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Subject: The Short and Sweet Gathering - Michigan 2002
From: Butterfly Bill (butterflyb...@grapevine.net)
Date: Thu, 11 Jul 2002 13:00:53 GMT
Whenever a particular gathering has a special intensity for me I give it a special name, other than state and date. There have been for me the Bug Gathering - a NERF regional in Vermont where the skeeters and deer flies were out all thru the day, but was the best ever in terms of music and beautiful interactions with other people, and the Rain Gathering - a Mid-Atlantic regional where it rained for almost all of the three weeks, but revealed to me how the fellowship could be more intimate when you're huddled together under tarps. There was of course the Virgin Gathering (NC '87), where the RFOLL socked it to me with its size and power, and after that the Confirmation Gathering (TX '88) where I wore a dress in front of other people for the first and definitely not the last time. There was the Marathon Gathering in NM, six weeks long, seed to seed, and the Montana Gathering, which I went ahead and named after the state it was in because so much of its drama took place in and around the Montana camp among the people who hung out there.
Michigan 2002 will henceforth be known to me as the Short and Sweet Gathering.
It was short, not only for me but also for everyone else. The first population arrived on June 19, and there was an inundation of people starting the 23rd, with virtually no seed camp. I arrove on June 26, later than I have in years, and scrammed at sunrise on the 5th, cuz I wanted to get back to an event in my other church back in Babs.
And it was sweet, with brothers and sisters giving me strokes and warm fuzzies thruout, an epiphanous music session following a rainbow sighting, exciting combat suspense with the green gang on the periphery, and a long resonant OM on the fourth after their ATV's had chosen not to advance. Nine days, hitting me with full force the moment I entered, and continuing in its intensity to the end.
I have decided the best way to describe it all is as it unfolded to me, chronologically.
I planned my arrival at about nine in the morning, staying in a motel the night before. This is a usual good time to avoid the possible predations of both the LEOs and A Camp, but still have some people awake to greet you. In my van I followed the directions that had been posted on the net. When I had done the "Go 1/2 mile to the 1st left, FS 5230. Follow this for 4-5 miles to parking", I found there one brother there who told me to continue on that dirt road until it met another, then make a left and the a right at the first road thereafter. The road I met was paved, and so was the other, and I drove on asphalt all the way to the entrance to Bus Village and the rest of the gathering.
There were people walking and sitting all over the place when I got there, and I looked in to see more than a hundred busses and vans, all jampacked together in a small field at the edge of the woods. The brother at the gate greeting newcomers told me to park along the road, "that's the best we can do, we aren't letting anything less than 30 feet long inside right now". I continued around the curve the road made as it passed the entrance, and drove for about a half a mile more to find cars parked solidly all along the edge of the road. I did a Y turn, and went back to the stretch approaching the entrance, where I had seen much fewer cars.
I found a place big enough for my GMC Safari about three football field lengths down. There was a deep drainage ditch running alongside the road, some places nearer than car's width, and the ground next to the road sloped away, some places as much as a 30 degree angle. The soil was wet and sandy, and I was to hear spinning wheels followed by voices of people pushing several times in the coming week (as well as my own grunting while joining them twice). Later I determined that I might could have snuck into some places inside in the silent hours around sunrise, but I chose to keep my van where it was for the duration. It was near enough to walk to, but far enough from the crowd and cacophony to sleep at night.
I changed out of my nice Babylon-quality rayon dress into a Rainbow-resilient cotton knit tanktop one, tie-dyed, put on my mess kit bag, and walked up the hill. I took a path that had been walked into the weeds from the road to a lower part of the bus parking, and beheld a scene that made me think I had taken a turn into China. School busses, vans, panel trucks, cars, parked with barely enough room to walk between them, with tarps strung between them all over the place, people piled upon people in perilous proximity.
About 50 yards in I came upon a campfire with pots over it, and shouts of "Butterfly Bill" to the side of me. I found myself in a hug from Iron Warrior, and then turned to see Turtle smiling. This kind of thing went on and on as I walked toward the trailhead and into the site. I couldn't get more than 50 paces without being greeted enthusiastically and stopped for a conversation from someone else from years past. I never felt like I had so many friends in my life, never felt so much like I was being truly welcomed home.
