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This was rescued from a now defunct website created by Guano, a brother who has written many fine things about Rainbow Gatherings. – BB

Rainbow Recollections

1998 Arizona

Who fears today
His rites to pay
Deserves his chains to wear.

The forest's free!
This wood take we,
and straight a pile prepare.

Yet in the wood
To stay 'tis good
By day till all is still.

With watchers all
around us placed
Protecting you from ill.

With courage fresh, then,
Let us haste
Our duties to fulfill... Goethe

My sweet wife Rustie and I arrived at the Forest Road turnoff just after sunset on Monday (June 29th). We had traveled 1800 miles in our old pickup truck. The primitive dirt road had a rippled “graded” surface. This combined with our worn out shocks to make the truck vibrate like crazy if we went much faster than 6 MPH, so we just headed in slowly.

After a while someone passed us, looked like family, so we knew we were headed in the right direction. The road was too narrow for easy passing. Later two more cars passed going lots faster in the dark. We came upon one of them stopped by a Forest Service Jeep. They were no doubt getting a warning about speeding and maybe a look-see for infractions. It took us two bumpy hours to travel the 15 miles to the south parking lot and get our first Welcome Home hug. We pulled in a little ways and went to sleep in the back of the truck. During the night our truck was covered in light reddish road dust. There was no real rain until July 2nd, so we wound up inhaling lots of this dust as we packed in our gear over the next two days.

Tuesday (June 30th) we awoke and drove in further to what we thought was the trailhead to the gathering. We parked by some kind folks from the Cincinnati area, and shared music and food with them. Dana, Erin, Emily, Ryan, Angie, Paul, Becca, BJ, Tiffany and her puppy Galena. (God/dess BLESS you guys, it was great to camp with you!) They had arrived the day before and had already set up camp in the upper meadow area. Rustie liked them and wanted to join their camp, so we followed them in, with our backpacks loaded. Ryan was carrying in a sweet hand-made chess set and board, on which he was to checkmate me the next morning! Getting to our camp required a 45 minute downhill hike. We went down a long DUSTY trail and roadway, which finally opened into a meadow with two Krishna tipis and a flourish of tents.

Past the Krishna’s was the first CALM tent, and then a Rainbow Golf course! They were playing with golf balls, but using wood sticks as crude clubs! Hilarious! Then we crossed Carnero Creek at a beautiful place with shade and nooks of wild blue irises. The water separated into many singing paths here, and tiger swallowtail butterflies hovered at the blossoms. To me, the small footbridge was the true entrance to the gathering. Here and there were yoga workshops and gentle children playing. Folks at creeks-edge were dipping containers in the clean water to splash off the road dust. Guitars played and there was a sprout kitchen with lovely circles of wheatgrass growing. This was a beautiful pristine area. Even as we left on July 7th this area was still unmuddied and lovely, owing to it’s far south location from the main circle. I lingered here many times to dangle my bare feet in the water and rest my soul.

We came because we needed the healing. It was a place for prayer and spiritual recharging. A place for meeting old friends and feeling the justness of right community. My Rainbow family is bold and talented and diverse and strong. It always wakes me up to walk in the first day, the greetings and hugs and joy, the smells and sounds, the flowing grace of old and new family as we build our little paradise, our Temporary Autonomous Zone. My cheeks ached from smiling so much, a wonderful feeling.

We followed our Cincinnati friends up to the upper meadow and set up our tent and sleeping bag. I decided to head back to the truck and pack in another load. I wandered off and found a parking lot, but it wasn’t ours! So I wandered some more and found another lot that wasn’t ours. I tried to find my way back to our tent, and couldn’t find that either. My Rainbow sense of directions must have been turned OFF! :)

I asked around and got myself directed to the INFO tent, and found the excellent acrylic & wood site map made by Barry (from Greensboro). I made a crude copy and got bearings on True North from a woman Forest Service worker who had a compass. I headed to the far, far, “SOUTH PARK” parking lot, (They killed Kenny! Those bastards!!:) Finally I reached our truck. We’d parked a LONG way from out tent! I loaded up and came back in, thinking I could find our campsite, but where was it? Eventually I asked the Beautiful Day Cafe if they would watch my HEAVY-old-backpack while I mustered my tired and barking feet to go searching some more. As luck would have it, Rustie spotted me a bit later, “Hooray!”

