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Originally posted on my Live Journal blog on July 24, 2013
The 2013 annual national Rainbow Gathering in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in Montana was spread out over a site that measured over two and a half miles from its northernmost to its southernmost populated areas. My daily commute from the place where my van was parked to Info was a mile and a half each way, and a round trip from Info to Dinner Circle was over a mile. Adding to that visits to Kid Village a quarter mile away and any other exploring of the site that I wanted to do, I probably walked at least six or seven miles in any single day, and many days more than that. And the walks often seemed longer because I could frequently see my destination in the distance across the sagebrush and grass that covered much of the site, and I’d think I was close until I found myself walking a lot more than I was thinking I’d have to.
Much of this was the result of a personal choice that I made: to commute to my van parked in Handi-Camp every night after spending most of the day around the Info booth, rather than sleeping in the tent that I set up there. It was possible to stay on the hills where most of the population was and visit lots of kitchens and events with relatively little walking (tho the walking you’d do would be mostly up and down mountain slopes of sometimes 20 degrees or more) – and many did this. But I felt that the daily walk back to my van enabled me to watch the gathering grow and then diminish, and to know what was going on at the front gate and the other side of the valley. I also found the morning walk to be conducive to meditation and reflection, and during that time I composed in my head some of the paragraphs that follow in this essay.
This gathering was on the same site that was used in 2000. To me, the western border of Montana looks like a human face in profile, with a long nose extending down over some puffy cheeks with a pair of puckered lips in the middle. The gathering was near the space between the nose and the lips, where a mustache would be. While standing in the main meadow you could see the valley sides to the left and right slope down low and frame some snow covered mountains in the distance. This was the Bitterroot range, and the crest of it is the border with Idaho. The nearest town was Jackson, about 12 miles away down a dirt road that ran thru cow pastures after the leaving the forest, and the nearest place to do any normal shopping was Dillon, some 60 miles away.
Some things were the same. Kid Village was set up in the same place it had occupied that first time, and Lovin’ Ovens was not too far away from its old location. At Kid Village depressions were found in the ground where the old compost pits had been dug. (The people who had filled them in during the first cleanup had raked the ground level over them instead of leaving a mound of dirt over them to compensate to the soil settling as the garbage beneath decomposed.) I was told they were dug out again to make the new pits.
But more things were different. I called the 2000 gathering the Montana Gathering because the Montana camp seemed so prominent. This was not the case this time. The meadow where Tipi Circle stood with Montana Camp immediately to the south remained uninhabited this year until a large boogie pit was dug near its northern end, and Montana camp was hidden in the woods near the Ovens. No single tipi circle appeared; instead they were scattered around the meadows. Info set up not far from where Rainbow Crystal kitchen was before, and encountered the same troubles with a nearby stream that Gary Stubbs did. The main meadow where Dinner Circle and the 4th of July happened was several hundred yards to the west of where it had been in 2000.
And this gathering had a lot more of the young Rainbows who prefer to dress in black and khaki rather than tie-dyes. Like last year in Tennessee, Fat Kids Kitchen, people who had been associated with Montana Mud, and other crusty kids played a large role in the Seed Camp, Main Supply, and cleanup movies. Nick at Night acted as roving observers for Shanti Sena, and we even had some people from the Projects haul in some of the supplies for Info.
I arrove at about 3 in the afternoon on the 20th of June after a drive from my current hometown of Muskogee, Oklahoma that took two days of dawn to dusk driving and from dawn to this time on the third. The first sign of any Rainbow activity was a group of scruffy looking people on a small patch of grass by a fork in the Forest Service road. One brother walked by my window as I slowed down, and I asked him how to get to Bus Village. He told me to go to the left, and I did, descending around a broad S-curve to the grass covered meadow where the lower Bus Village had been in 2000. I found that the center of it, where most of the vehicles were parked in 2000, was now occupied by several large wooden cattle pens with ramps for offloading from semitrailer trucks. There were still some spaces around their edges, and I parked my van close to a fence and one of the ramps. Further away was the Fat Kids’ schoolbus along with another bus and some other personal sized vehicles.
I walked back up to where I had seen all the people before and asked another brother some questions. When I asked him if the place we were in had a name, he said, “A-Camp”. Apparently they hadn’t been able to find much booze recently, because nobody was acting especially rowdy and most of them talked politely to me. When I asked how to get to the main trail, he pointed to the road to the right of the fork and said, “That way.” That road went for several hundred yards until I saw another group of people by the side of the road milling about or sitting by piles of camping gear. There were two tall trees close together with two long poles extending between them, with short sticks laid crosswise over them to make a counter on which there were already some piles of papers. A little cardboard sign hung from it that said “INFO”. Next to the tree on the right someone had drawn a simple map with a white felt tip marker on a blue tarp and hung it from a rod tied to a tree branch.
As I was standing there looking at the counter, a young woman with curly ringlets of red hair came up to me and said, “Hi, my name is Change, but most people call me Miss Information.” We got into a conversation, and during the course of it found out that she had been staying by herself with a three year old daughter in the dome tent nearby, her van was parked by itself on the other side of the road, and after coming in yesterday and being confused and finding nobody to answer her questions, she took on herself the task of informing the newcomers. “I didn’t know a thing about what was going on when I first started, but people have been coming in and telling me all kinds of stuff.”
She had been there by herself constantly for all that time, and she asked me and everybody else passing thru if they had any kind of food. I introduced myself and told her that there would probably be another Information built further inside the gathering, and I hoped that there could be some cooperation. I was also attracted by her outgoing and extroverted personality, and I told her that I saw a talented Infomaniac in her.
But I found her directions to the main trail failed me shortly after leaving and actually looking for it, and I found myself back on the road heading for A-Camp. There was a group of sober looking brothers standing and talking by the road to the side, and after expressing confusion at one man’s directions, another said, “I was already going to go there, do you want me to escort you?”
He took me back up the road and past the place that I heard others refer to later as “Little Info” and on to the main trail. Shortly thereafter I saw Marken and J’ai standing next to Marken’s new used pickup truck, and I thanked the brother and told him that I wouldn’t be needing his services any more. Marken told me that he had just found out that they didn’t want him to park there, and that he had already scouted out another place that was next to the FS road.
“It’s just a short walk over this hill. Do you want to go with us.” I said yes, and we went to the place where we could have parked several feet from the edge of the road under the shade of trees, but Marken noticed that there were no other vehicles parked there, and he was wondering if there was a reason why.
