On the morning of June 26th I did some exploring of the site. To the right of Kid Village as you approached it was a stream named Saginaw Creek that ran the whole length of the valley. There was a rainbow-built bridge across it, and the trail across it led uphill to Rough and Ready kitchen. Beyond there was a fork whose right branch ultimately led to Instant Soup. Nothing much was happening in either of those places this early in the morning. About a football field’s length before you arrived at Kid Village going on the main trail there was a fork with a trail leading off to the left, and many kitchens and camps appeared along this. There was a place called Surreal Cereal with tye-dye sheets hung along its four sides, and by this ran a path that led up to Turtle Soup and Lovin Ovens, which was still in its early stages of construction this day. Further along the trail was Jesus Camp and another place where I saw some Bread of Life people, but not their octagonal kiosk and any sign identifying it as such. I was told that several Christian kitchens were combining to make a composite one. Further up the trail was Montana Camp, and at the end was a place that offered massage. Many more kitchens and camps would appear later along this trail.
Near Info was another Rainbow bridge that lead across the creek and it led to a place enclosed by hanging sheets inside which they were beating gongs and steel drums and other esoteric percussion instruments. Further along the trail was a kitchen with a big sign that said, “Rumorz” and a smaller sign to its right saying “Ms. Information”. I wondered if this was deliberate irony, being not far from our banner that says “information and rumor control”, and I learned later that it was. The irony was not hostile; the kitchen had first appeared at a national gathering in Washington in 2011 (which I did not attend), and its original intent was to be “a coffee kitchen with a general focus on serving coffee 24/7 to the late night Info crew”. They had an elaborate bliss fire area with tarp covered sitting spaces on each side of their firepit, and this was later a venue for Shanti Sena workshops in the afternoon. The crew dressed more in the blacky-khaki style than the hippie, but there were some mornings where I heard coming from there some tight and spirited drumming.
This morning I continued on the trail that ran past Rumorz and then downhill to the northwest. Just beyond was the end of one of the water pipes leading to the springs above, and there was a line of people with buckets and big jugs waiting to fill them up. A short distance further, Soaring Turkey, a Krishna devotee, was erecting his tipi where he led chanting and gave talks. Beyond was a camp that I was told was named Stitch and Bitch, and from there the trail went into the trees and led down to a kitchen with a sign that said “Casual Encounters”.
The next place that I encountered was a place they called Mud and Butts. It was where the trail intersected another Forest Service road going downhill, and shortly down that road was Nick at Night. The idea behind the Mud and Butts name was that there you could have coffee and cigarettes. The principal focalizer was a brother who called himself Not A Dave, and he was able to inspire a lot of hardcore street kids.
There were signs along the road that pointed to Iris kitchen, Fat Kids, and Faerie Camp. Shortly after passing Nick at night, which was a tarp covered structure with many straight sticks criss-crossed around its sides making it look almost like an animal cage, the tree cover started to broaden and the road came to the edge of the meadow, and there a Trading Circle was forming. In the trees just to the west was The Projects, a camp where there were lots of young people who lived on the streets of big cities when they weren’t at a gathering, and had extremely anarchist and punk attitudes.
Stories were that they sometimes consumed alcohol. They were also reported to like to do small acts of violence on each other as fun, and one of these was shooting at each other with a BB gun. They said it was just a game they played with each other, but some shots went outside their camp into places where there were sometimes children. Complaints about this started coming thru Info, and finally one afternoon Mr. Hancock and another LEO came into Info and asked where the BB gun was. One of us was able to tell him that one of the older people in that camp had taken it and locked it up in his vehicle in Upper Bus Village. On another day a big Shanti Sena council had to be called when some of the traders’ blankets started to migrate backward into what they thought was the boundaries of their camp.
On the other hand, Not-A Dave was able to get several of them to haul in several wagon loads of equipment for Info, so many of us at Info didn't really know what kind of judgment to make.
This route seemed to me like a shorter one to the Dinner Circle area than going down the main trail in the meadow and then turning a corner to go over, and this became my regular route in the evening from Info. Most of the workers in the kitchens and people in the camps along this route wore blacky-khaki fashions, and it started to look like this was the dirty kid side of the gathering, while the hippie and high holy side was up the hill to the south. The kid culture was also predominant on the other side of the valley near the front gate. There were a few places apparently on the wrong sides of the line, like Rough and Ready and Montana Mud up the hill, and Faerie Camp and Soaring Turkey’s tipi down it, but there were majorities in both territories. Again Info wound up on the dividing line.
At the kitchen councils there had been talk about starting a “breakfast circle” which would start at about 11 o’clock. On the 27th we actually did it, and about 300 people showed up. Casual Encounters by themselves tried to feed all of these with a wok full of fried potatoes. In later days pots of oatmeal and dry granola and chai tea from other kitchens would also show up. This continued to happen every day except the Fourth until July 7th, and since this was an occasion to pass the Magic Hat, I attended all of these.