Together, we went down to Beautiful Day Cafe and picked up the backpack. Then we got lost again trying to find our campsite, LOL! We did find it, but that upper meadow was a very confusing place! Eventually we took to walking north to Bread of Life kitchen, then heading out to the main circle on the big path past Phat Phree Kitchen and Peace of Pizza. It made for longer trips, but we didn’t get lost, and the folks that way were groovy to meet!

We went down to main circle that evening to listen to the news and be part of our first big OMMMMmmm circle. LOTS of folks were here already! I guestimate the Gathering was about 7,000 by then, on it’s way to a peak of 25,000 on the 4th! OM circle filled main meadow completely. Fabulous theatre for the magic hat! There were warnings aplenty about the No-Fire policy. Plenty of righteous food came down from the kitchens: fried tofu, fruit salad, wheat loaves, lentil and rice soup, bean casserole, spaghetti, and cherries! A kind brother named Fernando (from L.A.) let me play a toot on his trumpet. We went burping back to our tent and cashed in.

That night we found out it gets COLD at 9000 feet in the mountains! We tried to make one sleeping bag cover two, but shivered aplenty! It was 95 degrees in the day, and 40 degrees at night. What a range!

Woke up on Wednesday (July 1st) to the sounds of good old home: people playing drums and flutes and laughing, people yelling at their dogs (Ghetto kitchen), birds twittering and squirrels laughing. The little gray squirrels had plenty to talk about, with maybe 1,000 dogs suddenly in their turf! The squirrels made a laughing sound from the trees, as if they were in on a private joke about hippies in the woods!

I went looking for Lovin’ Touch kitchen and wound up past Bi The Way kitchen and in the high upper meadow area. I heard a rumor that Lovin’ Touch was not equipped for the “NO FIRE” ban, having no fuel stoves to use. Their good people may have folded up to work in other kitchens that had stoves. The word came down that fines up to $5,000 could be issued for a wood fire. Even to walk with a cigarette was a no-no. They wanted you to sit down and finish your smoke near a 3 foot circle of cleared dirt with no twigs or leaves.

I don’t smoke, and we had brought our mini-backpacker’s camp stove to make Rustie’s coffee each morning. The fire ban definitely altered the way many kitchens operated! A lot of the drum circles were expressly centering their focus on doing the Rain Dance! We danced for rain, Rain, RAIN!!!!

We had to get that second sleeping bag. Two bags zip together and make a great big warm pocket for those freezing nights. I got my bearings and inhaled a ton of trail dust going back up that long hill to that far south SOUTH PARK lot. Some of the folks were wearing bandannas like old-time western bandits, trying to protect their lungs from the blowing dirt. The best part of that long trip was stopping at the singing creek by the Sprout Kitchen. This time I didn’t get lost coming back (grin). When I arrived, Billy from North Carolina was at our campsite blowing everyone away with his kind hospitality. For the remainder of our stay, our circle of tents had a sweet “Hollywood” ambience and the drums had that locked-in sound.

Erin played a big fine djembe that sounded real low and loud. This was his third national and he knew a million fine drum riffs. Some were way fast and intricate! He would be playing down at Ghetto Kitchen and we could hear his drumming from a distance, “Listen! That’s Erin!”

BJ also brought a big djembe, and our circle also had our little bongos, a rhythm egg, some small finger bells, Paul’s “Kate Moss” guitar, and my old cornet. We were joined by some other drums and had some fine grooves going. While I was out on July 1st, Rustie volunteered to set up our big shade tarp over the center of our camp. This helped a lot when the rains came the next day. We had a sheltered oasis from the wet. As folks on the nearest path went by, they would come on in to share the dry zone.

Down the path to the south there was a HUGE communal string hammock supported by four trees. Looked like it could hold a dozen folks! Near it someone had set up a solar shower for anyone to use, with a wooden foot stand and soap rack. Directly behind out tent was a group of five kind folks that had a big black long-haired Labrador they said was named Ollie. The first time I met Ollie he was defending his territory with a growly demeanor, but he mellowed out a bit after I fed him a coupla times. I came home through his “territory” off the beaten path one night, and he decided I was LUNCH MEAT! I had to retreat and take the long way around. Turns out Ollie’s real name was Frank, so I started calling him “Kukla Frank & Ollie”.

