Basic Rainbow Continued
The supply depot, CALM, Kid Village, Networkers and other parts of the gathering all have their own smaller councils that operate on the same basis and which are connected and responsible to the main gathering council.
Tribal groups from every part of the world have used council methods similar to these. We feel this is an advanced and subtle process that puts the benefit of everyone at its heart, that recognized the innate intelligence of the human character, that keeps poetry music and lightness in the midst of our debate and that awakens us to the experience of direct personal participation in the process of our association.
It is so sweet, so tasty this process -even when it is bogged down it is full of compassion and commitment. We have kept with this council for over a dozen years and found it to be an effective means of self-organization-and found it to be an effective aid in the prevention of political decay.
Some people see us as directly associated with the American Indians, and the Indigenous Culture. Clearly in some ways we are. The indigenous people are the ancestors of the human culture on this continent and we have learned a lot from them.
The tipi is a prime example; although it is difficult to backpack while trail camping, when setting up an encampment or gathering that will last weeks or seasonally, it is a superior structure. The tipi incorporates sophisticated design that allows for air currents and comport in either hot or rainy weather. The smoke flaps let one build a fire in almost any wind conditions. Tipi life orients people to the rhythms of the earth and the circular patterns of nature. We set our tipi in a circle in a meadow to center our camp.
We have learned a lot, too from the many Native American elders and spiritual teachers who have come to speak at our councils and shared their insight and wisdom. Native crafts are practiced and produced. Also, the sweats are a big part of gathering life. These are the indigenous version of the sauna and in a remote encampment, far from porcelain tubs and showers it is essential to have a method of cleansing -just dipping in the river won’t do it- and we have got to keep soap out of the streams. But the sweat lodges are more than just indigenous plumbing. There is a communion and deep cleansing that occurs in the hutches where the herbs and water are sprinkled on the red hot rocks. Songs are sung, meditations offered and long lasting friendships born.
While tipi life and traditional ways are evidenced everywhere so are the hi-tech wonders of the future. Windmills charge 12-volt communications systems. Solar hot water units hang from trees and silicon-generated electricity lights the CALM center at night. There is balance between past and future techniques. The idea of course is to be open enough and discerning enough to choose the best of each.
Indeed, the gatherings present in practical example many of the choices of the communitarian back-to-the-land life: homemade clothes, redesigned vehicles, horses for transport, goats for mild, extensive sprout farms, composting, geodesic structures, and recycling of materials and wastes. All of which indicate a personalized and harmonized relationship between the individual and the natural patterns around us.
Each neighborhood at the gathering has its own kitchen which often doubles as a focus for music, song and dance. In the evenings and long into the nights , poets, storytellers and puppeteers perform among guitars, banjos, dulcimers, flutes, conga, drums. Sometimes sweet notes of jazz saxophone slide through the forest, other times tribal chants and dancing shake the ground.
As a result of this plus the many pageants, ceremonials, and celebrations that occur we get a reputation as a nation of partyers. Especially because this shows some of our most colorful photogenic effects, it is this celebrative atmosphere that has attracted the most film, photo and video coverage.
While it is true that many people attend the gathering for the "party", we do distinguish between "the party" and "the process". Because "the party" is like the icing where the real cake of the matter is "the process" of human cooperation that keeps the whole thing together. And the process of coming from the party into responsible participation in the event is something the gathering does to almost everyone who attends.
This learning that we can hold responsibility collectively without authoritarianism with benefit and success is one of the roots of the future growth of our species.
The taste of Freedom gives the human palate an appetite for more.
We have held the ground on the question of the people’s use of public lands; the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to express our religious beliefs. It is on this issue that we have focused our attention. A Freedom is of little value if it is written on paper only. When we exercise our natural rights then we gain the benefits that those Freedoms contain.
In gathering freely on public lands and doing the devotions both of service and celebration that we do, we help keep the door to public lands open for other groups and individuals. How nice it would be if all people, people in many of the countries where there isn’t the emphasis on individual freedoms we have here, people in places where gathering together is considered a criminal act, people in places where the government owns 90% of the land and the people have no rights to it - - how nice it would be for these gatherings to spread irrepressibly and open up these doors everywhere.
Each year at the gathering the council decides in what region the next year’s gathering will be. The process of landing in that area early, scouting for sites, meeting the local people and officials, setting up, maintaining and cleaning up the gathering down to the last bit of recycling and finale of cars leaving the parking lot, we call, "The Ride". Going for the whole ride is an immensely enlightening and rewarding experience. I recommend it highly for anyone who wants to know how the world really works.