As I walked in on the main trail, I found myself on a vehicle dirt road that went absolutely straight into the woods. The surface was very muddy, with puddles to dodge everywhere. There had been heavy rains up until two days before, only for the previous day had it had any chance to dry out. For a few football field lengths there were more motor vehicles parked among the trees, then a movable stop sign that had been placed in the road by Family folk. Beyond that the road sloped down at about 30 degrees for about two FBFLs more, with rocky prominences making it almost like a stairway in spots, but much drier. At the point where the road began to level out again there was a big tent with a kitchen and Welcome Home signs and Raps displayed out front. There I encountered Roadrunner, whom I asked about the rest of the trail.
He responded, "Well, first you walk for a bit and you get to the first mud pit, then there's the second mud pit, then the creek, then there's the third mud pit, and you get to the river". He wasn't shitting when he said "mud pits", I had on only some old jogging shoes and I had to think out every step. There were stretches of absolute quagmire hundreds of paces long, and I saw lots of people slip sliding away trying to get thru it. I managed to get without mishap thru the first two mud pits as far as a creek with swampy grass on each side and a metal culvert for it passing under the road, before deciding to turn around and come back again in some more suitable foot attire. I thought this might be the river other's were talking about, but it wasn't.
All along the road kitchens and camps were emerging, distributed more or less evenly along its length, all not far from the main road. All activity was within a few hundred paces of it. I wondered if I was going to call this the Gallup Gathering, after the city in New Mexico which is stretched along the old Highway 66 for a few miles, with all houses only a few blocks away from it.
I asked a few of the old friends I met along the way about the rangers and the permits, and a story emerged. There had been a site selected and settlement started on the other side of the real stream at the end of the road. Some Rainbows had built a bridge over it, but the Forest Service LEOs had told the RFOLL to clear out of all land west of it, and had even ordered us to destroy the bridge, but this last thing had not been done. "Everybody's now calling it the West Bank." (And this is what it really was, literally, the land west of the stream.) Most of the people who had set up there had already left, but Montana Mud kitchen was still holding out. No permit had been signed, a few had tried, but the FS refused to allow any permit for the land we were on, either side of the river. The West Bank had what they called an "archeological site", which was really the ruins of an old mining town, with the artifacts therein mostly rusty old hydraulic fluid bottles.
I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening at the top of the hill amid the vehicles, and I wondered out loud with some others if this was going to turn in to a Texas II, another drive-in gathering. If the way down continued to be so treacherous, most people would stay up on top. A few major kitchens had set up there, including Kid Village and Lovin' Oven. A-Camp was at the trailhead to the right as you entered Main Trail, identified by a big black Jack Daniels flag hung over it, but it's energy seemed diluted a bit by its being surrounded by all the other people close by. As you stood ready to go down the main road, a secondary road came in at a right angle. from the curve in the paved road to the right and went into the woods to the left. This was also parked densely for a few FBFLs, with the Ovens at the end and Dragonfly and Bliss kitchen nearby.
Bus village mores prevailed, car stereos audible many places as you walked, propane stoves and ice chests in abundance. I marveled at how this mass conglomeration couldn't have arisen in more than two or three days, since the directions had been posted so late and many of the license plates were for states more than a day's travel away.
I returned to my van for my first night's sleep, and found the mosquitoes wanting to land on me five at a time. I strung up the mosquito net I had brought and listened to their high-pitched hums outside it thruout the night. Not only were there skeeters, but moths and lots of other winged things I didn't recognize. I picked more ticks off me than I could count. Interrupting pisses to swat deer flies off my ankles became routine, and using the shitter in the morning was a challenge. But I remembered the Bug Gathering and how it was the best, and held out hope that the same energy might reappear.
On the morning of the second day, Thursday the 27th of June, I donned a pair of rubber jackboots beneath my tanktop dress and set out to explore the road further. Just before the stop sign I heard Gypsy Tripper call out my name. We did all the how're you doings and how's the year beens, and in the course of the conversation he showed me the newly established Main Supply tent, a composite of lean-to canvas tarps. A group in Minneapolis similar to Food not Bombs had come with two truckloads full of food, and a place had to be quickly established to hold it. Then this naturally turned into Main Supply.