It turned out there was. The Forest Service had totally banned all parking by the sides of roads, restricting it to parking lot areas only. This was relaxed in stages later in the gathering, but now it was strictly in force. Change said she had got what seemed to be an agreement so far with them to leave her van parked nearby on the other side of the road. Marken brought his truck down and parked it next to my van in the lower Bus Village.
Later on that evening Robbie Gordon showed up there with his truck and tipi poles bringing Tony, two other Taos brothers, and a sister. He said he didn’t have any encounters with the Forest Service police on his way in, but some Dillon city cops stopped him for his cracked windshield, and noticed that none of the passengers in his back seat had their seatbelts fastened. They gave him a ticket that he was able to pay on the spot with his debit card and let him go, but he was still in a colossally bad mood when he first came in. Shortly thereafter Henry the Fiddler appeared in his van.
It was 34 degrees as the sun appeared over the mountain to the east of the lower Bus Village at 6:10 on June 21st. I heard several idling engines as people tried to warm up the insides of their vehicles, and I woke up one guy who was sleeping in the driver’s seat of an old Buick station wagon, fearing that he was passing out from carbon monoxide.
I finally got my bearings and realized there were two roads leading out of there, the unpaved but graded FS road that I had first descended, and another less developed road that in some places was just two tire tracks in the grass. They separated at a fork shortly after you started the initial climb. I finally recognized this as the trail I had always taken to the main valley from Bus Village in 2000. It didn’t seem quite the same as my memories, and I finally decided it was because a lot of the trees had grown taller. It went on to intersect the wider FS road, which continued uphill past Little Info and the front gate to the east and ultimately curved around to border the southern side of the site. There was another Bus Village about hallway up, overlooking the main valley, and another one higher up at the south end.
After a short initial climb and before another short final one, the road between the lower Bus Village and the front gate was mostly level. There was a string tied between two trees that framed the entrance to it coming from the FS road across from Little Info, with a sign hanging from it that said “Handi-Camp”. (This is a place for physically handicapped people that appears at every national gathering.) This was where they first started allowing parking by the side of a road (as long as you were at least 5 feet from the edge).
I passed Little Info where only Sheila, the sister who came with Robbie, was awake, sitting by a campfire on the other side of the entrance to the main trail. I continued on the trail and went into the main valley. It started out about a hundred feet wide with trees on both sides of a grass covered band that ran on both sides of a creek for about a quarter of a mile, then it opened out into a broad bowl. Out in the wide part the treeline was several hundred feet up the slopes from the valley floor on most sides. The valley was in the general shape of a T on its side, with the trunk of the T extending to the west and the view of the snowy mountains in the distance, and the top of the T extending from the entrance by Little Info to the southern end, where the land rose into forest cover and where most of the population would be. The altitude at the main circle area was approximately 7300 feet.
Where the narrow valley entrance started to open out into the wide meadow there were people building kitchen that was finally called Mudder Earth. It was originally conceived as a Welcome Home kitchen, but it turned out to be too far into the gathering to be effective as such. I was told a few days later that there had been a split among the people who worked at Montana Mud kitchen. Most of them followed Useless , who had been the main focalizer, to here, and it grew into a sizeable establishment, with a firepit in the shape of an M and a sign saying, “A SOBER food place”.
Later on in the gathering, some of the other people couldn’t bear to see the history-laden name of Montana Mud disappear from the gathering set up a kitchen halfway up the trail leading to Montana Camp and put up a sign saying it was Montana Mud. (The All Ways Free had the text of a speech Useless had made at Thanksgiving Council passing the name back to Jimbo, its original founder.) It was considerably smaller than the Montana Muds of the past.
Out in the meadows the land was covered with grass and sagebrush. Here and there were circular holes as much as six inches in diameter dug as entrances to underground tunnels by some burrowing animal. There were small yellow flowers resembling buttercups and others that looked like purple bluebonnets. Sound carried far here, and sometimes I could hear voices and make out what they were saying from a hundreds of yards away.
The sun started to appear over the hills to light up the valley at about 7 in the morning, and completely flooded it with light by 7:20. In the evening the sun set behind the hills at about 9:10 and it took the same amount of time for the valley to be completely in shadow. Twilight lasted until after 11 o’clock, and some events that were usually scheduled for “dark-thirty” started while there was still light.
The trees in the forested parts of the site were almost all lodgepole pines, so named because of their long straight trunks. Pine bark beetles were starting to do the same thing they had done to the 2008 Wyoming site, making the needles on lots of trees turn reddish brown, and others fall down dead and dry. (I could have called this the Second Fallen Tree Gathering.) It was not yet as severe; it seemed to be affecting less than a quarter of the trees. There was lots of long and straight timber for building bridges and structures lying on the ground. The pine trees were dispersing pollen which coated tents, tarps, and cars with yellow dust, and aggravated many people’s allergies.
(to be continued)
I didn’t go very far beyond the initial narrow corridor that first day because I couldn’t find anything that looked like established trails out in the wide open part. Instead I spent the morning at a kitchen that was just setting up called Camp Freedom. My asking for coffee was the stimulus that started a brother called Fire Walker to stoke a fire, find a grill to lay over it, and ultimately cook up a breakfast that included eggs and sausage.
I returned to the parking lot and at about noon and experienced my first rain on this site. For a few minutes it was accompanied by rice kernel sized hail, but this quickly subsided, and this was a rarity. Whenever it did rain around here, it always fell in small droplets. There were never any downpours, and the rains usually lasted only for an hour or two. But every day of the gathering there was a chance there would be at least one rainy period, and I started carrying a fold-up umbrella with me every time I went out on the trails.
There were a few long periods of rain, and one of these was most of the night and morning leading into June 22nd. When I got up and stepped outside of my van at about 5 in the morning, it had turned into snow. When I got up again at about 7, it was coming down in big clumps of flakes. I was able to stick the full length of an index finger into what had accumulated on top of my van before the tip of it rested on the metal. At 8:45 the sun came out, and shortly thereafter the snow turned back into rain and stated to taper off, finally stopping at about 11. Now the snow started melting, and the roads out of the parking lot turned into what looked like hopeless quagmires of mud surpassing even Pennsylvania in ‘99 and Arkansas in ‘07. I had been planning to walk into the main part of the gathering, but I resigned myself to perhaps spending the whole day in the parking lot. I lay down in my van and dropped off to sleep
By the time I had awakened at about 2:30 in the afternoon the snow had completely melted, and it hadn’t taken more than a few vehicles going over them to start packing the road surfaces down hard. The mud congealed and dried rapidly. I also noted that both Henry’s and Robbie’s vehicles had both left. I walked up the Handi-Camp road to Little Info to see if Change could use some help, and in the process discovered where they had gone to; they had parked in Handi-Camp’s small grassy field along the road just below where it made its brief final climb to the intersection with the FS road by Little Info.
