BB's Home Page > Rainbow Stories Index
Subject: The Seven Up Gathering - West Virginia 2005
From: "Butterfly Bill" <butterflyb...@grapevine.net>
Date: 21 Jul 2005 09:10:06 -0700
For years at gatherings the call of "six up" up and down the trails has meant that people in green Forest Service uniforms are present. I have heard several different versions of the origin of this expression, from six lights on top of the police cars at the North Carolina gathering in 1987, where there were unusually severe interactions with the LEOs, to the six points on a policeman's badge (altho the Forest Service badges are in the shape of a shield), to their six-shooter guns (altho most FS pistols I've seen are automatics, with no easy way of telling how many rounds are in a clip).
At the 2005 national Rainbow Gathering, in the Monongahela National Forest in Pocahontas County of West Virginia, I heard for the first time another call: "seven up". This meant that the green uniforms had oxidized brass badges above the left shirt pocket and a shiny brass nameplate over the other with the ranger's full name - and the belts carried no holsters for guns. They were resource rangers, as opposed to law enforcement officers, who had either shiny gold or silver badges, usually only an initial and a last name on the nameplate, and a pistol on the hip.
If LEOs were seen at this gathering, "six up" roared up and down the trail as raucously as it had before, but now I would sometimes hear words like "six up... no never mind, seven up." People who had erroneously called "six up" were corrected by others around them. After a while there were times when nobody would say anything when resource rangers appeared; they could walk around among the gatherers like deer in a National Park campground, nobody paying them any mind except people directly conversing with them. People still hid their pot and paraphernalia when they were around, but the word, if it was passed, was passed quietly.
In contrast to this, the week before I arrived had been a week of confrontation with the Forest Service for others in the Family. They had originally started to set up on a site near Elkins, and the seed campers there decided to try once more to get away with nobody signing a permit. The LEOs responded by blockading the roads accessing the site, and writing out about 150 tickets to gatherers inside the blockade and to people parked outside on the sides of the roads writing to get in. (You can read more about this by going to Google Advanced Groups Search (http://www.google.com/advanced_group_search?hl=en) and typing in newsgroup="alt.gathering.rainbow", author="Dia", and exact phrase="Glowing Feather".)
In response to this, some Family people offered to sign a permit, but a permit for this first site was rejected by the FS. The reason given was that it was the habitat of an endangered species of bat that would be unacceptably disturbed by a gathering taking place there. This was greeted with skepticism by many Family people with memories of the salmon creeks in Idaho, the archeological sites in Michigan, the salmon creeks again in Utah, and the Indian burial grounds in California - all of which came to be regarded by most gatherers as concerns exaggerated or even fabricated by the FS.
Nevertheless, a search was made for a new site, and one was found and announced to me on the computer the evening before the morning I was planning to leave. It was about 75 miles by road to the south, and only about ten miles as the crow flies from the Three Forks of the Williams River site of 1980. This also awakened some Rainbow memories of the two sisters who accepted a ride from some drunk locals during that gathering and wound up being murdered.
So it was with a wee bit of trepidation that I approached the new site late in the afternoon on the 21st. I left I-64 onto US Highway 219, which in spite of being called a US highway was mostly a narrow two lane road with little in the way of shoulders, that in spots bent into tightly curved switchbacks that had me in L2 at 25 mph. (I was reminded of why I had recently selected Oklahoma as a residence). The road also took me thru several villages with "unincorporated" after their names on the signs where I also had to slow down. At the hamlet of Mill Point I left 219 and got onto a road with two numbers, 39 and 55. That road led thru several miles of country residences until it finally passed a sign announcing the national forest boundary. Not very far after that WV state highway 150 intersected with it, and there, high up a hill with a large lawn in front of it, was a wide and low brick ranch style building, and down near the road a sign saying "Cranberry Nature Center". It wasn't until here that I saw my first evidence of Rainbow in a few parked cars and a school bus on the side of 150.