I continued down the road, but again failed get all the way to the river. I got stopped in conversation at the Information booth that Now was constructing just at the edge of the slope that descended about fifty feet to the swampy creek, and though walking was now less dangerous with the rubber boots on, it was still just as tiring. I returned topside for the afternoon nap that I must take after I have dropped the noontime dose of Diltiazem and Clonidine that my VA doctors have me on for my high blood pressure, then I went down again as evening approached determined to achieve this time the River Jordan that bordered the West Bank. But I was sidetracked again.
While traversing the second mud pit I heard a crowd hollering "Circle" to the right, so I went to check it out. I followed the sounds into the only reasonably sizeable meadow down there, and found Patch and a sister named Marianna whom I was seeing for the first time herding people into a circle. One kitchen had come with pots of food, and they started serving to people who were standing up. The ground was very wet with patches of puddle everywhere in the grass, and it was not really possible to sit down.
Glowing Feather was wearing a big felt striped Cat in the Hat tophat, and he pulled it off and announced that he was gathering money for the Magic Hat. After he had made the rounds of the circle, he started to ask around where he should take the money, and there was nobody else there with any kind of good answer but Your Favorite Insect here. I suggested taking it to Gypsy, as he was now Main Supply, and we did it that way in Arizona. And it just so happened that Marken walked up a minute later with his bag of notebooks, and he agreed with my plan - and I thought, "Well shit, I guess I'm on the banking council again".
Thus, in a typical Rainbow manner, Main Circle and the Magic Hat spontaneously generated itself out of whoever happened to be there to rise to the need. Marken and I took the money back up to Gypsy, told him what happened, and gave him the money, about 77 dollars. I decided I had at the most two ascents of Rocky Hill in me per day, so I stayed upstairs the rest of the evening.
The Circle however was to go into dormancy for the two following days until a truly good place for it could be found.
(to be continued)
Subject: The Short and Sweet Gathering - Michigan 2002 (part 2
By the morning of the third day, Friday the 28th., the ground was starting to dry up, and I again put on my old jogging shoes. I set up my daytime dome tent near Gypsy's bus and the supply tent, took my noontime nap, then went again down the trail. On the way down I saw the water truck for the first time. It was a pickup truck with a big 250-gallon tank in the bed, with a spigot, hose, and a long line of people with plastic jugs waiting at the back. The truck was old and Rainbowly picturesque. There was a coffee can for donations wired to a ledge on the tank.
Trucks like this going up and down the road were the main way water was delivered thruout the gathering.. There were no springs on the site. Hawker set up a solar powered pump that could get water out of the gravel next to the river, and on July 3rd a tank was set up at the top of the road and some of the familiar black PVC pipes were laid, but neither of these supplied a majority percentage of all the water needed. Family folks had managed to get permission to get water for free from several places in the nearby town of Watersmeet, including a pump in a city park and a spigot behind a Safeway. The money in the coffee can was for gasoline.
By this time in the afternoon it was getting very hot and humid. The temperature was in the high 90s. It was to continue like this for the next four days, getting down only as far as the upper 70s by sunrise. Austin weather in the north woods. I wore my minidresses when I wasn't just going nude. Either way I was carrying a water bottle and wearing a terrycloth towel that got totally wet with wiped off sweat. Thanks to the frequent trucks, I was able to keep the bottle filled. The mosquitoes retired during the day, but the deer flies stayed on the job. I swung my sweat towel around like a horse's tail trying to swat them.
This time I made it all the way to the River Jordan, and found a moderately fast flowing stream with clear water and sandy banks. The stream made a hairpin turn, and near the point of the peninsula thus formed, off and around a mound of bushes to the right of the main road, a big heart-shaped boogie fire pit had been dug. The bridge was made of several large logs laid side by side and stacked two deep, on two sets of support piles, also of logs, with X trusses across them. The whole structure was lashed together with burlap string. The road on top had a few cut lumber planks and soil and sod laid over it, and the structure probably could have supported a small car going over it.