Miss Information appeared to be doing all right and somebody had brought her some packages of ramen that she was boiling in a wok over the campfire, so I again tried to go into the broad part of the valley. This time I found what the FS had been calling an “ATV trail”, which was a strip of bare land about a foot wide running thru the grass. Over the course of two weeks other foot trodden trails would appear on each side of this strip, until there was a boulevard eight feet wide in spots. Later there emerged some forks leading off to other trails, and I started telling newcomers to always go to the left if they wanted to get to the most populated area. I walked this trail to where it ended at Kid Village, which had already erected a huge tarp covered structure. At about three quarters of the way in, I found the big dome tent that was going to be the Info supply tent.
On the morning of June 23rd, just before sunrise, the temperature was 26 degrees – the coldest temperature that I have experienced at a gathering. This turned out to be a rarity at this gathering too; the more usual sunrise temperature was around 40 degrees. It was cold enough to make going to the shitter in the morning uncomfortable.
An hour later I hauled in my tent and tarp to the Info site and found two trees near each other to tie a rope between and drape my tarp over my tent. Then I went on to Kid Village where they were serving their usual opulent breakfast on potatoes, eggs, pancakes, and oatmeal with fruit. I found out I was still regarded as an elder like Felipe had pronounced me last year and had the same be served from behind the line privileges. I returned to my van and brought in a second load of a cot and a blanket, and when I got back to Info I walked into a council that was being held in the Cooperations meadow beside it.
It was a supply and kitchen council, and there were few enough present that people could just talk across the circle at each other without the need for a feather. I was happy to see some faces from Tennessee back this year: Sloth, the Nick at Nighter who kept the books for the Magic Hat; Raye, the Fat Kids sister who handled most of Main Supply, Daniel, who had been focalizing Dinner Circle, and fellow Infomaniacs J’ai and Marken. There was much talk about determining the number of woks and pots in each kitchen and their capacities in gallons, and the comparative numbers of servings each kitchen was capable of, all to determine what proportion of the total amount of supplies available each kitchen would receive. Raye went on and on about keeping supplies off the ground and up on pallets or tables. It was decided that every day pile of food would be made destined for each individual kitchen and that each one would bring a tent or table for their own quota to be placed in. At that time all the supplies were being deposited at a point on the road far above Upper Bus Village, and there was discussion of moving it down to near the front gate (where it had been in 2000). This was not done immediately, but a few days later it was.
Later that afternoon at Info I found out that the Rainbow Posties that that appeared for the first time last year were back. They were a Rainbow postal service who walked all over the gathering delivering messages written on paper and put into envelopes with “stamps” hand drawn by the sender. They continued to deliver up to the 2nd, when the population of the gathering and the number of messages got beyond what they could handle. I was told that on the 3rd they had a ceremony where they “fired the gathering” and burned all of the still undelivered messages in a campfire. They did not deliver any more letters after that.
Robbie Gordon and his friend Tony set up their tipis about a hundred yards down the main trail to the north from Info on June 23rd, and I spent some time over there every day. On the afternoon of the 24th I was sitting out in front of Robbie’s with them and a few other friends when Plunker came up to us and said he had some things to report. He said that he had heard reports of people being stopped by LEOs as they came in and subjected to checks of their licenses and registrations, but he said they “weren’t using dogs”.
Shortly after, while Plunker was still there, a man in a LEO uniform accompanied by a man in a light blue plaid shirt, blue jeans, and a tan baseball with a black and white American flag on its crown. Plunker pointed to the man in civvies and said, “I’d like to introduce you to this year’s Incident Commander, Tim Walther.” He was wearing no gun holster or any other police equipment. The man in uniform told me he was Kris Hancock, the Operations Officer (and, as he told us, second in command). Mr. Walther said that this was his first gathering, and he “hoped to learn how to work together with you”. Plunker described him as “a fine gentleman who I think we will really be able to work with”.
They were going all out to introduce and shake hands and ask our names, and they willing to chat with us and listen to our concerns. There had been an official looking piece of paper that showed up at Info stating that the Forest Supervisor had issued a special order banning nudity. Mr. Hancock said, “We don’t care, just as long as it is not in sight of a public highway.” Later on in the conversation I heard him say things like, “We might as well work together”, and “I think we can accomplish a lot more thru cooperation and not confrontation”. There was no mention of any permit.
Then they told us of two recent incidents they had been involved with, a baby elk that had been attacked and killed by a dog, and a brother attacking another with a shovel in “an argument over a girl”. We expressed our concern and our assurances that we would work with our Shanti Sena to prevent things like this from happening again, and they seemed to accept them. All of us Rainbows there were surprised and cautiously optimistic over this dramatic change in tone from the past.
Later that afternoon the gathering had its first Dinner Circle, with the stated starting time of six o’clock and the actual serving starting at about 6:30. About 150 people showed up, and Fat Kids, Mudder Earth, and Iris kitchens were the first to bring food. Daniel was focalizing as he had in the past, and in later days he poured out the same flour rings on the ground for forming concentric circles around that he had in the past. At the kitchen council the previous day, it had been agreed that it would not be in the same place it was in 2000, but over to the west in a lower part where there was no sagebrush and all grass.
All over the site in the areas not covered by trees there were dried out patties of cow manure that were sometimes as big as two feet in diameter. There was a greater number of these in the grassy area, and before the Dinner Circle started several people showed up with wheelbarrows and tried picking them all up. There had been spotty rain showers all day, and some of cow pies were starting to moisten, making them harder to pick up without breaking. Most of the big stuff was successfully removed, but there remained lots of little bits and pieces. To the end of the gathering you had to exercise caution over just where you plopped down your rump when you sat down.
Later that evening in Bus Village, there was an electronics addict who had to have his pickup truck stereo going for all the time it took him to unload all his gear, and I thought back to 2000 where I had to move my truck almost every night to get away from some noise that had just showed up. Previously both J’ai and Marken told me that I was “allowed” to park in Handi-Camp (I guess because of my age), but I resisted it for a while because I was still able-bodied and didn’t want to use up space that might become scarce. This guy helped me make the decision to move, and I drove up the road and found a place after a brother there warned me not to park in the first place I chose because of some treacherous rocks. It cut about a quarter mile off of my walk in and out, so I became comfortable with my decision. There I could close all the doors and windows of my van and be in complete silence.