The directions said to continue on 39/55 for 6/10 more of a mile to Forest Service Road 102 but I didn't get that part right until after I had unwittingly gone what seemed like a hell of a lot more than .6 on 150 and turned back. Shortly after finding 102 I stopped for a thumbing brother and asked him where the front gate and parking were. He led me past one cluster of vehicles further down a hill to another. I tried to park about 100 yards away from the front gate, near enough for walking but far enough from the potential noise for sleeping, and soon found that I had succeeded. There were long bands of flat land next to the road wide enough to park with all four off, and I had little trouble finding a place behind a VW van from California. I could walk on asphalt all the way to the trailhead. I didn't have to move my van until the last day I was there.
The sun still had about an hour in the sky when I arrove, so I changed from rayon into cotton and from sandals into ankle-highs, put on a water bottle, and set off to check out main trail. It led into the woods down a slight grade for about 50 yards, came to a small clearing, then continued on mostly flat land. It had the look of a trail not blazed by Rainbows. It crossed a small creek, with flat stones in place for stepping over it. Shortly thereafter I came upon some small signs crisscrossed on a post, with Forest Service logos on them and routed out letters. One said "THOMAS CREEK TRAIL" with an arrow by it. The other said "VOLKWALK". Someone had added "EN" to it in magic marker and drawn a VW logo. It looked too old and weathered to have been Rainbows who did it. It was now evident that this was an area intended for recreation by the FS, with prepared hiking trails.
On this first evening, the trail was mostly surfaced by dirt and lots of pine needles and fallen leaves. Off to the left were occasional laminated paper signs hanging from branches on strings, saying "PLEASE, NO ENTRY. SENSITIVE BOTANICAL AREA". The forest was mostly deciduous, lots of maples, oaks, and leaves resembling elms. Here and there were clusters of pines and tall junipers. The trees had long trunks reaching up to the canopy of leaves 30 and 40 feet up, and this gave a jungle like look to the place. Younger trees spread their leaves below in flat horizontal layers. On the side of the sensitive botanical area were bushes with dark teardrop shaped leaves, looking like a tropical plant far from its home. Here and there were a few muddy patches on the trail. It had clouded over as I was walking, and I was wondering if it was going to rain and make these patches larger.
The trail continued onward from the Volkswalk intersection with the botanical area still beside it, then the trees started to part and I walked out into a clearing. The surface of the trail changed to grass bent down by auto tires that had been driven over it. (there were no vehicles on the rail at this time.) There was a circular meadow maybe 100 yards wide on the right and a stream to its side that the trail crossed on a bridge of sawed planks. The please no entry signs continued on the left all the way to the stream. The meadows were covered with waist-high goldenrod plants that had not yet produced their little yellow flowers.
There were a few people up and down this part of the trail and a few familiar faces that said hi. One of those was Jai, and he said, "Marken's just a little bit down the trail". As I continued on the trail, I saw a two LEOs, holsters and all, standing by the side of the trail just casually conversing with some people in Rainbow garb. I soon found Marken, and the spot where Info was going to be set up by three wooden posts with little slanted signs erected by the FS. Another FS trail intersected here at a right angle. Marken showed me where he had set up his tent, under a big juniper tree with branches almost dense enough to serve as a roof against rain. There was a spot next to it that would be shaded all thru the day.
The following morning I brought in my tent, tarp, and cot and set them up while rain was falling lightly. I was able to bungee the tarp to branches on all sides. From some maps that appeared later on at Info, I determined that the walk from the trailhead in was 1.1 miles, all mostly level. Commuting to my van at night would be entirely possible. It looked like everything was sliding right into place for an easy gathering.