David Alexander English took on the task of focalizing it, and over the days he developed a routine that included several parts. As the circle was still assembling and we were waiting, he would call for a “roll call of the states” where everyone in the circle would say what town and state they were from. He would ask for everyone at their first gathering to stand up, and this was followed by applause, cheers, and welcome homes. He would ask us all to holler “breakfast circle” two or three times, then he would ask us all to “make a lot of noise and commotion so people will hear it and think there is something going on here and come over to see what it is”. Finally he asked for everyone saying the Om not to cheer and holler at the end but instead to stay silent while they squatted down to touch the earth.
For four days there were a few people who couldn’t keep quiet, and every day his pleading grew longer. He’d say, “When we chant Om, a shaft of light appears in the center of the circle stretching infinitely upward and downward. When we whoop and holler, that destroys this.” Then he started asking “anybody who cannot agree to do it this way” to “please step back from the circle”, and a few people complied, but still not everybody. On the 30th he had a group of people sing a song:
With the Om, we call the angels
In the silence they will come
With the Om, we call the angels
In the silence after the Om
But there were still a few who cheered at the end. After the circle had eaten he asked if there was anyone who wanted to experience what it was like when they remained silent, and about 20 people circled up, Omed, and then squatted down and touched the earth in silence.
Finally, on the 1st of July, he got the silence that he wanted, and everyone bowed down to the ground and touched it without a sound, and this continued every day after until the end of the gathering. He acted like he wanted this also to take place at Dinner Circle, but he didn’t try to overcome the inertia of custom there.
Later on the afternoon of the 27th there was a meeting of about twenty Rainbows in the shade of some trees near Info with the Forest Service about the Operating Plan. Mr. Walther again came in civvies without a gun, while Mr. Hancock showed up in a crisply pressed green uniform with a gun in a holster and cases for electronic devices hanging from his belt. Also present were Kim Pearson, head of the local district, Bob Beckley another resource ranger, and some other rangers. There also two other LEOs with guns who stood outside the circle and said nothing the whole time.
The meeting started at five minutes before three. After a sister named Sibling asked us all to hold hands and Om, Mr. Beckley took one of the copies of the “draft plan” that has been passed around to all who were present, and said, “If you don’t mind being read to, we can go over this item by item.” The title on the page said “2013 Annual Rainbow Peaceful Assembly and Free Speech Event”, and we spent about 15 minutes discussing just this title. Some people didn’t want the words “Rainbow” or “Gathering” to appear in it, and some others did. I was given the impression that what we had finally agreed to was “Rainbow family of Living Light World Peace and Healing Gathering at a Peaceable Assembly and Free Speech Event at Saginaw”.
The draft plan started out a lot of sentences with “gatherers”. Some people wanted it to be “gathering participants”.
The draft plan said, “There will be no camping within 150 feet of surface water, or where posted. Where it is not possible to meet this, camps must be on dry or hardened sites that are not creating resource damage such as mud bogs or trampling of plants, particularly in riparian zones.” In the final plan this was changed to 50 feet.
Other than these changes, everything else in the plan got immediate agreement by all present, and nobody complained about “being dictated to” by the Forest Service. (The complete text of it can be seen here
The meeting ended at about 5:30 with some people wondering if a new day was really dawning. But most of us were wondering if this would be accompanied by some real behavior changes in the rank and file cops who patrolled the gathering. There seemed to be some, but not enough for a lot of us. I didn’t hear any reports of roadblocks and checkpoints after this. On only one day did I see any LEOs riding ATVs; all the other times they went thru the central gathering area on foot. (There was the usual troop of five on horseback, whom I always saw riding together.)
They said they would not be going thru the gathering looking for drugs, but if they happened to see someone puffing on a joint or a pipe, they would do what the law said they had to do. And there was an amazingly high number of people who did just this; several reports of this happening came thru Info. If they caught you they would search every part of your camp with a dog taking part, and confiscate any dope they found. Sometimes they would give you a ticket, sometimes they wouldn’t.
And there were times when I saw them do what any cop would do if he observed certain things happening in the city. On one evening walk back I was near the front gate when I saw two Rainbow brothers get into a yelling and shoving match with a sister standing nearby. I heard “back off!” coming from the direction of the road, and two cops came running up. One of them said, “Come with me, ma’am”, and led her to a place away from the scuffle. The other started to try to get between the two fighting men, but by that time some other brothers had come from behind and pulled them away from each other. The brother who had started the altercation calmed down and said, “It’s all right officer. This is just a disagreement between us” and followed the cop as he led him away and started asking him questions as they stood together off to the side. Another Rainbow who knew the other brother said, “You’ve got to come with me”, and walked him away from the scene. The LEOs were content to let us deal with the problem ourselves, and didn’t make any arrests or give any tickets.
On June 28th there were no clouds and no rain, and out in the meadows it was warm enough to invite nudity, which I saw more of thruout this gathering than in recent years.
As I was walking back in the evening, I saw Change as I was approaching the front gate, and she said, “They evicted me, but I’m still behind my van.” She said this while smiling, almost as if she was relieved. I soon saw the reason; they had indeed set up a Main Supply near the front gate, with some tarps hanging over boxes, bags, and buckets. They were all up on pallets or tables made of lashed together sticks, just like Rae wanted. A large schoolbus was parked in the entrance to Handi-Camp across the road, and about two dozen Fat Kids were eagerly unloading it out of the door in its rear end and shlepping things over.(to be continued)