(to be continued)
On the morning of June 26th I did some exploring of the site. To the right of Kid Village as you approached it was a stream named Saginaw Creek that ran the whole length of the valley. There was a rainbow-built bridge across it, and the trail across it led uphill to Rough and Ready kitchen. Beyond there was a fork whose right branch ultimately led to Instant Soup. Nothing much was happening in either of those places this early in the morning. About a football field’s length before you arrived at Kid Village going on the main trail there was a fork with a trail leading off to the left, and many kitchens and camps appeared along this. There was a place called Surreal Cereal with tye-dye sheets hung along its four sides, and by this ran a path that led up to Turtle Soup and Lovin Ovens, which was still in its early stages of construction this day. Further along the trail was Jesus Camp and another place where I saw some Bread of Life people, but not their octagonal kiosk and any sign identifying it as such. I was told that several Christian kitchens were combining to make a composite one. Further up the trail was Montana Camp, and at the end was a place that offered massage. Many more kitchens and camps would appear later along this trail.
Near Info was another Rainbow bridge that lead across the creek and it led to a place enclosed by hanging sheets inside which they were beating gongs and steel drums and other esoteric percussion instruments. Further along the trail was a kitchen with a big sign that said, “Rumorz” and a smaller sign to its right saying “Ms. Information”. I wondered if this was deliberate irony, being not far from our banner that says “information and rumor control”, and I learned later that it was. The irony was not hostile; the kitchen had first appeared at a national gathering in Washington in 2011 (which I did not attend), and its original intent was to be “a coffee kitchen with a general focus on serving coffee 24/7 to the late night Info crew”. They had an elaborate bliss fire area with tarp covered sitting spaces on each side of their firepit, and this was later a venue for Shanti Sena workshops in the afternoon. The crew dressed more in the blacky-khaki style than the hippie, but there were some mornings where I heard coming from there some tight and spirited drumming.
This morning I continued on the trail that ran past Rumorz and then downhill to the northwest. Just beyond was the end of one of the water pipes leading to the springs above, and there was a line of people with buckets and big jugs waiting to fill them up. A short distance further, Soaring Turkey, a Krishna devotee, was erecting his tipi where he led chanting and gave talks. Beyond was a camp that I was told was named Stitch and Bitch, and from there the trail went into the trees and led down to a kitchen with a sign that said “Casual Encounters”.
The next place that I encountered was a place they called Mud and Butts. It was where the trail intersected another Forest Service road going downhill, and shortly down that road was Nick at Night. The idea behind the Mud and Butts name was that there you could have coffee and cigarettes. The principal focalizer was a brother who called himself Not A Dave, and he was able to inspire a lot of hardcore street kids.
There were signs along the road that pointed to Iris kitchen, Fat Kids, and Faerie Camp. Shortly after passing Nick at night, which was a tarp covered structure with many straight sticks criss-crossed around its sides making it look almost like an animal cage, the tree cover started to broaden and the road came to the edge of the meadow, and there a Trading Circle was forming. In the trees just to the west was The Projects, a camp where there were lots of young people who lived on the streets of big cities when they weren’t at a gathering, and had extremely anarchist and punk attitudes.
Stories were that they sometimes consumed alcohol. They were also reported to like to do small acts of violence on each other as fun, and one of these was shooting at each other with a BB gun. They said it was just a game they played with each other, but some shots went outside their camp into places where there were sometimes children. Complaints about this started coming thru Info, and finally one afternoon Mr. Hancock and another LEO came into Info and asked where the BB gun was. One of us was able to tell him that one of the older people in that camp had taken it and locked it up in his vehicle in Upper Bus Village. On another day a big Shanti Sena council had to be called when some of the traders’ blankets started to migrate backward into what they thought was the boundaries of their camp.
On the other hand, Not-A Dave was able to get several of them to haul in several wagon loads of equipment for Info, so many of us at Info didn't really know what kind of judgment to make.
This route seemed to me like a shorter one to the Dinner Circle area than going down the main trail in the meadow and then turning a corner to go over, and this became my regular route in the evening from Info. Most of the workers in the kitchens and people in the camps along this route wore blacky-khaki fashions, and it started to look like this was the dirty kid side of the gathering, while the hippie and high holy side was up the hill to the south. The kid culture was also predominant on the other side of the valley near the front gate. There were a few places apparently on the wrong sides of the line, like Rough and Ready and Montana Mud up the hill, and Faerie Camp and Soaring Turkey’s tipi down it, but there were majorities in both territories. Again Info wound up on the dividing line.
At the kitchen councils there had been talk about starting a “breakfast circle” which would start at about 11 o’clock. On the 27th we actually did it, and about 300 people showed up. Casual Encounters by themselves tried to feed all of these with a wok full of fried potatoes. In later days pots of oatmeal and dry granola and chai tea from other kitchens would also show up. This continued to happen every day except the Fourth until July 7th, and since this was an occasion to pass the Magic Hat, I attended all of these.
David Alexander English took on the task of focalizing it, and over the days he developed a routine that included several parts. As the circle was still assembling and we were waiting, he would call for a “roll call of the states” where everyone in the circle would say what town and state they were from. He would ask for everyone at their first gathering to stand up, and this was followed by applause, cheers, and welcome homes. He would ask us all to holler “breakfast circle” two or three times, then he would ask us all to “make a lot of noise and commotion so people will hear it and think there is something going on here and come over to see what it is”. Finally he asked for everyone saying the Om not to cheer and holler at the end but instead to stay silent while they squatted down to touch the earth.
For four days there were a few people who couldn’t keep quiet, and every day his pleading grew longer. He’d say, “When we chant Om, a shaft of light appears in the center of the circle stretching infinitely upward and downward. When we whoop and holler, that destroys this.” Then he started asking “anybody who cannot agree to do it this way” to “please step back from the circle”, and a few people complied, but still not everybody. On the 30th he had a group of people sing a song:
With the Om, we call the angels
In the silence they will come
With the Om, we call the angels
In the silence after the Om
But there were still a few who cheered at the end. After the circle had eaten he asked if there was anyone who wanted to experience what it was like when they remained silent, and about 20 people circled up, Omed, and then squatted down and touched the earth in silence.