That second day I explored the site some more. The trail in from 102 continued straight and level for a little bit, than climbed upward at about a 10% grade and made a wide curve to the right. I continued up and up until I saw a set of FS installed metal gates painted in red and white barber pole stripes in the distance. I decided to turn around, and returned to a small clearing where yet another FS trail intersected. I followed that one back into the woods and climbed some more until I saw sunlight coming thru up yonder, indicating a large clearing. At the top was a huge meadow covered mostly by goldenrod plants, a half a mile across. The trail continued to a vehicle road of two dirt tracks separated by a grassy median that went across the meadow on one side. Going the other way it led back to 39/55, where another front gate had been set up. On the far side of the meadow I could see a bus village forming.
There was a dome tent near the treeline, and I saw Road Runner beckoning to me, and I went over and had a chat. He told me that there was another trail down the mountainside to the Info intersection "over by Montana Mud". I found that kitchen a few hundred yards around the edge in the trees, and a brother there showed me to a trail that went down the mountain dropping 150 feet at a 45 degree angle, with many rocks in sort of lines that could serve as stairsteps. There were also several spaces in between that offered only slippery mud. I had to find a piece of wood on the ground and make it into a walking stick to get down it with any feeling of control. I later heard this route referred to as the Stairway to Heaven. (I sometimes referred to it myself as Geronimo Ridge, memorializing a similar path in New Mexico)
At the bottom of this alleged staircase was another FS trail, and I arbitrarily decided to go left on it. Instead of leading me back to Info, it took me gradually uphill to 102, a few tenths of a mile above the other traihead I had parked by below. I went back the other way and eventually found myself back at Info.
The trail that intersected with the main drag in front of Info led up over a short wide concrete staircase between two stone walls, out there between some trees with no building by it, then to Iris kitchen, then curved around to where Granola Funk set up, then rose slightly to a grassy terrace above where Yoga Camp was. On one side of this meadow was the Stairway to Heaven, on the other side the trail to 102's upper gate.
This area of the site was small flatlands around streams, surrounded on all sides by steep sided hills completely covered by trees. As it began to fill with gatherers, they were encouraged by the terrain to set up near to each other in the few available flat areas, making for a compact gathering. The traders set up on the main drag below Info, and on the opposite slope, across another creek that branched off from the one the trail crossed, emerged Kid Village, with Katuah right next to it. Instant Soup was not far away, and because of this nearby location the a.g.r. meeting took place there instead of at Info. Tea Time was also close by, and their horns and whoops in the night were clearly audible and much commented upon the next day.
(to be continued)
Subject: The Seven Up Gathering - part 2
I found out that this site had been a minimum security federal prison from 1938 until 1959, one that housed conscientious objectors during World War II, and mostly moonshiners in the peacetimes. Down in the valley had been two rows of dormitories with a long courtyard in the middle. The meadow above had been used for farming, mostly potatoes, and the botanical area had been a cow pasture. There were a few relics still standing: the concrete stairway, a rock fireplace with the stub of a chimney, and a few stone cylinders that had been wells. One of the springs the water crew led their pipes from emptied into a stone cistern. There were some patches of concrete and asphalt here and there showing thru the dirt that now covered the area.
For the morning of the 23rd at 11:00 RBT Brian Michaels (who is a real lawyer who has concerned himself with the legal problems of some Family people) arranged for us a formal meeting with the Forest Service. I was there, as was Brian, along with Marken and some other Info people, and a brother from CALM, eight people in all. I was expecting a repeat of the councils in California, but instead no law enforcement people came. There were three FS personnel, all resource: Naomi Johnson, the permit administrator; Douglas Oliver, the district ranger, and Steven Stine, a "media representative". All had peasant chatty demeanors, and all the Rainbows greeted them with respect. After a round of introductions, they brought up a beaver dam that some people were starting to swim in. The Family agreed to put up some caution tape and some signs warning of disease. We talked about unleashed dogs, some campsites too close to streams, and managing the piles of garbage bags at the trailheads on the highways. They offered to provide for us an aerial photo of the site made with the kitchens marked with the aid of a GPS tracker.