The river widened downstream of the bridge into a pool big and deep enough to really swim in, and the water was warmed by the afternoon sun. The ground on the banks was like beach sand, and so was the river bottom, ideal for bare feet, and there was an idyllic scene of naked bodies everywhere. The bodies were mostly young and firm, and anyone sneaking a camera for his porn site would have found a gold mine. There were relaxed people all around smiling and laughing and just soaking up the beautiful vibes, and I really felt like I was in Zion - this is what we go thru all of the trials and tribulations in the wilderness to get to.
I took a slow dip, then proceeded up into the West Bank. It was what a lot of people would have regarded as an ideal site, lots of open spaces, and a large meadow about 100 feet above the river, overlooking it and the woods beyond in a pictureworthy view. There were several trails that had been worn into the grass by Rainbow feet before the casting out from the promised land, and I followed one of them all the way to Montana Mud. I found a large kitchen area bliss-railed out, and several huge tarps strung up with sleeping bags scattered about beneath - no minor operation. A few young people were hanging out, but they were only serving coffee at the time.
I returned to Info as evening came on, and by then it was fully up and running. A rectangular frame of long logs had been set on four posts, a tarp stretched in the frame, a short fence of skinnier logs had been erected around the perimeter letting the roof overhang for a few feet out, and pieces of plywood were nailed on top of the rail facing the trail to make a countertop.
Several groups of people coming by carrying pots of food and asking where was Main Circle were told that a really suitable main meadow had not yet been found, and they were sent to Bread of Life kitchen, which had set up not far away. There a mass feed-in happened, and Patch took the 5 gallon Info bucket there and came back with $216 for the Magic Hat.
Words came in over the radios that the Forest Service had set up roadblocks and were ticketing people as they came in. We found that this was true when several folks came down to Info telling us that they had been sent by a person up the trail they had told their tales to. We had a pad of forms with blank lines to fill in describing the incident in enough detail to make it effective legal testimony, and soon I was looking at a row of a dozen or so people at the counter, all filling out the forms and exchanging irate stories.
Then another brother came in to tell us that he was driving a water truck, and the LEOs had given him a ticket and then told him to dump all the water in the tank on the ground, or his truck would be impounded. One of the officers told him that they would stop all water from entering the gathering until Montana Mud and all others "illegally camped in the restricted area" left and came over to the east side of the river. Empty the water he did, then some of the others at the counter started telling us that they too had been ordered to empty their gallon jugs.
I was starting to act real skimpy with my own water jug and a lot of us were settling our minds into an emergency mode, but a few hours later I saw a water truck go by with a full tank. Apparently this tactic had been aborted and Malcolm Jowers had ordered his men to let the water pass again. All kinds of stories started to come in about why. One popular one was that the governor of Michigan himself had stepped in, but others said that an attempt had been made to contact him, but a message was only left on an answering machine.
The next morning, the fourth day, Saturday the 29th., I finally found Dragonfly for the first time at Bliss kitchen. She had a story to tell concerning the previous day's drama. The Forest Service the previous day had put on one of their "information sessions" in Bruce Crossing, a little town a little ways north of the gathering site. She, her husband Gary, and a few other Family folk attended it. She told me that she was a little flustered at first because she didn't have all her materials and didn't feel really prepared, but she hadn't needed to. The locals themselves said all of the things she would have said to counter all the Forest Service claims. She "had never seen so many informed and articulate people." There were things said like "bullshit, we've been camping there for years and you've never told us about ant archeological sites." There were people there who still remembered the last gathering there in 1983, with kind things to say about us.
Then somebody brought out a video camera with an aiming viewer big enough for a few people to gather around and look, and ran a tape that had been made showing the water dumping. This infuriated many of the townspeople. Some of them started shouting the FS speakers down, and people all around were offering the Family new places to get water. In the face of this, the FS reps walked out of the meeting that they themselves had called.
I had decided the day before that the place for my diltiazem tent was down by Info. This was where all the news was coming into and the plans disseminating from, and one is always interacting with Info if one is doing banking. I moved it, as well as the aluminum frame cot I'd brought (hey, I'm a high holy graybeard now, I've worked for it and I deserve it, you've got your folding chairs) down to the stockade behind the Info booth.
A Forest Service map of the Ottawa National Forest became available, and I was able to determine that the distance from the intersection in Bus Village to the swampy creek was almost exactly one mile, and from there to the high meadow about three quarters more.