The gatherings are like a little piece of the whole world. They’re open and public enough so we get a little bit of everyone and everything; good and bad. The only difference is that unrestricted by many of the world’s dogmas we get a chance to try out new solutions and new ways of relating.
Shanti Sena means Peace Center and it is the name we give to the brother and sisterhood which attends to the security of the camp.
Preparation for this includes training in non-violence techniques, persuasion, peer group pressure and the art of drawing an alienated person into the reality of human kindness. In the ideal situation when an incident arises it is taken care of by the people who are right there present, but the Shanti Sena maintains camps and roving teams whose mission is to help out with whatever difficulties folds may find themselves in. Often these teams double up with the fire-watch crews on regular tours of the camp.
Non-violence is a strong and powerful force when practiced as the creative tactic that it is. Shanti Sena holds meetings to orient people to the nature of these practices. Communication is the key. Although we are not beyond restraining someone who is violently aggressive, peer group attention with understanding and love is enough to settle most disputes.
Honey bees, when one member of the hive flips out have been known to form a cluster ball around that one and hum until the crazed bee cools out.
"Cooperation’s" is an area of the encampment set up for people or groups who need help with something or "a little more co-operation". Often disputes between camps or neighborhoods are worked out here. "Co-op" also serves as a volunteer center for newcomers who want to plug into the processes, and as a planning center for complex supply runs, pageants, and networking.
Another cornerstone of the entire operation is Kid Village. Kitchens with extra healthy snacks, activities for kids of all ages, adventures that teach, arts and crafts, hiking, swimming, rafting, and tree-houses are all part of the plan.
Child care happens here on a cooperative basis. There are areas for nursing moms and infants. Clowns, mimes, and magicians entertain regularly but the essence of Kid Village has to do with teaching the values and virtues of the sharing and caring life.
All of these things happen because people like ourselves bring it together - not just the willpower and labor but the tents and tipis, the stainless steel kitchen gear, the clown makeup, the puppets, the tools. Each person who understands this process bring all they can both practical and pleasurable to make this happen the way it does.
The volunteer and participatory nature of a Rainbow Gathering cannot be over emphasized -as one mirror said to another, "It’s all done with people".
These forces of positivity provide on a visible scale a living example of (I take this quote direct from our first "howdy folks"), "the true truth that humanity is not so fouled up".
Further, the lessons learned from these experiences can be extracted and put to use everywhere.
The gatherings brings together so many different kinds of people -this is one of its riches; that different races, economic brackets, educationally and culturally diverse people get to meet each other up close and discover our common good.
Each neighborhood and kitchen has its different character. The Krishna’s come and set up Krana’s Prasadam feasts complete with chanting, well-fed smiles and Vedic lectures and plays. Madam Frog caters to pilgrims of all faiths with exotic teas and entertainment. The sprout gardens provide raw foods, salads and juices. We have learned that respect for each other’s diet is essential to our peace. Mostly we are oriented toward whole foods, healthy foods but you will find a little of everything.
At the traders’ circle arts and crafts are displayed alongside shells, stones, feathers and other natural items. "Jibber Jabber", that is, uniquely fashioned or unusual goods take prime place alongside woven blankets, ceramics, and jewelry. This lively exchange is open every day except the Fourth of July when it shuts down during the silent meditation.
The extension of this event through regional gatherings is an important outgrowth of the plan; in the year prior to this writing there have been regional Rainbow Gatherings in New Mexico, Michigan, Colorado, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Arizona and Mexico as well as urban picnics or potlucks in New York, Boulder Colorado and Washington DC.
Although these are much smaller they keep folks in touch over the winter season, they bring new people in on a local level, and they teach the arts of community and logistics to a widening circle of brothers and sisters. We have heard of the desire to hold rainbow-type gathering in Europe, South America and the Orient. The more the merrier; from the first moment we have wanted to gather with everyone - - and we still do.
On the rough side we have been shot at (outside the camp) in three different instances over a dozen year period. And we have had traffic accidents - - the roads to these affairs go way up into the mountains, so please drive carefully. We have had several endangerment’s and two deaths by people who hiked out of camp and fell from steep cliffs. The natural world is full of elemental dangers. We choose sites that are safe for gathering but the vast wildernesses that we adjoin contain all the wild hazards of raw terrain.
We are natural beings experiencing our own true nature.
But what distinguishes these particular gatherings from the many "new age" type gatherings and healing arts fairs that are now occurring? Of course all of these events are of precious value but there are certain distinguishing factors it is important to understand.