After this one, everybody felt an unspoken agreement that more of these meeting were unnecessary. Naomi came around to Info every morning in the hour before noon, and spoke her concerns to whoever was around the counter at Info, where as a group we figured out who were the best people to relay them on to.
That afternoon I spent at the bridge across the creek where some people had set up a joke toll gate. "Joke, smoke, or toke, or some pocket trash" A brother sat in a chair on the bridge and held a stick across until passers by paid up. It was better than watching Comedy Central any time. This bridge got the name of Troll Bridge after these trolls who were manning it. It was funniest in the early days, later on in the gathering the traffic got so heavy that many could sneak thru in the congestion.
In these days I learned more if the story of the site change, from a brother who was directly involved (but whose request not to have his name mentioned I will honor). On June 16th, Naomi took two Rainbow brothers around to 5 strip mines, none of which looked too attractive. Their main concern was the quality of the water. One of the brothers said to the other, "Do you believe that there will be a consensus at Spring Council to have the gathering on a strip mine?" The other's answer was that he did not think so. They talked with two other resource people late in the afternoon, and asked them, "Is there anything else that we can look at, other than strip mines?" The resource people mentioned some other sites, one of which they referred to as the "potato patch".
Their plan was to ask the Forest Supervisor in Elkins and others about the availability of the site, as well as the 1980 site at Three Forks of the Williams River. They met again with Naomi on the morning of the 17th and walked both the Cranberry Glades site (the potato patch), and the three forks location. The Cranberry Glades site definitely had the meadow. It was then looked at by the Rainbow water people on the 18th, and upon hearing that the water needs were met, the site was consensed by Spring Council at 1:30 pm on June 19. (Spring council at that time was on road 12 near the intersection with road 162, near the first site.)
And I started to hear more and more agreement among Rainbows who had talked with Forest Service naturalists that the environmental threat to the old site was real and not another exaggeration. In spite of the fact that the bats were currently migrated away, they would return and give birth there, and any disturbance of their breeding grounds could be serious.
The new site was good for Rainbow and Forest Service alike. It was in an area that was already being developed for recreation, and here the gathering fit into the order that the FS was trying to establish. The Family got access to the knowledge that only locals who have been working in a place for years can have. With only a few exceptions, everybody I talked with who had had experience of both sites said this one was better.
A Rainbow brother named Patrick Thompson volunteered to sign the permit. I saw him only twice during the gathering; he spent most of his time up near front gate. The first time he came into Info rather wired asking for assistance up there; it was "getting out of control" in his words, and several people got together to try to calm him down. I finally saw him again on the 8th, and I asked him if the FS had been trying to make him into the CEO of the Rainbow Family of Living Light who could singlehandedly give out the orders to solve the problems like they had expected of Garrick in Utah in 2003. He said that a few times the LEOs had offered to "solve the problem of A-Camp once and for all", and he had graciously declined their offer.
And I heard, told to me in a second hand account, that Tim Lynn, the Incident Commander, said that he was going to "turn it all over to the resource people" as soon as the permit was signed. This was almost a reality down in the valley. Most of the LEOs who did enter came on foot. There were three who came thru on horseback, who stopped using the trails after some Family objected to some resource rangers. They entered decidedly less often than they had in California. The intervals between their patrols were usually more than two hours.
I was able to go around skyclad with no comment from any of the FS people. One morning early in the second week of my stay I saw four black uniforms of WV state troopers come by Info accompanying two men carrying paramedical equipment. I was naked except for some sandals. One of them looked at me and said, "You need to put some clothes on", so I made like I was going back to my tent for some clothes. Then the emergency they were attending to made them have to leave. A few days later, while also au naturel, I came on some more of the same uniforms while coming down from the yoga meadow. At that time they paid me no mind, and one of them with an amused smile on his face accepted the offer of a hug from a Rainbow brother who was sitting by the side of the trail.