Since there was no dinner circle, there was much talk about Magic Hat parades, but suitable musicians could not be found during the day. We finally started just sending out one of the 5 gallon buckets with "Magic Hat" written upon their sides in artistic lettering with people who came by Info that we could somehow shanghai into volunteering. They would walk the road asking for donations and come back. Only once in all the time I was at the gathering did we have a problem with it not coming back, and this was a case of the bucketperson not knowing whom to give the money to upon returning. That day in that way we brought in $684, and a can by Gypsy upstairs got us another 183.
Late in the morning on the fifth day, Sunday the 30th., word came in to Info that the people over at Montana Mud were being arrested, and later some eyewitnesses came by with stories. The LEOs approached with horses and shotguns and surrounded their camp. All had been given a last chance to leave, but 13 refused. Some were using nonviolent civil disobedience tactics, like going limp when arrested and making it necessary for them to be carried off.
At about the same time, a big sign appeared on the bulletin board by Info that the evening's dinner was to be served at the boogie pit by the river. But as the day progressed, there emerged more and more talk of taking it up the hill. Finally we did, the food was all taken across the bridge and up to the large meadow, a circle was formed, and Dinner Circle as we usually know it started to happen.
I was wondering if all the reforms of the Montana Gathering to Dinner Circle were still to be in effect, and it looked like they were. A sister led one prayer, and Greg Sherill made the "three essential announcements" (dehydration, shitters and cleanliness, going to CALM). There was another sister who had come to the smaller circle of food servers in the middle and told them that she had "an essential announcement to make to the family". She was allowed to make it. First she had us all do an om, because that was part of her presentation, then she launched into an explanation of how we were all "being given implants" and that "this was a grave danger to us all." Some of the young people with the serving pots started saying among themselves, "She's a wingnut, let's go", and started going to the outer circle to start serving. Finally I saw several people surround her and talk softly, and she started getting angry and complaining about how we were "being rude". By this time the food was going out in earnest and all focus was lost on the center. The om she had called turned out to be the om for the meal.
Vermin Supreme and I started around the circle with the magic bucket, and we quickly picked up a guitar player and a young sister who was a really good rap performer. I played my teeny metal dumbek with the 4 inch head. And we started into what's for me the most enjoyable part of the banking movie: going around the circle acting like clowns and looking at the succession of smiling and laughing faces. Most of the faces were young, people in their 20s and 30s. The frequent newspaper description of the Rainbow Family as "aging adherents of the hippie movement of the 60s" did not at all fit what I saw. We collected $490 that evening, but the daytime Info bucket had outperformed it with $638. There was no evidence of FS activity thruout the meal, the circle on the forbidden West Bank was left unmolested.
(to be continued)
Subject: The Short and Sweet Gathering - Michigan 2002 (part 3
The sixth day, Monday the first of July, unfolded like the day before. I spent a long time at the beach by the River Jordan. There were no new stories of Forest Service activity, and dinner was again served up on the hill. The Magic Hat scored $723 at dinner and 146 during the day.
The weather was the hottest it had been and I spent most of the day and ran the Hat at dinner skyclad. I walked back up Rocky Hill as dark descended, and forgot what I was wearing when I went out onto the road toward my van. I walked into the glare of some headlights, and heard a man saying, "Sir, this is a public road, you can't go around nude out here." I then determined that it was a FS LEO vehicle. He sounded almost flustered as he asked "where's your pants." I walked into a space off the road between two parked cars saying, "just a minute", set my backpack down and opened it, and put on not my pants but my light yellow gauze cotton dress, baby doll length, and proceeded on my way. I don't know what he was thinking after I did that because he didn't say anything.
On the seventh day, Tuesday the second, I stayed topside until the a.g.r. meeting at 2 in the afternoon at Bliss kitchen. Only about a dozen people showed up during the course of it, but they included some heavies. Karin Zirk was there, and Rachael of the many names, as well as Dragonfly, Hawker, Loopi Spoonhead, Captain Kirk, NZane, and Barry Sacharow. Montana Crystal was the first to arrive, and she headed directly toward me to give me a humongous hug as I was still sitting in my chair. There were no consensi to be nice to each other or any other business taken care of at the meeting, people came and went and we just sat there and shot the shit.
