This is a story that deserves to be told. It contains people and ideas that merit a wider audience and it contains mysteries -- old and new -- that may yet get to be figured out.

In the winter of 1971 I was cutting firewood up at a farm outside of Eugene, Oregon. It was part of the Back to the Land movement as they called it a generation ago, when thousands of people -- young people mostly -- fled the cities for greener pastures at the edge of the backcountry, -- planting gardens, cutting firewood, building buildings with recycled materials, domes, yurts and living or at least trying to live, in some kind of communal harmony.

At the same time we already had become an information outpost of the Gathering -- letters being written, invitations being distributed, ideas being brought together in preparation for the first Rainbow Gathering now only a year and a half away.

People came looking for a community of people to be part of, looking for a group of people who wanted to touch the earth with their labor. And also looking for a place to freak freely, to abandon ship from the upheavals -- the marching in the streets or the marching away to war -- of the sixties. For draft dodgers heading to Canada we were a stop on the Underground Railroad. For runaways we were a secure unharmful spot offering food, and good advice. For the young local citizens and loggers we were a place to go party. For scientists or architects or botanists we were a place providing in-the-field examples of geometric architecture, organic farming, small scale logging, and solar technologies. We were experimenting, sometimes experimenting wildly, with herbal medicines, and very carefully with midwifery, meditation, yoga, acupressure chanting, and so on. It was a wonderful, bold time. And we knew that all over the country -- 5n the h533s 6f r4ra3 A0er5ca -- there were others like us, in both smaller and larger groups working on the very same problems and the same dreams.

Into this farm rolled a large deep-purple square-backed truck containing a small clan on their way north. They had been on the road trading. They said they didn't want to use any money so they had adopted the trading lifestyle. They had a truckful of good stuff Tools blankets books, toys, candles, rope, clothes, stuff we could use. It was fun to go to their big purple truck and trade.

As they left they gave us a pouch of Hopi corn seed. They said it was a gift really for the nice welcome they'd been given. And with the seed they gave us planting instructions for the traditional way to plant the corn.

A few months later spring sprang, the ground dried out, and we turned the soil I the lower field. First we planted the frost hardy greens, then the transplants from the cold frame greenhouses we'd built, followed a few weeks later by plantings of corn and beans.

We brought everyone together by blowing the conch shell. We talked about the way of planting where the man with a stick goes ahead, poking the holes and the woman follows behind planting the seeds, dropping them into the holes the man has made. But in the discussion seeking balance, people wanted to do it both ways with both men and women each taking turns with the sticks and the seeds.

It was beautiful. All done in silence. The corn pouch was passed with reverence for the life inside it. As we planted, the afternoon began to cloud over and a light rain started to fall. In the end we held hands in our OM circle as the clouds burst over us and wetted down the valley. The sun dipped under the clouds filling the forested hills with golden misty light and a rainbow rose up from the river and arced down -- I thought it was going to land on where we'd just planted the corn. But no, it touched instead on the godseye standing on the center of the garden. The whole scene was dazzling. The sun, the mist, the rainbow, the new planted deep brown earth, us apart of it all.

Then someone's small voice said, "Why don't we go up the hill to the meditation platform to take this all in"

Single file we went up the trail, a flute casting slow notes across the valley. As we get to the prayer platform overlooking the valley, someone notices a rock nestled in the decay of a giant cedar stump.

But it's only after we've sat that we look it over, passing the carved stone among us. We leave it setting in the stump as it was.

Over a joyful, noisy dinner, amid many other topics, the rock is mentioned. "Hey did anybody see that carved rock out by the prayer platform?"

Nobody had but those of us who'd just been there.

For most of the next year the stone sat where it was

The rock itself was carved on one side with images that were themselves made up of smaller images, figures and faces, and within those smaller signs, figures, designs, until smaller than that it was hard to tell where the carving left off and the natural pattern of the rock began.

