ok,I'm so wide awake this morning, I'm going to sit here and try to write the gathering for you.
I was in PA in 1999 but not at 2000 or 2001.
Should we talk about the politics, the gov intervention, the vibe, the energies and prayers, the shifting and mingling of the generations, the reverence....
where to start.
OK, I decided to take the big whack of my vacation time and spend it on the gathering, two weeks.
So in the interest of getting there, and since I'm like rich compared to other times in my life, I flew to Minneapolis and rented a car. Bourgeois style. The turmoil begins before I can even get there since there is some intense strain going on between spring council and the scouts and the Forest Service, who demand to be let in on a regular basis it seems. They have proposed a site. All of this is coming out over the rainbow newsgroup at alt.gathering.rainbow. The scouts have proposed a different site. The story is clouded with rainbow rumors. The feds had the council convinced to go to the site they had picked, where there would not be enough water or open space for the family and they could control us better in the tighter space. The scouts had the prime location already. The family in Wisconsin is freaking out since they were so desparate to have the gathering in their state, but the better site was in Michigan just across the border, on the edge of Lake Superior in the upper penisula of Mich. It's now June 20 and no concensus has been reached. The council was meeting in Madison, and they broke camp there without ever annoucning the site. So now we have people starting to gather from the country with no clear home fire. Stories of fights and threats. The site is finally annoucned around June 23? Late late start.
When I arrive there is no welcome home yet. There are still two sites and many people have started an alternative gathering in Indiana? The pressure is building but so is the thrill of gathering and we see each others faces again. I can just look and look into the eyes of everyone around me and life comes pouring into my heart. I walked in and found that we were going to have a "road" gathering. the muddy trail is wide enough for vechicles to ride right into the middle of the gathering. And that happened once or twice. So there's this magic river in the very center of the gathering and across the river, heading west is the most delightful and gracious main meadow where we could easily circle and pray. Ah, it's beautiful in the woods! I decided to camp near Kickapoo since they are the host family. Their kitchen was focalized by the son of the man who established the "Organic Valley" brand and has created a small farm co-operative of 400 farms across the country. So the food is slammin. Clovis is his name. Dun Dun Village was there with african dancers and drummers. Turtle Soup. Granola Funk sets up a magnificent theatre in the woods with solar panals for footlights at night. Montana Mud is serving wicked coffee. Kid Village is right across the river. So, it's starting to bloom as we each find the perfect spot, I search around till it's just right and have my tent and tarp ready by nightfall. A big fallen tree serves as a long bench and a little hammock, both under the tarp. It's been raining mercilessly for days and the mud is, well, muddy. Really muddy brother, like when you walk the earth is sucking at your feet and one can barely step forward. Shoes come off in the mud.
So I begin attending council. The first one I was in was at kid village and what I'm hearing is strong. The FS has told the family that we must vacate the entire site west of the river, where the glorious main meadow is. They come in on horses. They have a leader named Malcom Jowers, southern accent, gun on hip, tobacco chewer. There is a showdown at the bridge at noon. There are maybe 2000 people across the river and we are not strong in numbers yet, it's still way early. So I go to the bridge at noon, and after two hours decide nothing is going to happen and I remove myself to a perch up on a hill overlooking the bridge where I can observe. A strong sleep overcomes me and when I wake up, there are the stories of the horses charging into the crowds, knocking a woman down, three arrests and all possesions confiscated from anyone still remaining on the west bank. $100 Tickets are being written for "gathering illegally". More ultimatums are given. We are not in concensus about our response. What that means is that as a family we had no single opinion about what to do. So it became a personal choice. "Should I stay or should I go" was the theme song we sang to each other on the trail. I had just camped on the eastside and had no problem staying where I was. I meet some wonderful women my age in Kickapoo, but they decide to leave that day. The local doctor has refused to participate in CALM stating that major health hazards exist. I can't begin to tell you how big these obstacles seemed. but they were all illusion. Everything turned out lovely. Ignore all negativity. We gathered in love. SO anyway, back to the story.
There remains one outlaw camp across the river "Montana Mud" refuses to budge. The leftists are gathered there, the weathered anarchists and hanging on, fuck you. I visit one afternoon when the men come through on horseback. I had shivers. I left soon after they departed. The next afternoon the whole camp is arrested. So it's seeming out of control. We send representatives to the casino where the feds have their headquarters. The media is on our side. The governor finally steps in and tells the feds to stop issuing tickets, to back off and leave us alone and to release the people arrested. Phwew. It was good. The pressure lifted.
Then the water trips begin. Water must be hauled in. There are no springs. There is no ground water. The family has resisted coming here for years for that very reason. but we are fine. People with 500 gallons are driving their vechiles close enough and we physically haul every single drop that we drink. Teaches one certain values. The crowds begin to descend and things are ready just in the nick of time. The road effect is creeping in. the brother camped right next to me is an A camper and brings in beer. When I asked him to turn off his radio he complied and never gave me any other grief. but it was weird being right there next to them. So there was a roughness and a mixed element from what I had seen just two years before. However, with the prospect of open civil disobedience, our numbers were reduced to maybe 12,000. But those of us that came intended to be there and the effect was "compressing" us into a tightly packed core family who were strong. I meet more elders than I ever had, a blessing for me, was actually called "Grandmother" one day on the trail! Hello grandmother. How could that brother see? I have onlly recently crossed into crone, but am embracing my age. younger sisters are telling me that they are so excited how beautiful I am and they are hoping they will be like me when they are my age. Very satisfying stuff. But we go in and out of our bodies, being both young and old and I find myself with the youngest brother I have ever known, courting me. This young monk. I swear. He sleeps on a 1/4" foam pad on the floor. He wakes at 5am and meditates. He walks very slowly everywhere like he is stepping on rice paper. We keep running into each other but when we attempt to make love it's like a comedy of errors with other people showing up at the critcal moment, or mosquitoes biting so intensely that we must get up, this goes on for a couple days until we finally resort to the tent one night.
I get into playing guitar and talking to the calendar makers who have shown up in two or three different groups bringing their lunar/solar calendars and discussing astrological changes. The general intelligence and muturity of the family seems high. I see my first fire dancers, brother! I swim everyday. Children with painted faces. My dresses are all getting a little muddy at the hem. There are tree sitters with their rigs totally up in the trees teaching how to tree sit. Many people are attracted and are learning tree sitting. Time stops. The prayer circle. Well. It's simply the height of estacy. The most intense gut wrenching energized intense circle I have ever ever known. The family was so so so together we were one dancing and chanting and we raised a sunbow. The horsemen just watched from afar as we gathered in solemn silence, across the river to the west side where our meadow was waiting for us like a bride. Thousands of hushed barefoot pilgrims walking to the circle. There was only one trail, the muddy main road, and it took almost five hours for everyone to get there. Dense concentric circles, ten deep. The peace pole in the center. It was intimate.
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