aluminum pole about 20 feet tall. Projecting from the lower part of the pole were four sets of horizontal rods pointing in the four cardinal directions, between which were stretched vertically four canvas panels, about 2 feet by 8 feet. The panels were powder blue alternating with bright green, and on the clockwise facing sides of the panels were sewn two smaller white cloth panels that had Tibetan letters on them. The center pole was wrapped barber pole style with maroon ribbon. At twice the height of the panels was a cross spar of white PVC pipe, and hanging from it like a sail was a Gay pride Rainbow flag on one side, and on the other a flag with a yellow background, and a yellow circle surrounded by red and blue rays in the pattern of the Japanese war flag. At each end of this yardarm was a multicolored windsock that twirled in the breeze. At the top of the pole was a silver disc with a face, with copper eyes, nose, and hair. Coming out diagonally from just above the yardarm were eight support ropes that extended downward to stakes driven in the ground, and along the length of these ropes fluttered small square flags of varied designs, looking like signal flags on an ocean liner. People were laying a variety of pictures, statuettes, and other religious trinkets on the rocks at the base. The meditation circle was starting to form around this contraption.
I found that one of the support ropes had been cut, so I tied it back together. Someone in sign language tried to tell me something that looked like that someone didn't like the pole and had been trying to sabotage it. About an hour later, a sister walked around with a magic marker on posterboard sign that said, "Rainbow is for EVERYONE. Don't let Krishna predominate. Circle around each other. NO PENIS POLE!!! In spite of her efforts, the circle continued to thicken around the contraption. A group of people all dressed in goth-punky black made a parade thru the throng, carrying in their midst a coffin that had written on its side, "Babylon the Great has fallen Rev. 18:2"
I sat down to the south of the pole, laid back for a while, caught myself starting to fall asleep, then sat up again to discover that a large circle around the perimeter of the meadow was starting to form. Soon people were holding hands all around the meadow at the tree line, with a few of us remaining in the very center. I heard thru the silence a single drum being pounded in an irregular Indian tom-tom beat, proceeding around the edge of the circle. After a while I heard some yelling in the distance, and calls of "Shanti Sena, followed by the drum being heard no more. I found out afterward from Robbie that the drummer was Stephen Principle, and he had gone up to Garrick with it, told him it was "a prison drum", and asked if he wanted to beat it. (The line of people in the circle had wound up just in front of his tipi.) The story was that Garrick grabbed hold of Stephen's hand as it was holding the stick and moved it back and forth for him a few times. Shortly after the drum had fallen silent, the om began to kindle. There had been no children's parade entering during the silence.
After the om gave way to the whoop and holler, I went back to Robbie's tipi to pay my regards, and while I was there some rangers on horseback came riding in from the edge of the meadow behind. One of them was carrying an American flag with the bottom of its staff in a holder strapped to the bridle. Another rode up to Garrick who was sitting next door, and asked, "Is it okay with you guys if we go in now? You told us you wanted us to wait until after the om was done." Garrick responded with, "Yeah it's okay. Have a nice day", and they proceeded on into the meadow. There was a small rise overlooking the contraption and all the revelers, and they lined up eight abreast at it's crest, then remained there atop their standing horses for about two hours. The flag bearer was at the right end of the line. They looked just like a scene out of a western movie, the cavalry appearing at the ridge. I walked down to in front of them, and as I was passing the flag, I rendered it a proper military salute, even tho I was not exactly in uniform, being clad only in a rayon sarong that I had wrapped mostly around my shoulders and head.
Soon a group of Rainbows formed in front of the line, some carrying assorted signs expressing opinions contrary to those of people who usually display the Stars and Stripes. There were two loose dogs roaming around and starting to bark, and Crow and I quickly got their leashes dragging on the ground back to their owners. A few people started to tease the rangers and I was fearing that a Shanti Sena scene would develop, but it never really escalated beyond spirited discussion. Plunker stood up in front of the crowd for a while and did some orating, and while standing beside him I discovered Malcolm Jowers sitting fourth from the right, this time minus his sunglasses. Barry said among other things, "See that flag behind me that is upside down? That is a signal of distress, and I believe right now that our rights and our constitution are in distress..." Jowers was sitting thru it all with a mostly amused look on his face, as were most of the other rangers. All of the horses had kids in front of them petting their faces.
The whole meadow became like a 10 ring circus, there were several separate groups of drummers all playing at the same time, and groups of chanters and one of rappers, and I could walk around and hear one sound give way to the other. I savored the symphony and antiphony until late afternoon, when my Diltiazem started calling me to my cot.
(to be continued)
Subject: The Ad Astra per Aspera Gathering - part 8
Saturday the 5th. was not a good day for me. I started getting diarrhea at about 2 in the afternoon and went to C.A.L.M. I told the guy what was happening, and that I wasn't heaving, so he asked, "Would you like an herbal treatment or do you just want to go the Pepto-Bismol route. I told him the P-B, so I glugged down a little plastic cup of the stuff and spent the rest of the afternoon on the cot, eating nothing. I told Marken that I wouldn't be able to pass the hat that evening.
The canvas on the cot had started to rip on the 30th, and I had found some rope in the Info supply tent to tie across the frame to support it. This day the aluminum frame developed a kink and a bend, and I found a short log and set under it as a support and attached it with duct tape. I had gotten the cot at Wal-Mart the previous year, and it proved to be not strong enough to support my 200 pound ass.