More than 7 months later I left Oregon for the East Coast and holiday visiting. But along the route we made stops passing out invitations to the Gathering next July. The invitations were printed and posted, but wherever possible it was given by word of mouth, in coffee houses, yoga centers, community newspapers, laundromats, street corners, on campuses, at rock ' roll shows, places of worship … wherever, whenever. And my travelmates and myself were not the only ones out doing this. There were other carfulls traveling criss-cross the countryside meeting people and spreading the invitation

One set of travelers went through the American Southwest and then eastward and up the coast to where we met up. We planed a trip to Washington, D.C. to distribute invitations and we traded tales of where we'd been

One of their stops had been in the Hopi Lands where they'd heard the yearly ceremonial telling of the Hopi histories and prophecies

They spoke of the part of the story about the times yet to be, where people called the Warriors of the Rainbow would come and somehow set things right in the troubled world -- and they would come bearing a rock, a carved rock that would signal to the Hopi that these were the people of their prophecies.

A rock? A carved, inscribed-type rock? I recounted the tale of our corn planting and we made plans to go back to Oregon and bring the stone down to the Hopi for their examination. First I got on the phone to Kaushal and asked him to go get the rock and hold onto it, protect it.

Returning west, we found the tablet safe and dry, now wrapped up in a small white woven cloth and tied with a coiled cord.

We loaded up two cars and a van with fourteen of us and headed toward the southwest. Close to our destination we stopped at Jacques' place on a remote mesa. He'd been living there for years, acquainted with the Hopi and Navaho peoples.

"You gotta purify yourselves, make yourselves ready," he told us. And we followed his advice taking time to fast, bathe ourselves, meditate and wrap up our hair as a sign of respect.

Then we went early I the morning, to the Hopi village where Feather Knew there was a Kiva, a prayer space, that was open and where we could sit and meditate before going on. An older woman met us and explained that this Kiva used to be open but that too many people had come and abused the space so the Kiva wasn't open to the public anymore. On we went, guided by Feather and Jayson to Thomas Banyaca's house. He wasn't home.

Our next stop was David Monongye's house. Already the sun was starting to bake us. People were home there, and I and Rome and Barry went inside. The radio was blaring loud tinny music. A woman was feeding young children. An old woman sat still on a bench at the side of the room. There were buckets of fried chicken on the table. An old man sat eating. "Come in, c'mon in boys," said the man, gesturing toward us at the door. This was David.

And in we went. "What do you want. What brings you here?" He asked over the din of the radio and the children.

"We … we brought you a stone tablet which we found." I began, getting right to the point.

"You brought a what?" He said, trying to hear over the lunchtime noise.

For a moment the possible foolishness of this entire journey flashed thru my brain. "We brought you a stone tablet." I went on slowly and clearly this time, "which we found."

The younger woman's hand switched off the radio.

"Do you have it with you?" Asked David.

"Yes, it's outside in one of the vans."

"Well go and get it and bring it in."

Like a curtain rising on a whole different scene the place transformed. The food was swept off the table. The children ushered out another door to play. The old woman had lit a candle and was sitting by it at an altar in the corner when we returned inside with the wrapped up stone tablet.

"Open it up." David encouraged

We did, and he ran his fingers over it, almost more to be touching it, feeling it, than looking at it. "Well, how did you get this?" He wanted to know. And I recounted, in brief, the story I have told you here. Barry spoke about the planned Gathering that we were all working on, and Rome, as a Native American, spoke to David about the respect we young people had for the Native American ways.

David asked a few specific questions about where and when we got the rock. Then without further to-do, he wrapped it back up and getting up, said, "We'll just have to see who's here to take a look at it."

He went out and spoke with his neighbor, then told us they were going to round up some of the others, that he thought there were "enough of us here to have a good look together," and that we should go to the house he gave us directions to.

We followed the directions he'd given us, which took us back to the very same place, next to the Kiva, where we had been that morning.

It was Mina's house. She s head of the Hopi Bluebird Clan and she met us at the door, once again, and invited us inside. The entryway opened to a larger room and there were assembled a group of older Hopi. Seventeen I counted. I was nervous as could be. It was a humbling experience just standing there and feeling the combined weight of thousands of years of the tribal culture.

David motioned for us to come up closer and tell our tale. As we spoke, he translated into Hopi, and there was another man there who translated. Sometimes the translation process was simple, other times the Hopi would all speak among themselves in this wonder song-like language. David was encouraging us not to leave out details. Things that were small to us might be important to them.