In our circle, Tiffany had brought her 3 month old black short-haired lab named Galena. Everybody loved Galena, as she didn’t bark or bite and loved attention. Galena would flop over on her back for belly-rubs. We kept her on a leash and fed her dog food, and she went with us down to main circle and didn’t get into fights. Galena made friends with several dogs that stopped by off the trail each day. We didn’t have any dogfights in our camp.

I meandered down by INFO again and began making a detailed copy of Barry’s beautiful wood & acrylic map. An excellent guitarist came by and serenaded us with phat Pink Floyd tunes from his “Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” songbook (circa 1967). He did especially tasty multiple versions of “Astronomy Domine!”

I ran into Rob, the MAIN-man of cyberspace. (Lovin’ you, Rob!) I forget the name of this tall older brother with Rob, but he was wearing a nice rabid Crusty button, so I will call him Crusty. Anyway, Crusty wanted me to make a map which they could copy and use at INFO/CALM/Communications. He wanted me to get it to Tools. I also met Legal-Eagle Scott (from Chicago) who wanted me to make the map in the size 8 1/2 X 11” and try to show all the shitter locations.

Scott showed me some expensive looking aerial color photographs made especially for the gathering by what must have been the Incident Command folks. These had commercial labels on the photos that clearly said “Rainbow Gathering” and looked to have been taken as the first trails had started to show up. I think Barry used these same maps to make his wooden site map accurate. I took notes and went back to camp and spent a few hours drawing a letter-size map of the site that included about 160 camp locations.

I went to find either Crusty or Tools, but wound up at Scott’s “Free Assembly Forum” tent, where he gave me a nice plastic binder for the maps. I left the map with Barry at INFO. Later I talked with Tools, and he & Barry had seen to it that a bunch of xerox copies were made. I made lots of other little sketches so that I can make a map/collage of the Gathering when I find time (by the end of winter). Drawing the collage keeps my mind happily focused on “Home”. It extends my Rainbow experience all winter long.

I made 11 X 17” map/collages after the 1993 Kentucky split/National, and after the 1996 Missouri National. I folded a copy of each into 100 business-size envelopes and gave them away in Arizona. If I found out someone was at either of those nationals, I would give them a map and ask them to show me where they had camped. I suggested folks use the maps as Rainbow stationery. One woman was carrying a baby named Gene, and Gene had been conceived right near main circle in Missouri. I gave away all my maps by July 3rd. It was fun!

I met a bro named Birk at the trailhead of the SOUTH PARK lot working on a notebook of interesting drawings he had brought. Down by my favorite singing-creek-area (by the Sprout Kitchen) I met a brother sketching the pastoral rainbow scene using colored pencils. The little footbridge over the creek was currently a play-zone to some little kids. They had discovered a curious water funnel where water was being sucked into a hollow log that lay under the creek bed next to the bridge. It was weird looking! Must have been enchanted!

Main Circle on Wednesday included some fabulous OMMMs. We did a nice OM to each of the four directions. That night I wandered around and got a bit disoriented again in the dark. I wound up heading towards Ghetto Kitchen from below on a small path. Suddenly a group of big dogs met me, and chased me BACKWARDS about a block before they took their muzzles OUT OF MY ASS! That was pretty scary! Some of the dogfights we witnessed were kind of brutal, even during main circle. I read on the alt.gathering.rainbow newsgroup that a dog killed a cat above Bliss Kitchen in the upper meadow.

Some of the dogs out there were huge! I noticed an Alaskan Malamute with gorgeous long hair camped by Bliss Kitchen. I got a hug from a Napoleon Mastiff. We met a pretty white Great Pyrenees named Missy. Missy sat near us at main circle several times. These big doggies weren’t catching many squirrels or lizards because they were lovingly on leashes.

When I finally made it back to our tent that night I slept warm and had doggy dreams.