Finally, on the 1st of July, he got the silence that he wanted, and everyone bowed down to the ground and touched it without a sound, and this continued every day after until the end of the gathering. He acted like he wanted this also to take place at Dinner Circle, but he didn’t try to overcome the inertia of custom there.
Later on the afternoon of the 27th there was a meeting of about twenty Rainbows in the shade of some trees near Info with the Forest Service about the Operating Plan. Mr. Walther again came in civvies without a gun, while Mr. Hancock showed up in a crisply pressed green uniform with a gun in a holster and cases for electronic devices hanging from his belt. Also present were Kim Pearson, head of the local district, Bob Beckley another resource ranger, and some other rangers. There also two other LEOs with guns who stood outside the circle and said nothing the whole time.
The meeting started at five minutes before three. After a sister named Sibling asked us all to hold hands and Om, Mr. Beckley took one of the copies of the “draft plan” that has been passed around to all who were present, and said, “If you don’t mind being read to, we can go over this item by item.” The title on the page said “2013 Annual Rainbow Peaceful Assembly and Free Speech Event”, and we spent about 15 minutes discussing just this title. Some people didn’t want the words “Rainbow” or “Gathering” to appear in it, and some others did. I was given the impression that what we had finally agreed to was “Rainbow family of Living Light World Peace and Healing Gathering at a Peaceable Assembly and Free Speech Event at Saginaw”.
The draft plan started out a lot of sentences with “gatherers”. Some people wanted it to be “gathering participants”.
The draft plan said, “There will be no camping within 150 feet of surface water, or where posted. Where it is not possible to meet this, camps must be on dry or hardened sites that are not creating resource damage such as mud bogs or trampling of plants, particularly in riparian zones.” In the final plan this was changed to 50 feet.
Other than these changes, everything else in the plan got immediate agreement by all present, and nobody complained about “being dictated to” by the Forest Service. (The complete text of it can be seen here.)
The meeting ended at about 5:30 with some people wondering if a new day was really dawning. But most of us were wondering if this would be accompanied by some real behavior changes in the rank and file cops who patrolled the gathering. There seemed to be some, but not enough for a lot of us. I didn’t hear any reports of roadblocks and checkpoints after this. On only one day did I see any LEOs riding ATVs; all the other times they went thru the central gathering area on foot. (There was the usual troop of five on horseback, whom I always saw riding together.)
They said they would not be going thru the gathering looking for drugs, but if they happened to see someone puffing on a joint or a pipe, they would do what the law said they had to do. And there was an amazingly high number of people who did just this; several reports of this happening came thru Info. If they caught you they would search every part of your camp with a dog taking part, and confiscate any dope they found. Sometimes they would give you a ticket, sometimes they wouldn’t.
And there were times when I saw them do what any cop would do if he observed certain things happening in the city. On one evening walk back I was near the front gate when I saw two Rainbow brothers get into a yelling and shoving match with a sister standing nearby. I heard “back off!” coming from the direction of the road, and two cops came running up. One of them said, “Come with me, ma’am”, and led her to a place away from the scuffle. The other started to try to get between the two fighting men, but by that time some other brothers had come from behind and pulled them away from each other. The brother who had started the altercation calmed down and said, “It’s all right officer. This is just a disagreement between us” and followed the cop as he led him away and started asking him questions as they stood together off to the side. Another Rainbow who knew the other brother said, “You’ve got to come with me”, and walked him away from the scene. The LEOs were content to let us deal with the problem ourselves, and didn’t make any arrests or give any tickets.
On June 28th there were no clouds and no rain, and out in the meadows it was warm enough to invite nudity, which I saw more of thruout this gathering than in recent years.
As I was walking back in the evening, I saw Change as I was approaching the front gate, and she said, “They evicted me, but I’m still behind my van.” She said this while smiling, almost as if she was relieved. I soon saw the reason; they had indeed set up a Main Supply near the front gate, with some tarps hanging over boxes, bags, and buckets. They were all up on pallets or tables made of lashed together sticks, just like Raye wanted. A large schoolbus was parked in the entrance to Handi-Camp across the road, and about two dozen Fat Kids were eagerly unloading it out of the door in its rear end and shlepping things over.
(to be continued)
On July 1st, the traditional opening day of the Rainbow Council on the Land, we had a final meeting with the Forest Service. No LEOs attended, and two resource rangers showed up and passed out final versions of the Operating Plan. It was titled “Peaceful Assembly and Free Speech Event (Gathering) at Saginaw”, and nobody raised any objections. An informal discussion followed with no feather being passed, and the conversation was about a variety of subjects that included pine beetles, the latest weather reports and the fire danger, recent sightings of bear and elk, whether or not vehicle access could be granted on a nearby road. Badjer finally said, “Are you done?”, which we took as indicating that he had to leave and wanted to know if the plan had been consensed to, and another person asked if anyone still had any objections, and nobody spoke up. The meeting was concluded with an Om at 1:25.
Later that evening at Dinner Circle Mr. Walther (still in civvies) and Mr. Hancock came in and Barry took them into the middle of the circle and introduced them. Then he said they were “decent people who rarely eat people before breakfast.”
During the last week of June a rumor came thru Info that there would be no Granola Funk Theatre this year. This was because Aaron Funk, their main focalizer, had been heavily involved in relief work in Haiti after their earthquake and was still down there. But on the morning of the 1st I walked up the trail toward Rough and Ready and saw a cardboard sign that said, “G-FUNK Old School Revival. The Show MUST go on.”
At the bottom of a grassy hill that led down from Rough and Ready, they were building a stage. It was very plain and simple compared to the edifices they had erected in the past, a stage of three plywood panels all painted black in front of a rectangular wall with shorter walls on each side joining at 45 degree angles, made of canvas stretched over a frame of straight sticks and also painted black. On the 2nd I got to observe a rarity for them: a performance in bright daylight starting at about 2 in the afternoon. It was “Rainbow: the Musical”, play whose plot sort of revolved around a mother and her son who were both starry-eyed newbies (“I want to go to the yoga meadow!”). It was repeatedly interrupted by two men dressed as cops who went thru the audience finding people to accuse of facetious legal infractions.