We spoke also about the vision of this Gathering, and how this was the spiritual quest that had brought us together as a clan. They talked again for a bit among themselves, and then asked a series of questions: What were the colors of the godseye in the garden? How much corn did w plant? What direction was the tablet facing when we found it? How many people had handled it, carried it since? And so on.

In all this telling we were clear, very clear, that we made no claims whatever about what this tablet was or was not, only that all things considered it seemed that the right thing to do was to bring this stone to them.

At last,their glances turned to Mina. And she came forward and asked us -- her eyes as piercing as a great night bird's eyes in the dark of the desert -- she asked us to show them the rock. Without any further fuss I unwrapped it held it toward her.

She looked and spoke with clarity and to the point. "It is not the same color, it is not the same type of rock, nor the right shape to match the piece missing from the tablet that I have."

She turned now and was addressing not just we rainbows, but all the people in the room. "However," she went on, "when my father gave me that tablet, and left me his instructions he told me that this world is full of illusions and we must not let our eyes be fooled. He told e then, that in a time like this I should take the rock and place it near to the tablet itself to see edge to edge if the pieces fit."

"Can you give it to me?" She asked, and without a word I held the stone out to her.

She took the rock and moved thru the bunches of people toward the rear of the room and out a door at the back.

Perhaps ten minutes later she was back. When she spoke her quiet voice had a strength like the Grand Canyon. "It is as I thought, your rock is the wrong shape, color and size." She was shaking her head, "It does not fit as the missing piece of our tablet."

David took it from her and handed it back to us. "This is you tablet." He said as he passed it back to us.

I spoke, feeling honor at having been thoughtfully received at all by these real elders of a enduring tribe. "We are a very young tribe, like a grandchild tribe. Your are a very old tribe like a grandparent tribe. We need al the help and advice we can get from you … and if there is anything we could do for you, let us know and we will do what we can. At least we will try."

David again translated, and from the eager responses, it seemed there was a lot to be told to us. "It is clear," He began, "that you and we are working for the same Great Spirit. We all desire Peace in our lives, for our children and for everyone. Because this is what you are working for, we know that you are warriors of the rainbow, but whether your are the Warriors of the Rainbow that have been foretold well, that is another matter, but you are young and full of hope and there is much life stretching out in front of you."

Then the other Hopi man was translating, "If you want to know a task that we believe The Rainbow Warriors will accomplish, it is to rid the Black Mesa of the demon machines that the coal companies have put there. These are sacred lands for us and they are being destroyed for coal and the smoke in the sky that the coals brings."

Several Hopi were talking in the old tongue now all at once and the translator was trying to keep up with it. They were telling us about the strip mining. I felt I awe of their serious wisdom and their passion not for the money coal and uranium could bring, but for the safety and security of the children of our world.

Then the conversation changed tone, and now they were giving us instructions on Care of Sacred Tablets. A number of the old Hopi spoke, and they were telling us of their traditions, several of them speaking up in modern English.

"Don't take any photographs of it."

"Don't make any rubbings of it or draw a picture of the pictures on it."

"This way the only way to see what it looks like is to see it with your own eyes."

"Keep it wrapped up. Don't keep it open all the time on display. That way when you do open it up it is a special moment to pay attention to. Otherwise if it's open all the time o n your shelf, the people will forget and they will argue and do foolish things in front of it."

And with glad hands and many thanks we wrapped up our tablet and departed from Mina's house out under the now darkening sunset sky.

Things moved along quickly toward the first Rainbow Gathering. We went back up to Oregon and included in the booklet "The Rainbow Oracle," an account of the meeting with the Hopi, and an article about the coal company digs at Black Mesa. And rainbow people have been volunteers trying to keep destructive forces of profitgreed from damaging Native sacred lands ever since. We may not have made a lot of headway but we do keep trying.

In "The Rainbow Oracle" we also asked people to bring a stone from their own home and put these in a pile at the site of the July Fourth meditation, a kind of representation of the earth. And people did this and Skyblue carried our carved rock up Table Mountain and set it on the pile of stones that was heaped there. It sat there all day. But in the evening, with the cool Colorado wind beginning to blow she brought it back down the mountainside.