The word at main circle is that it hadn’t rained in MONTHS!! Some locals told me that this was basically true. The area had been dry as kindling and the fire danger was no fabrication by the FS. On Thursday morning (July 2nd) the sky got overcast and we finally got RAIN!! Hooray! All the Rain Dances had worked their Rainbow magic! Gentle rain came down for a couple of hours! About noon the sun peaked out and several of us raced over to the meadow by Bread of Life kitchen to see if there was a rainbow, and sure enough there was a faint rainbow in the sky! We could hear a whoop from the main circle crowd as they spotted it also!

It started raining again, and I heard there were several more Rainbow’s in the sky between then and main dinner circle. At dinner circle a Rainbow came and stayed for 20 minutes! It arched up in the north-eastern sky, disappearing in the low clouds, then arched down again in the south-eastern sky. The colors were big and bold and beautiful. The whooping from the crowd surely told the story to those within earshot. By dancing with-a-purpose and by our pure Spirits, WE had re-invented the magical refraction of light. WE had somehow touched Gaia’s cycle-of-water to manifest this rain and create THIS rainbow! (big grin!)

At the very least, the rain surely calmed down those Forest Service and Law Enforcement Officials who were primarily concerned with the serious danger of fire. The only unhappy folks were the drummers who’s drum heads now had to be protected from getting wet. Many furious drum jams got smaller and quieter each time it would start to rain, as djembes and doumbeks and talking drums headed for cover. Drummers I met wanted a roaring campfire to heat and tighten their drumheads. The ban on fires had left them thumping on softer and lower-pitched drums. After a couple days of rain, a few fire circles sprang up, including a big fire pit in the Main Meadow. To my knowledge, the FS didn’t complain about it, because it kept raining off and on from July 2nd until the 8th.

The SCROLL camp had some fine jams each night with an excellent sax player soaring over the top. I was walking past one evening on the main path and I played the UFO contact theme from “Close Encounters” on my cornet. That sax player answered right back in stride! Then a group of folks all sang it in response!! A sister at Bi The Way kitchen borrowed my horn and ripped off a fine and fluid version of “You Ain’t Never Had A Friend Like Me!” from the movie Aladdin.

A lot of folks played on that old cornet during the gathering. It was made in Elkhart, Indiana, and the bell has an engraving of a goofy looking elk inside a big heart. My folks bought it for $25 back in 1963. It’s still kind of “glowing” as it sits on it’s stand here in our living room. It’s got a lot of Arizona dusty dirt still in it, too! :)

After the 2nd, it rained some each day! Rain was a blessed relief from the omnipresent dust, and we could see that it lessened our impact on the site a great deal. On the 4th, it didn’t rain until about 4 p.m., and then only for a hour. Often it would rain faintly for a half-hour, then steady for and hour or two, then quit for a few hours. Rustie and I spent an hour in the south Krishna tents watching the rain pass and listening to Krishna chants.

The Rainbow is a world full of tarps! When it rains, it’s good to spot places where heavy water pockets form overhead in the tarps. We would ease the water to the edge by poking it carefully with hands and sticks. The drainage pattern of tarps as they emptied became a science, with folks digging waterway grooves away from the tents in the runoff spots.

Lots of kids and mud-people enjoyed the rain and mud. Bliss-ninnies would go past on the trails singing as they got drenched. The rain washed off a lot of rainbow body paint. Signs using water-based colors got washed away or wound up fuzzy looking. In the woods it was hard to get enough sunshine to dry things out completely. Folks in the meadows dried out a lot faster in the direct sunshine.

Friday (July 3rd) there was more rain, but it stopped again. I hiked the long way over to Granola Funk Theatre, and talked with Nature Boy, who we had met in the Shawnee regional back in October 1996. He told us that our pal Eagle was hosting the “No Talent Show”(The GONG Show) that night. The stage was glorious! It must have been 50 feet wide, with stage lights (was there a quiet hidden generator?) side entrances, and painted backdrops!

I met a songwriter named James Gordon. He picked and sang for me two of his Rainbow songs called “New Mexico” and “Rainbow Nation”. There was a troupe of women rehearsing their performance poetry/dance piece for the July 4th Talent Show. I sketched a picture of the stage and just absorbed the cosmic Granola Funk vibes...