We had an Info council on the morning of July 2nd, and one of the subjects was our location. We had been telling people for days, “Don’t put your tent within 50 feet of a stream”. Recently some of us realized that the Info complex was nearer than that. One person got out a tape measure, and it was 39 feet. We discussed how we could have done this, and finally figured out that when the site was first scouted out, the stream had been dry, and that all the rain we had been getting caused it to start flowing strongly again. Our Info site was near where Gary Stubbs’ Rainbow Crystal kitchen had been in 2000, and at Vision Council that year I heard people repeatedly accusing him of deliberately putting up his kitchen too near a stream, which he kept denying because it was dry at the time he first set up. So I saw history repeating itself.
The Operating Plan said, “There will be no camping within 50 feet of surface water, or where posted. Where it is not possible to meet this, camps must be on dry or hardened sites that are not creating resource damage such as mud bogs or trampling of plants, particularly in riparian zones.” And our tents were up on such dry and hardened ground. But it still remained an embarrassment to be caught not practicing what we preach.
In the course of that same council I learned that a rump court had been set up for people who had been given tickets (not for camping without a permit, but other crimes like shooting off fireworks, vehicle violations, or possessing drugs). To get there you continued on the dirt road leading in from the highway instead of turning left to go across a bridge to go to the site, and it was a mile and a half away and walkable. You could go there on July 5th and give them “collateral forfeiture” (a fine) or go to the federal court in Butte on July 8th if you wanted to plead not guilty and fight it.
Before the council in the morning I had done some more exploring of the site. The fork in the road that led to Montana Camp and Kid Village was now filled with Crucial Kitchen, which hung tapestries showing various Hindu gods around their perimeter and served Indian cuisine. The spaces along the path to Montana Camp had filled in with more kitchens to where it started to look like a principal commercial street in a city.
Montana Camp had built a zip line for kids to hang from and roll down. I was impressed with their engineering toward safety. From the pulley wheel resting on the line hung an old bicycle inner tube for a sling. Before the pulley wheel got to the end of the rope, it ran into a short section of tree trunk with a hole drilled down its center thru which the rope was passed. This block was attached to ropes which were attached to bungees, which stretched as the pulley hit the block and slowed down. The lower end of the rope was tied around a crossbar lashed between two trees, and between the two trunks was stretched a plastic cargo net to catch the user if the block and bungee failed.
That afternoon I walked from Kid Village up the path past Rough and Ready and this time went left at the fork. It took me finally to a meadow at the top of the mountain about 100 by 200 yards in size, and at the far end I could see parked cars and busses. This was the edge of the topmost Bus Village, and at the meadow’s far border was a kitchen called Shining Light. Tea Time was somewhere in the woods even beyond this. My only contact with them this gathering was when about two dozen of them came down to Dinner Circle with a few brass horns and all the rest with plastic vuvuzelas and all blasted together for it might have been five minutes.
I returned to Kid Village and walked up another path to the right (west) that stayed on the same side of the creek, and at its end I found Green Path with its bulletin board announcing workshops on subjects such as “mushroom walk”, “sacred cosmic cacao ceremony”, and “what is enlightenment?”
Later that afternoon after I had returned to Info, Plunker came in in a rather agitated state and said he was announcing a “Shanti Sena council to deal with all this violence going on at the front gate.” It was to take place at 4:20 over at Rumorz’ bliss pit. At that same time he wanted “all the old Shanti Sena folks to proceed to the front gate while all the young people go to the council so they can learn how to do this.” I didn’t go to the council because it looked like it would last into Dinner Circle, where I already had a job, and I didn’t observe anything that looked like a procession. But there had been complaints coming into Info about things getting out of hand.
I passed thru the front gate every evening on the way back to Handi-Camp, and never observed any rowdy behavior. Most of those times there were only a few people there, so all the trouble must have been up the road by A-Camp. One evening Tigger, the medical doctor who hangs around with the Fat Kids, came into Info and asked Marken and me for advice. “I know a lot of the people, especially the young ones, around A-Camp, and they trust me, and some of them have asked me to go over there and straighten things out. Do you think I should do this?” We both told him to obey the calling. And he talked with us a few days later and seemed satisfied that he had succeeded. “After about two days a lot of them straightened out.”
Little Info started to fall into neglect and disrepair, and when I passed it in the evening of June 30th, after Main Supply had been moved down there, it had been completely dismantled and disappeared. There was still the campfire there, but no real Welcome Home kitchen ever grew around it. Mudder Earth said that they were serving as a Welcome Home, but it seemed to be too far into the valley for many. An older brother who had complained to me at Info about nobody being at the front gate took it upon himself to go there and look after it, and he remained until after the Fourth. Miss Information never really integrated with the rest of the Info crew.
On the morning of the Fourth I walked into the valley and found almost pristine silence until I heard a few voices in the distance coming from Trading Circle. I remembered how at the Wyoming gathering in 2008 most of the people over in Dirty Kids Meadow were not observing the silence, and I wondered if it would be preserved in the main circle area now that the blacky-khaki land was right next to it. But on my walk from Info down the meditation site I only heard talking in the area around Mud and Butts, and they disappeared from earshot after walking only about a hundred yards further. Even Nick at Night was completely quiet. Then as I walked over the short hill that led from Trading Circle to the Main Meadow, I passed a large dome tent right by the trail where a group of people who looked like sightseeing locals was talking at normal conversational volume, and I wondered if I would be hearing them out in the meadow. But they were out of sight when I got out there and the hill shielded their sound so that I didn’t hear them at all.
Someone had erected a peace pole about eight feet tall out of a simple log of wood with its bark still covering parts of it. Little trails carved by pine beetles meandered over the exposed parts of the wood. A few ribbons were tied to it and along with some strings of beads, and a circle of rocks on the ground surrounded it. The usual assortment of trinkets, talismans, and small pictures were leaning against it.
People arrived gradually, sitting around the pole in mostly a blob, tho a few arranged themselves in arcs of partial circles. A few people seemed overtaken emotionally by the intensity of the event, some of them breaking down and sobbing. One brother was lying prone on the ground crying loudly, and other people gathered around him to try to console him silently. One brother seemed to find the right place on his neck to rub him, and he stopped crying and apparently went to sleep.
There were high clouds that sometimes obscured the sun, but no rain fell thruout the morning. After it had climbed close to the zenith, about ten or twelve women stood up while motioning others to stand up too. Then I saw a woman going around on the side across from me saying, “One circle, tradition”, and as she came around to my side I saw that she was Carla Newbre. People started obeying her and moving to the edge of the meadow and forming a large circle that after a short while was starting to walk backwards up the slopes surrounding the valley. It eventually got to a size that seemed about half of what I had seen in 2000, but still far up the hill in many places.