The rock began a long odyssey. It was carried and cared for by many different people. It went to the Native American in Minneapolis where a petroglyph expert pronounced it "at least a 100 years old." It was bought to a psychic reader who made tape recording about its connection to the great pyramids of mythic Lemuria. It was brought back to the Hopi lands and some there saw a bear claw sign on it and remarked that was like marker stones left behind during the bear clan migrations long ago. It was wrapped and rewrapped with each keeper adding perhaps another layer until five years later in 1977 it was brought to the New Mexico Rainbow Gathering along side the Gila River.

That year Grandfather David came to the Gathering. I remember him riding down the Gila Valley on a burro pack baskets loaded on behind him. One day, while the council was taking place, Jimmer took out the tablet and opened it on top of the blankets and cloths it had been wrapped in. Then Grandfather David came to speak in the council. He had someone draw out the symbols of the prophecy, rock the Hopi's prophecy rock, and slowly in the center of the tipi village under the midday sun, he retold the story of the Hopi people and the four worlds, full of detail and spoken slowly and carefully as from log memory. Then he was done and he returned to his lodge and the council continued. Later that same day, after dinner and dark, the drums started up, the fire threw sparks into the desert sky, and in one of those quiet places amid the drumming someone's voice said David would like to speak to the circle. So he came out from his lodge and lit by the evening Relight spoke to us again.

"It's not by accident that the words 'Hopi' and 'hippie' should alike. We are all people of peace, we are all working for the same Great Spirit. You cannot rely on the banks, or the corporations or the government. They will never respect you unless you hold territory. You must take back the Earth, peacefully, one piece at a time. Plant seeds, and water them, and make the Earth beautiful again."

From there the tablet was brought back to the farm in Oregon where it was first found. We kept it under wraps except for full moon celebrations or when someone came who expressed a desire to see it.

In 1978 we took it to the Gathering in Oregon, and there, on the sixth of July Harold and Jeannie suggested we bring it out and share its story. As each blanket and cloth was unfolded, revealing its own hidden shells or feathers or deadwork, people began to gather 'round, straight to get a view of this rock. At the outside of the crowd people were trying to tell people what was going on and to relay the parts of the story being told. It was almost too much, everyone wanting to a chance to se and a little pushing of the circle's outside meant people were stumbling on top of each other pressing in closer at the circle's center. Freedom said, y'all finish this story up fast before someone gets hurt." And finish it up we did, and the stone was re wrapped in all the stuff, and that was the last time I have seen it.

It went from the Oregon Gathering up and down the coast, and to Mexico where it was taken at the full moon to the top of the Jaguar pyramid it passed as we pass things among ourselves with love and delight and it went with Birdie to a bluegrass festival outside, I believe, of Lincoln, Nebraska, where the car and people she had a ride with left unannounced without knowing anything the wrapped bundle in their cars trunk.

That was 19 years ago. But this was no rock in a bag. This was an elaborate bundle, tied and containing something carved and beautiful and mysterious I do not believe that it has been "thrown away." I believe that it is something waiting to be refound.

Is there a Tablet that is somehow Our Tablet? Or, are we just trying to mimic other tribes who have a tablet, or several tablets or a lost tablet? And does this tablet have some meaning more than its mysterious carvings?

I can tell you what we do have. We have a social program that cares for our young, our weak, our sick, our old, and as best as we can for ourselves and each other. We have an evolving culture that cares about the Earth and all its inhabitants. We have a growing community that respects the land, the water, the sky.

And I know that when we live in conscious awareness of doing good for each other and the earth, that the signs are everywhere along the way, that omens spring up at each turn; that there are natural wonders and mythical symbols that appears as makers, as if too guide us, every day of our lives … but usually our eyes are closed to such things and our minds occupied with just getting by.

And the Hopi, corn from the clan in the big purple truck? Corn from the seed of that seed is alive and still being grown today.

Is the Lost Tablet of the Hippies ever going to be found? Does whoever has it know what it is? Perhaps someone reading this or hearing this story will come upon it and recognize it for what it is. Could it be brought back to the Gathering? And … what would we do then?

Garrick Beck/ Aqua Fria, New Mexico