Stuart (from L.A.) began playing on a fat Eucalyptus didgeridoo, so I laid down on the ground with my ear right in the end of his honking yidaki! No sooner did I do that, then Forest (from Arcadia, CA) came over with his didge and also started blasting me from head-to-toe with power didge vibrations! It turned into a five minute DIDGERIDOO HEALING!! Stuart kept a steady drone flapping in my right ear, and Forest covered all seven of my CHAKRAS with colors of Australian mystery! I was grinning from ear to ear! I was in aural heaven! It was definitely my PEAK rainbow 98 experience!!

On my way back I stopped in Peace Meadow (still grinning and vibrating from my didge healing) and talked with Robby in his beautiful “neckties” tipi that said OPERATIONS. We talked about the upcoming Gathering in eastern Russia. (By the way, what is up with those European Rainbows? They have a kind-of-consensus not to use the computer internet as if it was the “tool” of Satan! I have Rainbow friends here in Illinois that feel the same way. They won’t even TOUCH our computer!) Robby played a song in Russian on his mandolin, and he told us a story of how he had been in Russia when the Berlin Wall came down. Then he started rolling off Russian tongue twisters! Robby is to me a Holy dude. His Rainbow intelligence and gentle spirit is so bright, and his eyes have that mischievous Rainbow sparkle.

Also in Peace Meadow I talked with Raven Hawk and made a drawing of his 4-year-old painted Indian horse named Spirit. Spirit was tied up and several folks were admiring him. Raven Hawk’s friend put up a paper sign saying “Don’t touch the horse!”, but as soon as he turned around, Spirit ATE the sign. Raven Hawk had a gorgeous Indian costume, and had that black paint across his eyes. His yellow tipi had a real cow skull fixed over the entrance and painted horses on the sides. Rustie and I had seen Raven Hawk riding Spirit over by the Upper Meadow a couple days previous, and he looked like a vision from an Indian Dream!(except that he was smoking a cigarette). A vision of Rainbow purity... with a small side-order of 20th century poison.

Between Peace Meadow and INFO I passed a Dixieland ensemble and joined in briefly. A beautiful sister walked by balancing a Russian Blue kitten on her head. I could feel an expectant buzz in the air, as people seemed primed for the next morning’s silent prayer.

At dinnertime, Rustie stayed at the tent and I went with our Cincinnati friends down to main circle. I got the honor of walking Galena on the leash, and she was checking every tree and shrub for scents. We were passing the Phat Phree kitchen when they called for folks to come and eat! Great salad and spaghetti with meatballs made of falafel! So we ate and ambled down to main circle with our stomachs already happy!

After all the main circle speeches, there was OMMMing to the four directions, and a single course of rainbow grub. The kitchens hadn’t kicked down as much food that day, probably from dealing with all the new rain. There was a fabulous trumpet player named Mitchell (from Montana) serenading us by playing improvised modal jazz/blues progressions and it sounded fabulous! It was the best horn I heard at the gathering! We all walked back to camp and then I headed out to the cyber-party at Bliss kitchen.

When I got to Bliss it was already dark. I joined the standing circle with 50 to 60 cyber-folks in it. Each was introducing themselves as their face was lit by a person holding a flashlight. Warner was there, and Harmonica Tom and Butterfly Bill! Marcus Endicott was there, getting ready to head straight to the Russian Gathering after Arizona! I really like Marcus, having had some great chats with him on IRC in the undernet’s #warriors-of-the-rainbow channel. Ironwood Running Bear found me and played on my cornet, then motioned me over to his trumpet case and we played “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” together. He led me down by the creek and we let loose some brassy sounds toward the dark woods, then came back up to the cyber-party.

Rob and Hawker were there, Zigamus, Sparrow, Dan Farkas, Glenn Battin, Dragonfly, Spring, (I heard BJ was off on Shanti Sena?). Flower Child was passing out the AGR buttons he’d produced with a design from Zigamus. (They look beautiful! Thanks, Flower Child and Zig!) Jennybaby and Carla were there, and Kaya, and Karen Zirk. I know MicLac1 must have been there because I saw his table with organ donor bumperstickers by INFO earlier. Peter Fraterdeus was there playing some fine mandolin.