The same was not true topside. My friend Robbie Gordon set up his tepee on the meadow above not far from the vehicle road, and one morning he was out in front passing a pipe. A FS SUV stopped on the road and an officer came over and asked him, "What do you have in that pipe?" Robbie responded, "Officer, what I have here is a sacred substance that I am sharing with some of my friends." The cop then asked, "How much marijuana do you have in there?" Robbie said, "I don't think I should answer that question."
Robbie got a ticket for "possession of a controlled substance", and it ordered him to appear in a court in Elkins on July 12. As the officer left Robbie made theater out of tearing the ticket up. Later on, he changed his mind and decided to appear, but he decided to go on July 5th, the second day of the mass court appearance that I will describe shortly. He had some friends take him in his wheelchair rickshaw at 8 in the morning, and waited there until almost six in the evening. Finally a man came out with a grin on his face and told him that his charges were dismissed. This man was a lawyer that he had not met before, but who had told the judge that the officer couldn't prove that marijuana was in the pipe, and who pointed out that a man in a wheelchair had been kept waiting out there all day, which angered the judge. Robbie never went before the judge himself, and he had been rehearsing his presentation and running it by us friends for three days, so in that way he was a bit disappointed, tho naturally glad to have totally walked.
I heard stories of some other sweeps of camps for drugs, but none of the victims of these came to Info for any help when I was there so I wasn't able to confirm, but the stories were believable. And drunks in A-Camp continued to be the same problem they have always been. There was at least one case of a man getting scared or mad and stabbing another. The victim went to hospital, but ultimately survived. The FS didn't drop off lists of all the violations at Info like they did last year, so I don't know the exact numbers.
On the 24th I went exploring up the Volkswalk. Blues Party kitchen had set up near the intersection with the main drag, and the wooden FS signs now had Rainbow cardboards hanging from them with other camp names. The trail rose steeply for a while along the side of a creek with many flat, grey slate rocks catching pools in stone terraces. It wasn't until I the slope started to broaden near the top of the hill that I started to see habitation, Turtle Soup was up there and the Fairies were not to far beyond, surrounded by a clothesline full of men's boxer shorts. The trail continued until it opened out into the big meadow.
Up here I found that some kitchens had set up around its perimeter, NYC/Purple Gang, the one and only Krishna kitchen (unless you count in Simply Wonderful, who are devotees but not members of ISKON), Rainbow crystal without Gary and the soup pot by main trail, and CALM. Here, in contrast to the close quarters down below, had grown a western style gathering, where you had to walk hundreds of yards to get from one kitchen to another. Bus Village was several lines of vehicles deep around the south and west sides of the meadow, but you could still walk out into the middle of the meadow, sit down, and have the busses below your sight horizon; the meadow was that big.
(to be continued)
Subject: The Seven Up Gathering - part 3
All of the people who had got tickets before the move were originally ordered to appear in a federal court in Elkins on July 25th. The venue was moved to the Cranberry Nature Center, and on that morning all of the recipients of the 150 tickets (some had got more than one), as well as a hundred more who came in support, climbed the main trail as it curved around the hill, but instead of turning onto the route to main meadow they went straight up trail to the red and white FS gate and around it to the corner of 39/55and 150, and the Center that was just beyond.
There were about 200 people there on the lawn, some with signs they had made. A team from a local TV station was there, and several Family offered to stand in front of the camera and give some raps on what was going on. Brian Michaels had a list that was given to him by the court, and it divided the ticket recipients into more than twenty groups, of from one person to several each, classified according to the name of the officer who had given the tickets and the time it was given. As each group was called, they all went together down the long curved driveway leading up to the building. Along both sides of the driveway was yellow tape. They disappeared out of sight to a place by the side of the building that I couldn't see. Nobody was allowed to go with them as they went up. The building itself had been closed to the public and taken over by the LEOs as a command center.