I, along with maybe about 200 others, decided to stay in the center of the meadow around the pole, and we formed into some irregular circles around it. Then I saw Diego, the Granola Funk mandolin player and singer, go around the outside and herd us all into a tighter pattern of five concentric circles. Vermin Supreme came up to the pole with his oversized toothbrush and made motions of cleansing the pole and its surroundings by passing the toothbrush over it in scrubbing motions. Then he offered the same cleansing to some of the people standing in the circles, and I accepted it as he passed by.
Shortly afterward I heard the Om starting from various places around the circles, then it grew to full volume, and about five minutes into it I decided that it was the best Om I had ever been in. It was strong and resonant, and it lasted a full 30 minutes. (I looked at my watch as it started and ended: 12:05 to 12:35) I looked around at the outer circle, wondering if they could hear us, but I saw no arms being raised out there until we in the center had all raised ours and let out the ending whoop.
The Children’s Parade had left Kid Village, but they stopped on the main trail without going across the meadow to approach us. There were several reasons given to me when I asked about it the next day, including a feeling that we were not meeting truly in the center of the meadow and the sudden discovery that the mass of a few hundred children would have to get across some of the many small tributary streams that flowed into Saginaw Creek from all over the valley – with no bridges.
The outer circle raised their arms shortly after seeing us in the middle do it, and everybody came down to the center as a drum jam started. There was a jumble of bare buttocks bouncing up and down as over half of the people dancing around it got naked. Sitting on the ground in a different place were two lines of over 30 people sitting cross legged rubbing the backs of the people in front of them. The watermelons were brought out and laid on tarps on the ground.
I walked over to the other mass of people, the ones who had come with the Children’s Parade, and didn’t expect to see many people dancing naked, but I was wrong. There was another large circle of people, mostly women who had painted themselves with various colors. I had been skyclad myself most of the morning, and as I walked up the main trail afterward towards Info four young men in blacky-khaki passed me and one of them said, “Wiener!” as the others joined him in laughing.
An airplane buzzed the site for a while starting at about 9 o’clock, but I didn’t see one LEO the whole day.
(to be continued)
Most of July 5th was cold enough to feel wind chill when out in the open meadows. At about 5 in the evening a big gray cloud appeared to the east, and it dropped rain for a while. As I was walking down to Dinner Circle at about 6:20, I heard a big commotion down the trail as I was passing Nick at Night. The I saw a large group of 15 LEOs all walking together the other way up the road. I thought this was the cause of it, but I continued to hear noise, now mostly cheering, further down the trail. As I walked out into the clearing around Trading Circle, I saw the cause of it: a brilliant rainbow that extended in a full arc above the hilltops to the east. The sun had come out while it continued to rain to the east. Then I saw a more faint rainbow with its colors reversed above it, making it a double rainbow. Then a third rainbow formed immediately beneath the lower one, then more until it became hard to count individual bows. Some people said there were four in all, some five. This spectacle dispersed as the rain subsided, but then there was another double rainbow a 8:10 and then another at 9:20. By the time the last one appeared, the clouds and the rainbow took on an orange hue in the light of the setting sun.
At about 9 in the morning of July 7th, a woman who told me her name was Dawn came into Info while I was still the only person awake there, and she asked for help in finding her brother (meaning a male who has the same mother as you, not “brother” in the Rainbow sense). She told more of her story and I found out that his name was Dorian, he was 34 years old, and autistic. “He is not capable of holding a job and looking after himself.”
She was her caretaker, and they had gotten separated during the party after the meditation on the Fourth, and she had been looking for him for all the days since, and now she was in a state of extreme worry and stress. She broke down crying at one point in her talking. She was saying things like “I was wondering if the law enforcement officers would be able to help me, and I looked all over yesterday and couldn’t find one of them. I wanted to try calling them, but the battery on my cell phone is completely dead and I don’t have any place to recharge it” and “Couldn’t we organize a mass search by Rainbows for him?”.
Now (an Info brother’s name) and Karin Zirk showed up and helped me to calm her down. Karin offered to walk her up to the topmost parking lot where she could let her use her phone, and they left. I tried looking for Plunker up in Montana Camp, but failed to find him.
Later on, Vision Council convened in the co-operations meadow (a sign had been attached to the Peace Pole the previous evening before Dinner Circle, announcing this location). As people were still coming in before the start, there was a multitude of joints and pipes being passed around. About 50 people were present at the start, but over the day it grew to over a hundred. The Om started at 12:30, and Patch started the feather off. It went around very slowly, with most people talking for at least ten minutes, and often longer.
Of those who mentioned states, most wanted Oregon, but there were some who wanted it to go someplace other than the northwest, especially if this was going to be the third time there in only four years. One especially impassioned plea was from Glowing Feather, whose Boston accent really stood out when he repeatedly referred to “the northern regions”. There were pleas for New England, Wisconsin, Texas, the Four Corners, but there never emerged any real unity on one alternative place.
But many people never mentioned states at all. This circle was heavy on the heartsongs. There was talk about alcohol and violence, and about the rift between old and young and what we have to do to heal it. People had statements summing up what was wrong with the Family and lots of sentences starting with “we must” and we’ve got to” and you should”. There were reminiscences about old days that were better than now and talk about what we all have to do to regain them. A few people were trying to start intentional communities and recruit new members, and they gave long pitches describing how many acres of land they held and the society they were hoping to build there. And all of these people could find a dozen different ways of saying the same thing over and over again, as if they thought that repetition was the sure way to conversion.
At 2:15, Karin Zirk came into the middle of the circle and said, “I’m sorry to have to interrupt this council but we have a missing brother who is autistic and we are trying to get together some search parties. We are meeting in front of Info right now.” At this about half of the people in the circle got up to leave, and some people mentioned stopping the council, but there were some others who said that they blocked this. These refusals were meant with some strong expressions of disapproval of their wanting to stay sitting here while this emergency was going on. One of these was from Dawn, who again went to the point of crying.
It appeared that there was more going on to report in front of Info than at this council, so I went over to observe. The only picture anybody had of him at the time was an image on an iPhone, and people passed it around and held their hands over it to shade it from the sun as they looked. (Later on some better pictures on paper appeared at Info.) Several people said that they had seen him in various places in the gathering in the days since he went missing. One sister said, “The last I saw him was yesterday evening on the main trail coming in. He was saying, “I’ve been a bad boy, I hit someone”, and Dawn confirmed that this was one of his impulsive behaviors whan he got upset. This calmed the fears of many of us that he had gone off into the woods and sat down somewhere and died of hunger or dehydration.