AGR regulars wanted to see White Apache, Nightwoods, and James A, but they weren’t to be found. I wanted to meet KaHa and Raven, and kept asking about them until we left. Warner was a bit worried about Raven. Her gypsy home broke down and she wound up stranded in Flagstaff, but we didn’t know it at the time. Pieman went to a special Jewish candle-lighting and dinner at the Kosher Kitchen that night. He missed the cyberparty, but got some Orthodox Lubavitch rabbinically prepared Soul Food. Pieman was real visible at main circle and at INFO. He had his photo on the cover of an early newspaper report, and they tacked the photo up at INFO with a new caption underneath that said “King of Rainbow!” Spirit BLESS our growing cyber-family and watch over our hard drives and modems!

Saturday (July 4th) I got up early. I had come with a full load of prayers, so I headed off to Main Circle to quietly speak my Peace. There was a powerful beam of prayer energy I could feel as soon as I crossed the mud bridge into the main Meadow. The silence was palpable, velveteen, and righteous!

Great Spirit was here, and Goddess, and Jah, Alláh, Elohim, Shaddai, Yud Hay Vav Hay, Adonai, Theos, the threads of light from a thousand souls finding their source. Here in the Cathedral of Nature, silently calling for the healing of the earth, asking for the Blessed Peace to find and enfold us all. Mitakuye Oyasin!

The Main Meadow was now a Hippie Church, as folks tiptoed in wearing honesty, perfumed in humility. They came to beam down the MotherShip, to attune to the Crystal Essence. The sunlight and dragonflies were accolytes escorting us. Even the dogs caught a glimmer of it, sporting their trickster Coyote grins and padding softly though this quiet quizzical congregation. After a while I got up and went to the Peace Pole in Peace Meadow and kneeled and prayed. There were just a handful of us there, all focused and finding the channel to that higher source. I asked Bhaisajyaguru, the Buddha of Medicine, who quells all diseases and lengthens life, to heal Rustie’s leukemia, and I cried. /Tadyatha om bhaisajya bhaisajya mahabhaisajya raja samungate savha./

It was still very early, so I threaded my way over to Carnero Lake. I wound up surrounded by three fluttering tiger swallowtails in patches of wild blue irises. I sat down and drew some sketches of the irises. A tiger swallowtail let me catch it, and I tickled it before letting it go again.

I went walking slowly around beautiful undisturbed Carnero Lake. About 40 ducks were quacking and hordes of damselflies and dragonflies filled the air. The shores were filled with bulrushes and the peeps of frogs. What looked like mosquitoes were actually swarms of happy midges. I saw a lots of robberflies. There were small painted lady butterflies, little bronze skippers, yellow sulfurs, sooty wood satyrs, and tiny blue hairstreaks. Hawks and ravens soared overhead.

July 4th had dawned clear and sunny and hot. There was an untouched quietness here. The 25 thousand hippies below us had kept away from this shallow and fragile Lake. The few folks I passed around the Lake were all keeping their peace and respecting the prayer. I wound my way slowly back to our camp. I wanted to bring my camp-friends to Main Meadow to take part in the Meditation for Peace.

We arrived and took our place in about the 7th ring in the baking sun. After a bit we had all joined hands and were holding them high. Instead of one huge ring, we were many many rings. The energy was fabulous. One brother was randomly smudging us with sage. The meadow filled and the people were radiant, beautiful. As the sun got higher it got hotter. I had brought a special stone and laid it out in front of me, and when I picked it up later it was HOT!

Finally about 11:30 someone started the OmmmmmMMMmmmmmmmmm. It started slow and built up gradually in waves like the sun’s baking heat. It was sweet and holy, this break from the silence. Folks were focused and the sound absorbed some mighty prayers as it drew closer and closer to high noon. I didn’t see the kid parade enter the main Meadow, but right at noon, after what sounded like an air-horn blast, the whole meadow let loose and cheered. A fabulous party commenced. In no time the drums had formed five different jam circles within the swirling dancers, and the meadow was filled with jubilation and release. Erin wound up playing on someone else’s big drum with his eyes to the skies. Rustie was really dancing and grinning up a storm! This was the one time she let it all hang out!

The Rainbow Family was out in full regalia! Wearing their best smiles, dancing their best dances, on a gorgeous sunny day in this paradise of Ponderosa Pine. I wish I could have split into eight people and absorbed it from that many angles. Folks went scurrying for their guitars and drums and flutes and didges, and the music kept getting louder and louder. Now that the silence was broken, the sounds drew more and more into the Main Meadow.