Brian read out list of alternatives for the ticketed ones. They could plead guilty or nolo contendere and pay a 30 dollar fine, or do 8 hours of community service by doing cleanup on the old site under the supervision of FS rangers. Or they could plead guilty and then go to yet another court appearance and try to fight it, but risk paying the full 300 dollar fine if they lost. They got barely halfway thru the list by the end of the day on the 25th, so a second session was called for July 5th. It seemed that there were sizable numbers of people who took each one of the options. I never was able to get any exact statistics.
Dinner circle up until now had been in the large clearing next to the creek and the Troll Bridge. By the 29th there were 800 people in it and on the 30th it was moved up to the big meadow, where the meditation on the 4th was also to be had. My preferred route up there became the Stairway to Heaven, which was maybe 10 minutes of huffing and puffing as opposed to 20 or 30 on any of the other routes. I tried going down it in the deepening dusk by flashlight only once. Another Rainbow trail with a gentler slope had emerged from by the Krishna camp down to the FS trail and the yoga meadow.
Throughout the first two weeks it seemed like the population was smaller than usual. The Magic Hat collection at Dinner was decidedly below normal. It seemed that most of the people were hardcore Rainbows who had given what they had early in the gathering (like we want) and had little left over; there were not that many first-timers and tourists who could be more liberal with their money. But lots more money started to come in after the 2nd. I finally heard estimates (by the FS method of counting vehicles, which I have not been convinced is reliable) of a peak of 10,000, half of usual.
Up until now the weather had been near perfect. Temperatures in the low 60s at sunrise and days getting up only to the low 80s, with only scattered showers. There were no mosquitoes, but there were deer flies in the afternoon. There had been so much moisture recently that there wasn't even the hint of a fire ban, and in the evening on the boogie meadow there were shows by twirlers of flaming batons.
Dinner Circle on the 30th had managed to get all the way thru feeding and Magic Hat counting without the showers that had been threatening for a few hours. But it got serious as I was on the trail down and the rain continued steadily until the middle of the next morning. The trail in from 102 quickly became a quagmire in many places, and from then until the end I had to put on my rather uncomfortable rubber concrete-pourer's boots to make the trip between my van and Info (I'm gonna try duck boots next year). Mercifully I was still able to wear more regular shoes and even beach sandals while downtown. As more and more feet made more and more little puddles on the parts of the trail under tree cover all day, stretches of boulders and gravel that had been the prison road surface started to show thru, and in the middle of the trails a firm surface could be found only a few inches below the surface mud. But there were three areas where the road apparently had washed out or sunk, and deep dirt had just been deposited over them. This now made for mud that could suck your shoes off, and the only way thru was around on the edges, which receded further and further into the trees. Some signs appeared saying, "Free foot washing at Jesus Camp."
By the second week I had settled into a gathering with little drama and plenty of time for music and blissing out. I remember several magic moments playing my Irish harp to other people's guitars. I pointed out as an example of this ease to the other people on the bank council that the subject that had taken the most time and argument was how to get the watermelons for the fourth. Late into two evenings all kinds of options concerning places to buy them and vehicles to be borrowed from Family or rented from U-Haul were evaluated and contrasted. Finally a man with a roadside fruit stand was found who would deliver.
Granola Funk was just a short walk away. They first built a structure with 10 upright logs with crossbeams that were notched on the ends to fit. They placed smaller logs on top to make a deck. I asked jokingly if they were building an offshore oil rig. But they then built a frame for a tarp in the shape of a peaked roof, with a dormer roof coming out in front to covering a balcony.
They borrowed 1000 meters of nylon rope from Info to make a spider web for the big square hole they had left in the deck (and returned it wound on a spool). This net could support a few adult humans. Then they lined all the walls with white sheets, and put in some cross timbers make the whole thing look like a big Japanese lantern. Across the trail on the other side was a sloped grassy hill that an audience could sit on, and they lighted the stage with some 12 volt lamps connected to batteries recharged by solar panels.