I tried to take my afternoon nap up there at Bliss on the ground, but it didn't work, so I went down to do it at Info. When I awakened, dinnertime was approaching and I was just ready to head out with the bucket when messages were coming in on the radios that FS personnel were assembling at the far side of the bridge and not letting people cross it. I determined to go anyway, but just then it began to rain. This I had not at all expected or prepared for, I could get weather radio broadcasts in my van parked on the road, and they had predicted only "a slight chance of scattered thunderstorms".
It started to scatter thunder pretty intensely for about ten minutes. Then the radios said that the FS had retreated during the storm. Apparently their safety rules forbade their being out when it is thundering and lightninging. The rain let up, and the gathering's first rainbow ached over the road. I relaxed, thinking that this was just a passing shower, but about a half-hour later it returned, then it downpoured with pyrotechnics for about an hour more as dark descended.
A group of musicians on their way to Granola Funk for a performance got caught on the road in the rain and ducked under the overhanging tarp in front of the Info counter. Among these were Diego, Jiva, and Isabella. As the rain continued and intensified, they started to play in front of the counter. Michael John sitting in the middle beckoned them to come under the counter inside, they did, and there in the middle of the Info booth unfolded the most intense and electric music jam that I have ever witnessed at any Rainbow anywhere.
There were some shakers and claves sitting on the ground, and I picked some up and joined in. Then Jiva set her small djembe down, and I got her permission to play it. I then spent most of the evening playing heartbeat drum, while I had a front row seat to view some of the best musicians in the Family. A bullfiddle showed up, a sax and a flute, Fantuzzi was there for a while, and there was a parade of dynamic vocalists. Finally I was exhausted and went to my tent, but I heard them play one more song, then Fantuzzi say, "I see the sun is coming up, so we'll play one last one before going to bed." The whole show must have been at least six hours, and I had been in a state of tripping on no more than weed and wonderment the whole time.
The eighth day, Wednesday the third, passed with no more incidents created by the FS. The weather was cooler after the passage of the cold front that had triggered the rains of the night before. The biggest dinner circle yet happened again on the hill, and the Hat brought in $1,037 there. The Info hat outdid that with $1,417. The previous day's Dinner Circle was rained out, but the Info hat that day netted $1,071.
On the morning of last day, the fourth, I ascended the hill at probably around nine o'clock. The meadow was already filled with about 200 people, and I saw that a plain log had been placed in a posthole in the ground to serve as a peace pole. The usual assortment of trinkets had been placed around its base and the familiar religious gesticulations were being performed around it. Most of the people were sitting around and facing the pole, but a number were on the slope of the hill facing toward the river view instead, giving the crowd a pattern somewhat resembling a bullhorn.
As I sat, I heard the sound of muffler-equipped motorcycle engines in the bushes. I was able to see one group of Forest Service uniforms around a four-wheeler ATV in one gap in the leaves. The sound of motors started on and off repeatedly for about an hour. At one point a plane flew low and circled the circle, before flying off to observe the rest of the gathering. A brother stood on the trail leading up and in, holding a piece of notebook paper that said "six up" to the line of people coming in. Nobody knew just what was going to happen.
I sat down facing the valley, at a place where I could keep an eye on the LEOs at the edge of the bushes. Montana Crystal came up and sat down beside me with a big smile on her face, then leaned over to give me a hug. The conditions where we couldn't speak gave a special flavor to our communication. At one point when I had stood up, she held me in a vise grip hug that lasted for several minutes. It was a moment quite possibly not unlike something in one of the romance novels that she tells me she writes professionally.
What she is like when her kids are here and she is herding them around, and whether or not she is still "monogamous and attached", as she declared many times during the Goddessmyass days, I could not tell - but I do know that what happened then and there was very romantic. For the first time in my Rainbow career I hung around another person during the whole meditation instead of flitting around like a butterfly as I usually do.
By noon the field was densely packed with people. There was no children's parade, probably because Kid Village was on the opposite end of the gathering. Instead everything was free to happen spontaneously, and it did. Like a flock of birds on the water collectively taking flight, everyone started standing up when seeing others do so, with no vocal cues. Everyone now was facing the pole in the center of the circle. The om started quietly in the middle, then soon filled the air.