Nothing compares to this, if you are a people watcher. It was happening everywhere simultaneously, a flood of color and expression and smells and touch. Hugging family grinning and spinning and singing the glorious songs of One-ness and joy. It’s contagious! The Temporary Autonomous Zone was in full flower! How can I express it? Someday you simply have to come to a Gathering and experience the 4th!

The jams lasted four hours, when finally the sky clouded over and cooling rain fell for about an hour. I wound up in the Names of God Tipi. A wet but happy horde of us pretended to listen to Reality Man (aka: Garuda-Gita, or the Flying Turkey) talk about quitting smoking. I memorized another of the Names of God inside the triangular flags circling the tipi (Rab-Hesed, God the Merciful!). We watched the hard-core drummers and dancers keep the circles going despite the rain. When the rain did let up, we came out again, but the major celebration was history. Om SHIVA! This day was so fine!

After dinner that evening I wound my way over to Granola Funk for the Talent Show. A large crowd surged to that locale, many trying to find it for the first time. Before the show started, a light rain commenced again, and with it the temperatures dropped.

The show started as Fantuzzi and others encouraged the crowd to shine their flashlights on the stage, and welcomed everyone. There was a Christian group camped up by bus village called “The Family”, and they had assembled a big teen choir to lead off the show with a couple of energetic songs about Jesus. (Hey, all kinds can co-exist at a Rainbow!) To balance that mainstream beginning, the naked Dancing Fairies with glow sticks tied around their privates waltzed onto the stage later! Those Dancing Fairies were simply exquisite, and I know their buns had to be cold!

My favorite moment of the night was a political sing-a-long by Joosh (from Ann Arbor). The song was called OVERTHROW, and the crowd picked up the chorus with gusto...

HEY HO!! Overthrow!
If it don’t serve the people then it’s got to go!
HO HEY!! Hear what I say!
You’ve got to have the right to live your own way!!”

My second favorite was a poet that did “A to Z” Poems. He had picked up the form from an older bellybutton that was in the crowd (who gave his blessing for the poems we were about to receive). An “A to Z” Poem has 26 words, and each word in sequence starts with the letters of the alphabet. One poem about the joy of java started out “Ahhhh, Brewed Coffee!!” and ended with “...Wired X-somethin Y-somethin Zombies!” he also did a backwards “Z to A” Poem.

There was a women’s troupe that did intense free form dance to improvised BEAT/poetry with a sonorous didgeridoo. I had watched them rehearse the day before. There was a hilarious stand-up dope comic. Lots of guitarists and duos performed, and then came the gypsy dancers! Tons of gypsy music and girls dancing in exotic belly dancer outfits, until it all became a blur. I was hallucinating that the Rainbow Spirit video had come to life, then I realized I needed a winter coat, because I was cold and wet and shivering. Dance! Gypsy dance! Sing! Gypsie sing!... I decided to call it a night. I heard that the show continued until 5 a.m.! This would have been a great place to camp, because there was something new every single night. Granola Funk goes that step beyond. Rainbow Theatre kicks ass!

Sunday (July 5th) was a rainy day. Rainwater had pooled on the tarp under our tent and it seeped through and soaked our sleeping bags a bit. The sun didn’t come out much this day. I met Warner again and walked with him as he donated a brick of coffee to Coffee Coffee. We had also met earlier down by INFO where he was playing his clarinet. We played a sweet little duet together. Now it was a day of rearrangement as some kitchens went home and folks re-situated to the shrinking gathering. The rain and mud was healing the site even as we watched. Our friends from Cincinnati left, and we said our good-byes and exchanged addresses. Even our doggy friend Ollie packed up and took his humans with him, but we gained a new neighbor from Florida named David.

On Monday (July 6th) we woke up at 6:30 a.m. and went for Coffee at Bread of Life kitchen, but they had packed up. Rain started again so we went back to the tent. Later I went down to Phat Phree kitchen and wound up in a prayer circle for two brothers that had been in a car accident on the forest service road. Their names were TJ and Chris. TJ had a broken nose and was now out of the hospital and at home, but Chris was still at the hospital in critical condition. Always drive carefully and slow at night, my friends!