I made myself stay up late for two of their shows, which mostly featured excellent music and stand-up comics with whole set full of Rainbow material. The first night was a "gong show", where a person on the balcony struck a deep-toned Chinese gong of symphony orchestra quality. (In the daytime it was one of three set as three sides of a square, with a recliner chair in the middle that you could sit in while other people made them rumble around you.) There was first a sister, then a brother with the beater, and they both were merciless, seldom letting anyone go for more than three minutes. At times the audience groaned and booed their disapproval to the gonger, and the act was allowed to proceed a little longer. The next night was just a "variety show", and I saw a few of the acts I had seen the night before now go on unimpeded.
The mayor of Richwood, a town about 20 miles to the west of the gathering, came by Info and left some leaflets for us. They said: "DEAR RAINBOW FAMILY. Welcome to Richwood, ramp capital of the world & 'city merry on the banks of the Cherry'. Richwood is a struggling Appalachian town trying to reinvent itself with tourism. We are looking for artistic people of all ages to become artistic homesteaders... talented retirees tired of the fast lane... & good hearted volunteers to help revitalize Richwood. Houses are for sale in town from $10,000 and up. Nice homes in the 30s and up. Stores in the historic district from $5,000. We offer warm people, clear streams, pristine mountains, and the opportunity to make a big difference. In short, we offer love. Think Richwood might be for you? Info? Contact: Mayor Bob Henry Baber; Six White Ave.; Richwood W.V. 26261; 304-846-2586 rwdwater@richwood [dot com]. He had moderately long hair with a little bit of gray, a few days of unshaven beard on his face, and was dressed in jeans and a striped shirt looking not quite hippie, but definitely Bohemian.
I got up to the meadow at about ten o'clock on the fourth. Someone the night before had set upright a plain log with the bark still on it to serve as a peace pole, and it had already had a lot of the usual ornaments hung from it and placed around its base by the time I got there. People started to congregate in a blob around it. After about an hour I looked in the distance and saw that people were making a huge circle around the perimeter of the meadow. We were still silent in the middle when the wind shifted and I started hearing an om from the outside. Then I saw arms being raised and heard the cheer. As we realized this in the middle we started to om. As people came in from the outside, they heard us and joined in, making for a long om in the middle that grew in volume as more people came in. While this second om was going on, the children's parade arrived, and on the second try everything finally got coordinated right.
The festival afterward seemed smaller than others in the past, but more centered. One drum circle emerged and went on until evening with little competition from others. For the first time in many years I finally managed to score some of the watermelon, as well as an apple and a piece of orange. A few hundred people remained thru the afternoon, and the crowd looked dwarfed when looked at across the vast expanse of the meadow.
On the seventh I got to witness what has to be the shortest Vision Council in Rainbow history. Rain started to fall steadily at about ten in the morning. I was sitting at Info when people started coming by to ask where Vision Council was, and we weren't sure what to tell them at first. The boogie/ dinner circle meadow near downtown would have been the obvious place, but now it was getting soaked. Then someone came and said that Katuah had offered their tarp. About ten minutes later I went over there, but instead found people congregating under a large 20 by 30 foot tarp that Kiddie Village had raised over their breakfast serving counters. The counters were now dismantled, and an empty flat grassy lawn was there for us beneath.
The council had already started when I arrived, and a few people had already spoken, passing a little black feather that looked like it had just been found on the ground. The feather was proceeding smoothly. Nobody hogged it, people spoke to the point and then passed it. There were a few people mentioning Colorado, and a lot of people who said they were ready to go wherever the Family decided, for they had no particular desire for a particular place. Somebody suggested Kansas, and I said that KS has no national forests, but it does have a national grassland, and I think a grassland gathering would be electric, but the Rainbow would have to change a lot of its ways in a land with no firewood and very limited water. An experimental regional would be a better thing to do before trying a national.
The problems of A-camp were brought up by a few people, a few veterans of the first site expressed some feelings of abandonment and frustration they had initially felt during that first week. But mostly I heard more and more people say that they felt fine with Colorado. Kid Village right next door supplied us with pancakes and fruit, and Rich in Spirit brought some corn chowder from Instant Soup.