There were lots of leaders trying to emerge from different places in the crowd with different suggestions for courses of action, but some agreements and coordination did manage to emerge. Groups of people took upon themselves the tasks of searching specific areas and left on their quests. Other people were piping up with advice like “Don’t go off without carrying some water, and if you haven’t done searching before, go with someone who is experienced. We don't want you to be the subject of another search.”
I returned to the vision council, and by now it seemed to have lost all its focus. There were nothing but heartsongs and no more discussion of places, and I finally left as Dinner Circle time approached, very doubtful that I would witness any decision that day.
Finch had been one of the first to stand up and leave the circle, and about an hour after the interruption he came back to the circle, entering it about 3 people before the feather instead of his original spot much further around. When the sister who had the feather before him was done speaking, she looked at him and said "You were over there before" and handed the feather around him to the next person. Someone across the circle said, “Please respect the rotation, pass it to the left”, and that person handed it to him.
When he got it again he chastised with strong words all of the people still there in the circle instead of responding to this emergency. In the course of his tirade he told a story about one of the three feathers that were tied together into the bundle that was being passed around. It belonged to a bird owned by a dying friend of his father, who had gone to visit her and brought back a gift of a bag of feathers. He wanted to remove it so it would not be profaned any further by this council. Finally he said, “This feather is going back to Info”, and walked away from the circle with it. He was pursued by several people, and it was brought back within a few minutes.
There would have been no conflict with Vision Council, so Dinner Circle took place on this last day. The total contributions to the Magic Hat were 9,484 paper dollars and up to about 300 dollars in coins. I’ve seen attendance estimates that ranged from 9,500 to 12,000. The big circle on the Fourth seemed about half as big as the one in 2000, so I find this range believable. There were definitely more than last year in Tennessee.
Dorian had not been found by about 9 o’clock after I had I walked back to my van.
On my walk in on July 8th, there seemed to be little of the Agro Eighth energy that I had witnessed at gatherings past. I heard only one person shouting out, “Wake the fuck up and start cleaning.” But I heard complaints at the council later that day that some people from Nick at Night were very aggressive in clearing out people from Trading Circle, to the point of picking up blankets and dumping their contents on the ground.
The second day of Vision Council started out with Badjer saying, “The talk yesterday was mostly about visions. I hope today that it will be about decisions, that is, where we are going to go next year.” There were about 30 people present, with about 20 more showing up later, and for the first round of the feather he mostly got his wish. Again more than half of the people stated a desire for Oregon, but there was still the same disjointed opposition from a minority.
Then it got to one brother who said “this is my chair, and I’m going to come back later and I’m block anything until we’ve had a discussion of all this marijuana smoking that was going on before this”, and then got up and left his chair behind. Then just before the feather got to its first trip all the way around, another brother said. “I’m gonna block anywhere that is not the northeast.
But Glowing Feather, who was sitting just to the left of Badjer as the feather started its second round, said, “I’m gonna stop supporting the northern regions and call for consensus on Oregon.” This was immediately met with “I block” from three places around the circle, and at this Glowing Feather got discouraged and left the circle. Then we got into a discussion about how we should handle blocks (should the feather just proceed, or should the person blocking be put on the spot and asked to explain why?) Then this led into a long procedural discussion about the relative merits of consensus minus one systems and other procedural fine points that was full of requests to address the feather and complaints from others about hogging the feather while this was going on. This managed to be stopped, then after going thru a few more people one woman got it and then went out into the middle of the circle to deliver a screaming emotional diatribe about how she was being oppressed as a woman by Muslims and Rainbows and society in general. I got up and left after several minutes of it. I didn’t think any decision would be arrived at this day either.
And my predictions were correct. The council went on for three more days (five total) and I found out on Facebook that the final consensus was for Nevada with Utah as a backup.
And here is where I depart from just reporting to express my personal feelings. Neither of these states were even mentioned during the first two days of the council, and it certainly did not reflect the general desire that I sensed from talking with people in the last days I was there at the gathering. The decision was a surprise to me and many other people. I remember all the desperation choices that people threw out in the last two days of one five day council that I did stay until the end of (the previous Montana gathering in 2000), and this sounds to me like another case of this happening. Government by attrition; decisions made by groups of less than 30 people who can afford to spend long hours and days sitting there making decisions for the whole Family. While I have seen places where consensus works like Shannon Farm and small Rainbow councils among kitchen crews and at CALM and Info, I don’t think it will ever work reliably with groups of over a hundred people who are mostly strangers before the meeting starts. Some years it works and is over after a day and a half or only one. Most years it doesn't.
By the evening of the 8th before I left for my real home, Dorian had still not been found. A post I read on Facebook after I had returned home said that he turned up in Seattle, where he and his sister lived. I have not been able to get any more details on this.
I left on the 9th just after it was light enough to take a last shit. At home I had cut some wires and inserted a bypass switch on the right sliding door of my van so that I could leave it open without the warning lights going on in the dashboard, and at the gathering I made sure to start up my engine and run it for a few minutes at least once every three days – so the dead battery problem I had last year was averted. About halfway along the highway to the interstate, I was briefly delayed by some cowherders on horses driving their cattle on the road directly at and around me as I slowed way down and sometimes stopped. They all just walked around me with no collisions as I got to see a lot of wide open eyes and frothy mouths.
Thus ended my stay at the Long Walking Gathering. In many ways it seemed like a renaissance. We probably achieved the best relations with the Forest Service that are possible for us to get until the laws about marijuana are changed. Lots of people reported to me blissful and love filled old time gathering experiences. The young people continued to take over basic infrastructure functions, and do them well. I could have called this the Second Ad Astra Per Aspera Gathering, because like in Utah in 2003 I found a lot more strength and stamina than I had had the previous year. And I could have called this the Second Warm Fuzzy Gathering (tho it was really a third, as the Short and Sweet Gathering in Michigan was the second) because like in Arizona in 1998 I was given a lot of loving affirmations from many people, from people saying they liked my books to Useless calling out to me as I passed Mudder Earth on the 7th after we had done the final count of the Magic Hat, “Cleanup crew loves you.” Some problems that have been ongoing for years were still not solved to everyone’s satisfaction, but a general mood of optimism prevailed.
(The story ends here, but the gatherings remain
to be continued)