The Rainbow Gathering was just 15 miles from here in a beautiful part of the Green Mountain Forest. I was excited. They have never been so close to us. They have been gathering since the early 70s in National Parks around the country where they have certain rights within the law, to come together and camp for up to 2 weeks as long as they don’t leave a mess behind or change the landscape. These gatherings are huge . . . sometimes between 4,5 thousand. Many stay the whole time. (You don’t notice the numbers except at a couple of the plenary circles. Their tents are scattered throughout the forest along the main access path, like a thousand mushrooms.)
The gatherings are dedicated to world peace. These are really good, well-intentioned folks from all walks of life and they set up a woodland village (actually several) with kitchens and ritual space and ovens made from area rocks and mud. They represent a cross-cut of humanity. Some might be teachers, while some are homeless or itinerant, but everyone is friendly and loving. (There is no money, just giving and barter.) The food is cooked there and free. The kitchens are equipped with clean water and donated supplies and ovens that look like something out of The Hobbit, wood fed.
I didn’t camp out but attended for two days in a row, biking a few miles in. (The cars along the entrance road stretched for over 2 miles!) I really enjoyed just hanging out and walking around, as an elder . . . having conversations and joining in circles and playing music. It stirred something in me to be part of this event for a little while. (I suppose it fulfilled a fantasy on some level of wishing the 60s could return.)
The energy was all about connection and living close together for a while as a great family. People who are there for the whole thing are, of course, undergoing a profound shift of consciousness, and probably many of them (the veterans of the Gathering, old and young, and especially the old timers) are able to shift the moment they enter the forest. (It must be very hard to leave for them.)
The village extends throughout a large area of the forest. There is an open space with scrub brush and grass for the main ritual circles (The drum circle on July 4th, so I hear, was at least a thousand strong.), and there is a tipi village with 9 great tipis set up in a clearing. There is a “Vision Circle” tomorrow, the last official day of the gathering, when they will decide where to meet next year (by consensus — there are no leaders supposedly, but there are spokespeople). I’m not going to that meeting because I still feel like an outsider or visitor. (For this reason I didn’t eat their food but brought my own out of respect for how they had to pack everything in.)
It bothers me that the locals aren’t welcoming of these folks who drive or hitch from all over the country. They are mostly afraid of them I think, depicting them as immoral or dirty, the way they used to judge hippies years ago. There was some nudity, which was beautiful to me. . .people of all ages were just being free but nobody was crude or insensitive. (And I realized that public nudity itself is not weird, but what is weird is how we frown on it and gawk or stare or judge people who are free enough to shed their clothes. Just for example, I watched an old naked guy, probably in his 80s, walking among some little children who hardly noticed he was there. But when he returned a little later dressed as Santa, they paid attention.) There were lots of elders there and folks of all ages from all walks of life, and no money! I liked that part. So everyone was on equal footing . . . And there were some riffraff (festival hobos) as well, many of whom will keep showing up and likely become dedicated members of the Rainbow family in years to come. It’s a very positive event and I may attend again if it’s in OR next year which is one good possibility.
They were lucky with the weather. It rained the end of the last day. Funny how the weather participates in these sorts of events. And there were some Zen moments, such as when I found myself sitting by the “kitchen” where they were preparing the evening meal. I was in a comfortable chair. I had lit a sage smudge-stick that I bartered for the other day, and was listening to a woman who sounded just like Joni Mitchell, enjoying being enveloped by the smells and taking in the sight of children playing and the whole atmosphere felt good. I didn’t want to be anywhere else. A functioning village in the middle of the green woods. Not bad.