It was loud and resonant, and long. At one point everyone started raising their arms like usually before the end, but the om continued on with all our arms still upstretched. My right arm that was holding Crystal's hand started to get tired, and started to shake. At this point Crystal placed her hand under mine to support it, a gesture I thought was very symbolically kind. Finally the om gave way to whoops and it dissolved into drums and hollering. The ATVs had not advanced, the prayer was left unmolested by the Forest Service. I told Crystal I was going to abandon myself to the chaos, and we parted.
All thru the meditation I was looking up at the sky, and I noted prime rainbow conditions. There were thin hazy clouds above. But I regret to say that I did not witness myself the rainbow around the sun that some others have said they saw. If it did occur, it was after the height of the om had passed.
Thus came to a close the Short and Sweet Gathering. That afternoon I got all my stuff up to my van, and I departed at sunrise the next day.
The Unity Church of Lawrence, of which I've been a member for four years, had finally found a bigger and better building to move into, and I had spent the first three weeks of June volunteering my labor taping and floating and painting and trim carpenting. I had built a booth for the sound engineers from scratch and wired up the speakers and set the snake. All effort had been directed toward the first service in the new building on Sunday the seventh, and I wanted two days to get back to Lawrence in time for it. I also feared that the woman who runs the sound system would go into a tizzy if I weren't there to help her with all the things that could go wrong before a first use of the equipment in a new place.
The Rainbow is the Rainbow and like nothing else, but here was another group with many of the same ideals that is able to nourish me in a lot of the same ways, and is there for me 52 weeks a year, only a ten minute drive from my house. I wanted to tend to this vital part of my Babylonian existence as well.
Besides, by this time I was bone tired. This was the first major gathering that I had attended since my hospital stay in October of 2000, and this was a test to see if I could endure all the strenuosities with a two-chambered heart. I discovered I could, but there could be no more seed to seed marathon gatherings for me. I had to do a lot of walking, and I had to ration the harder parts. If I left something at the top of the hill, I had to do without, because I could only climb it two times in one day.
I was always asking anyone who wanted to serve me some food if there was any salt or tamari in it, and most of the times the answer was yes. I could eat pancakes and salads, I could have fruit, but most everything mixed and cooked hot I had to turn down. Most of the food I ate was stuff brought from home in Babs, saltless chips, crackers, and nuts, ramen cooked not with what's in the little packet but with saltless vegetable bouillon cubes. The only canned meat I could find was chicken and tuna. It got monotonous.
But I could still experience the gathering for what it is, a wild and crazy ride I take each year to discover things I can nowhere else. The reality of it all is that it is a dream, and it is a chance to test dreams by making them reality. The Rainbow lifestyle I could not live year around, the value of the gathering is in what can I take back to old Babs - and I have taken a lot.
In some ways, I think the Forest Service movie on the West Bank actually benefited the gathering. There were hardly any horse or foot patrols by the LEOs down inside the gathering. Most of their energy was directed to the movie on the edge. If we had gathered on the other side of the River Jordan, water trucks would not have been able to deliver there anywhere near as easily as they could on the main road on the east, and this could have even made things critical during the hot spell.
I don't have a detailed report on the acquisition and disbursement of the Magic Hat funds as I have presented in previous years I did banking. I wasn't there for the whole gathering period, and I wasn't able to get ahold of all the receipts at one time so I could copy them down and have all the information to post whether others wanted me to or not. I can say that the total amount collected up to July 3rd. was $6,682, not including the change which was not yet counted. $2,327 of it was collected at Dinner Circle, and $4,355 at Info and on the road. This was about half as much as a typical national gathering. The water trucks were financed by direct contributions to them, as was Kid Village. A large amount of free food was provided in the beginning by a group in Minneapolis. There must have been much more financing by individual kitchens independent of the Magic Hat than usual, because I didn't sense any real shortage of supplies in the kitchens I visited.
(to be continued)
((not the story, that just ended, I mean the gatherings))
– Butterfly Bill
This post was the basis for the first chapter of Rainbow Gatherings, vol. 2.