A creative brother named Tin Man (AKA: John) from Boston had been building a free form percussion sculpture down at Phat Phree. I had been watching it grow as the gathering grew. He had brought four progressively larger box marimbas to the gathering, packed nestled inside each other for the journey. Once here, he reattached them all side by side and fixed them in a big tripod made of logs. He attached six graduated woodblocks, a toy xylophone, some cow bells, then bags full of mallets and drumsticks. He placed noisemakers and plastic fruit rhythm shakers on it! Extra parts were attached with bungy cords. As the drum sculpture grew, he also created a sort of shrine sculpture next to it, with a rainbow kite and candles and fetishes. Several folks would play on the drum sculpture simultaneously, and other drummers would sit down with their drums and a groove would develop!

Next to the drum sculpture some wood carvers had been busy making quite a selection of totem poles. One by one the poles were finished and found places to stand at the gathering. The path just east of here wound under a couple of huge birch trees at the Shundahi Network Peace Camp (from Las Vegas). One lovely birch tree had fallen and was resting balanced against the trunk of a second birch tree, which was broken in two and made a huge arched opening to walk under. The first tree had live leaves growing because it’s bark at the base was still intact. It looked like the next really windy storm might topple them both. There were dangling signs directing folks to different campsites hanging from the archway. It was a striking sight to walk under!

Back at our campsite, we grudgingly packed up all but the tent and tarp, and made that long trek together to the SOUTH PARK lot. By mid-afternoon our sleeping bags were spread out on top of the truck to dry. On the way up, we were witness to the aftermath as a young pit bull named Lacey was hit by a vehicle while walking up the hill with her two humans. Apparently the leash was trailing the dog, and it got caught under the car wheel somehow and dragged her underneath. We heard the “Yelp!” and then met the scene a few moments later. The car had never even bothered to stop!!

Her humans had another 4-year-old pit bull that was really upset. The hit dog couldn’t walk. I offered to carry the brother’s big djembe so he could carry his dog up that steep slope. It was a long way to the lot, and I know that was one heavy dog to carry! They intended to head to the nearest veterinary office in Springerville. The dog was alert and could stand up if it had to, but she sure couldn’t walk. Lacy might have had internal injuries from the tire rolling over her mid-section.

I went back down to the site for one final look at the gathering, and packed up the tent. I left the tarp in place, giving it to our new neighbor David. I hope it kept him a bit drier in the heavy rains that followed. David had arrived late, and was staying for another couple of weeks to help clean up the site. On the way out I met Zigamus again and had a great chat on the trail. Over by Bliss Kitchen I met and talked with Dennis Peron, the Saint of San Francisco’s Cannabis Buyer’s Club. Dennis told me he’s been staying on his farm and tilling the land. Then I crossed the-singing-creek footbridge and hiked up and out of the gathering site to our old Dodge pickup we call TAZ.

That night Rustie and I slept in the back of TAZ in the South Park lot. There were still a LOT of campers and buses and cars. People had been partying up there that had never really descended to the gathering. Lots of whiskey drinkers and non-Rainbow folks were making noise all night. We were used to all-night noise, but this didn’t feel quite as much like Home.

Tuesday morning (July 7th) arrived misty wet and gray. We rolled out of the gathering onto 117A. We jiggled and shook our way down that washboard road out to Highway 60. Heading west to Show Low, we stopped at the White Mountain Restaurant, bought the local papers (which had Rainbow stories!) and ordered some grub. We left a big Rainbow tip for the friendly waitress. I had Rocky Mountain Rainbow Trout, and it was delicious! Then we threaded west through the Apache National Forest on Arizona 260.

We took the scenic mountain roads all the way through the Tonto & Prescott & Coconino National Forests and stayed that night in beautiful Sedona. The nearly full moon looked majestic reflecting in Oak Creek, as it climbed over the red rock mountain formations. The next day we pushed north (through monsoon rains in Flagstaff) to the Grand Canyon, but that is another story.

Well this rambling blathering spew has gone on long enough! We had a great time and all was good! The only way to describe a Gathering is to be there, really. The vision doesn’t get through to all, but enough get the drift to keep this magical thing afloat now for 27 years!

Thanks for your patience and ear,
   Lovin’ you all, my Rainbow Family!

         g u a n o

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