The feather had gone around twice and had completed another quarter turn. Someone had already called earlier for consensus on Colorado, but it was blocked the first time by some people who simply thought it hadn't been talked about enough and that some of the newcomers might still want to speak. (There were maybe 50 present at the end.) Then a brother came up to the circle and started complaining that nobody had been at "the peace pole in Main Circle" to tell others where to go. "The consensus has long been that we all gather in Main Circle, then we decide together if we are going to move and then do it together." Then he produced a bundle of three of what looked like hawk feathers, and said that this is what had been used at vision council last year and should be used at this one. Then he asked us to take it and pass it around in silence, because this was the way we were supposed to start out every vision council.
The rest of us decided to just let him have us do this, in the hope that it would shut him up and let us proceed with the council. Someone took the feather we had first been using and tucked it into the band surrounding the new feathers. But when it came back he continued to expound more on what he thought were Rainbow's Rules of Order for Vision Councils, until a few hecklers got him to pass it. Shortly thereafter Greg Sherrell called for consensus by our passing the feather in silence (he was just before me in the circle).
I took it and passed it without a word, and so it went about a third of the way around until a brother asked for some clarification on whether it was for the state borders or for a greater Colorado region that might include some of Wyoming or New Mexico. Several people around the circle said the state. Then it went around some more, and another brother said, "I am not opposed to Colorado, but I just want to say a few things..." A few more people likewise spoke but didn't block, and the feather got around to the bringer of the feather and he said that it had to go around again because it had not gone in complete silence.
Again it went around, and again a few people couldn't keep themselves from speaking, and he insisted that it go around a third time, At this point people from all around the circle started shouting him down, accusing him of trying to take control of everything, and he finally got mad and took his feathers and walked away from the circle. The original feather had fallen out during his tantrum, and it was picked up and passed until it got back to Greg and everybody cheered the new consensus.
Marken was sitting in Information, and when he heard our cheers he looked at his watch and noted 3:20. I figure we finally got started between half past 12 and a quarter to 1, so the elapsed time was about two and a half hours. As I watched the feather approach Greg I was getting a feeling of suspense like when you are watching a pitcher getting close to a perfect game.
The rain continued into the evening and overnight, and didn't let up until a little after sunrise. It made lots of people pack up and leave, and the cleanup crew had a lot less in the way of bliss ninny eviction problems. The trail to 102 was now mud from beginning to end. Marken's habit for years has been to wait until Vision Council consensus before taking Info down. Now we were able to start dismantling on the 8th. The rain made a little more intense the Rainbow tradition I have come to identify as Agro Eighth. I heard a lot of loud arguments and expressions of frustration going on deep in the woods, and even I got into a row in Kid Village when the man at the griddle refused to serve me because I wasn't directly involved in KV cleanup. (A few others from that kitchen came around to apologize later.) We had all the crap out from under the Info tarp by the end of the day, and on the morning of the 9th we took it down and I got the last of my own stuff back cleanly thru the quagmire to my van.
So ended my stay at the Seven Up Gathering, where The Forest Service first blockaded the Family from the first site they had chosen, and then (horror of horrors in the view of some Rainbow purists) the Forest Service showed us another site that worked out at least as well if not better. I was shown some possibilities, that the Rainbow Family and the resource rangers in the Forest Service can have some mutually beneficial cooperation. (True peace with the law enforcement branch will have to await the legalization of marijuana, and the Family coming up with a better way to mitigate the excesses of A-Camp that the ones it now has.) That we can have a focused and efficient Vision Council. That some of the local towns can be enthusiastic about our presence. That a mostly mellow and satisfying gathering can emerge even from a stormy beginning.
(The story now ends, but as always, the gatherings remain to be continued.)
– Butterfly BillThis post was the basis for the fourth chapter of Rainbow Gatherings, vol. 2.