The 6th. dawned serenely drumless, and it continued thus thru most of the morning and early afternoon. Large numbers of people had packed up and left the previous day. Resultingly, food in the kitchens was plentiful and good. My alimentaries were able to recover quite well.
I went over for the Morning Show, and Garrick showed me the answer that he had gotten from Malcolm Jowers to his letter about Officer Oates (again in a separate post.) It said among other things, "We have spent a considerable amount of time researching the allegations submitted in your letter. We can find no record that citations were issued for the July 1st. and the July 22nd. incident For those incidents when violations were issued, we find that the officer took the appropriate actions. We have discussed your concerns with the officer."
However, two days previous on the 4th. I had been walking past Rainbow Crystal Kitchen and saw Oates walking with a resource ranger beside him (the LEOs wore dark green pants, the resource guys wore a lighter shade of green). Oates saw me and asked, "How are things going with you?", to which I just answered, "Fine." Garrick told me that David Ferrell had told him in person, "Shant Sena style we will be walking Officer Oates with a superior officer for instructional purposes." Garrick said he heard that he was seen passing out Smokey the Bear pins to kids. So in the official paperwork they covered their own asses, but in their behavior they heeded our concerns.
The morning of Monday, the 7th. I went topside and drove my van near to Marken's and got the coffee can and plastic bag full of all the change from the Magic hat and took them over to mine. I then drove all the way down to the Mud Pit, which by now had dried hard and was starting to get dusty. With my van there, the return trips with all my stuff would be over relatively level ground, rather than back up the mountainside.
I returned and showed up in Main Meadow for the beginning of Vision Council. It was held out in the middle of the field in the hot sun, and it stayed there in spite of the efforts of a few to move it into the shade. Amid all of the usual complaints about how the council was going and exhortations to put our egos aside and learn to work together and not to take too much time with the feather and listen to what the Spirit is really saying and other statements in that tone that rises until just before the end of the sentence that people use when they are trying to persuade, it soon became apparent that there were two factions emerging, one that wanted to go to northern California and another that wanted "to take it back east".
I listened for about two hours, decided I needed a break, and went back to sit at Information. About an hour later I heard hollering coming from down on the field, and went to check it out. There I found Barry Sacharow with his arms straight up over his head holding the feather, while Gary Stubbs was in front of him yelling, "I demand that you give me an apology for spreading lies about me." He kept it up, demanding apologies, and Barry tried saying things like, "I apologize for anything I might have said that hurt you", but Gary wouldn't accept any of them. I and a few other people came out to stand between him and Barry to keep them apart, and there were oms being attempted. After a while I decided that it was all just hot air and there was no real danger of any physical violence, so I blew it all off and left again. I went back down again just before sunset with the Magic Hat bucket, thinking that maybe Dinner Circle was still going to happen, but the only food that showed up was bags full of biscuits from Lovin' Oven. It became obvious that it wasn't an environment where a hat pass was going to be possible. A bunch of us watched expectantly as the sun dipped all the way behind the mountain ridge, thinking that meant the end for the day, but David Alexander insisted that the council didn't end until we could no longer see each other's eyes, so it dragged on for another three quarters of an hour.
The morning of the 8th., I awoke, put all the food that I still hadn't consumed in the pile by the stove in Info, and took one packful out to the van. Then I got in the back on the bed I have installed in it, drew all the curtains, and counted all the change, sorting the coins by type in some plastic water jugs that I had cut openings into. I had some little plastic cylinders with funnels on one end that held a measured amount in them to make the job go faster, but it still took about 5 hours. My hands have seldom gotten so dirty as they did handling all those coins; "filthy money" never had a more vivid meaning. I washed my hands and then returned to behold a bit more of Vision Council on its second day. Gary was now calm and there were no altercations. Most of the people who had been wanting the east were showing willingness to let it go to California, and a few times it almost looked like a consensus was going to happen, but it didn't. Peter Love was holding out for Appalachia, and Gary and Chaim were saying they would block anything but California, and I figured that trench warfare was setting in. As the sun got low I got everything else except my tent and cot out to my van and spent the night there.
At dawn on the 9th. I returned to retrieve my broken tent and cot leave my campsite disappeared, then drove back up to near Marken's. After he served me eggs, toast, and coffee, I give him the coins and we counted the paper bills for the last time. The total Magic Hat income had been $13,204.25, and we still had $4759.25 left for the cleanup crew.
Thus ended the Ad Aspera Per Aspera Gathering. I left the site at about 9 and got back to Old Babs by 11. I found the car wash in Lyman and the steak dinner in Urie, about 3 miles away. I checked back into the motel and took the two hour bath to get two weeks worth of grime off my carcass. I relaxed the rest of the day and headed back to Lawrence the following morning.
It was a physically demanding gathering with lots of hiking and hill climbing, that challenged my heart condition, but I was exhilarated to find out how much stamina I really had left. It was mostly business: banking work, councils, and dealings with rangers. I didn't play a musical instrument the whole time I was there, I was only in audiences. It was a permitted and wholly legal gathering, and this didn't bring a complete absence of trouble with the rangers, but it was a lot mellower than it was last year in Michigan - and I was left with hopes for real peace being found with the Forest Service in the future.
(The story now ends, but the gatherings remain...
to be continued.)
– Butterfly Bill
This post was the basis for the second chapter of Rainbow Gatherings, vol. 2.