1. The event is free and non-commercial: Not even one cent is charged to attend. Food, medical services, parking, entertainment, workshops and classed are all given through donated time and energy
2. The events are open to everyone without discrimination on account of race, age, religion, economics, politics or sex.
3. The event is held on public lands. When this is done there is a relation of strength and love between the earth and the people on it. It upholds fundamental political realities concerning people and space, and concerning governmental authority and inalienable human rights. When we gather on private lands we run the all-too-often-fulfilled risk of human possessiveness and we create separate classes: property holders and gatherers. This is not in anyone’s best interest.
4. Somewhere in the event there is an opportunity for everyone to come together to put our minds and hearts toward peace as one people and as one family. This should be done in the most all-inclusive way so no one feels uninvited and so that the emanation of this focus can be as clean and clear as possible.
Lots of amazing things happen at these gatherings. Just the stories would fill books in themselves.
One year we saw a great White Buffalo appear in snow on the side of a mountain.
We have seen rainbows on the Fourths of July.
In New Mexico we floated 15,000 organic grapefruits 2 miles down the Gila River to get them into camp.
In Oregon we had our first Kid’s Parade - -a dazzle razzle we still use to culminate the silence on the Fourth of July.
In Arkansas the sheriff rode in and arrested 5 people for swimming in the nude. About half the gathering moved to the steps of the county courthouse. The judge sent everyone (the five included) out of town and the sheriff was so ridiculed in the State press that in November he lost his first election in 24 years.
When in rained forever in Idaho, we finally figured to take off our boots and dance in our "mud socks" till the sun came out.
In Arizona a giant rainbow hot air balloon floated over the tipi circle giving kids and astronauts a birds-eye view of the site.
At the end of the gathering on the 7th of July we move right away into cleanup so we can utilize the massive energies present to disappear our effects and revitalize the spot. Overall we call the cleanup processes that we use, "Naturalization".
To begin with we recycle all our garbage during the gathering based on a color-coded seven part separation: Red is metal & aluminum; Orange is glass; Yellow is burnables; Green is compost; Blue is plastic; Indigo is lost and found; and Violet is free and giveaways. Color-coded source separation is the key to future urban recycling.
The camp draws itself in, dismantling the outer reaches first and then pulling back to the welcome center, then the parking lot and finally out and gone. The idea is to disappear completely as much of our impact as possible.
Campfires are dismantled, rocks widely scattered, ashes scattered or buried. Latrines and compost pits are filled in. Every tiniest bit of paper, cellophane or litter is picked up. Shelters, posts, booths, are all taken apart and laid down and no signs left.
Then we begin to revitalize the high use areas; hardened ground is spaded over or aerated with shovels, picks and hoes.
The many trails that connect the entire village are vanished; hoed for aeration of the soil, raked over, blocked with branches and boulders, and strewn with pine needles, leaves and duff. Water bars are built along all the steep laces to prevent gullying.
Often we pack decades worth of old scrap out of the forest. Stuff that has been discarded there over generations!
Where there is need, perhaps along a stream bank we prepare special reinforcement with matted brush to prevent erosion.
Flat or open spaces are raked over to vanish every possible trace. Then we naturalize each area by scattering leaves and loose brush for ground cover. Rocks and twigs and logs are randomly strewn about to provide habitat for the small forest creatures and lastly, when we humans are all but out of the site we broadcast specially selected seed that is native to the area’s climate and altitude.
This process is vital to the idea of the gatherings. By returning the site to nature’s own processes in as revitalized a state as possible we leave no residual problems for ourselves or the other inhabitants of the forest.
Only memories and the lushness of nature remain.
The gatherings belong to everyone not to any one person or group of people. But it is each single individual’s effort and contribution that makes the gatherings happen in the way they do. In life each single person is a special and sacred part of the whole human family. The value of each one’s being and doing is a lesson humanity still has to learn. The end of wars, the cooperation of our species, the benefits of good health and a sound environment, the nourishment of the hungry and the cessation of economic exploitation are the real goals of the rainbow --- the pot of gold at the trail’s end.
From there we can concentrate on the pleasures of this beautiful earth and on the thrilling exploration of the stars beyond.
All of the impasses to be overcome - violence, economic oppression, ideological or religious conflicts - are the Cro Magnon leftovers of an immature race. The pace of evolution is sure-footedly going to circumvent these obstacles and get on with the marvelous creation of growing and living in harmony.
Indeed there are enough of the goods and goodies - and the means to distribute - for us all to live like princes and queens.
In prayer or contemplation there is a place within where we Can contact the Life-force that is commonly shared by all of us. It is from this place that the rainbow light shines forth illuminating the way.
Will the humans be able to cooperate? And enjoy life? And be at peace?
The gathering shows that it can be done.
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