The next morning, the 5th, I was walking back in when I found that some big logs had been dragged across the side of a fork in the trail that led into Hobo Alley, directing traffic onto a short loop that bypassed it before meeting the trail again before it descended to Welcome Home. I asked about this, and a brother told me that the previous night in the dark three men on motorcycles had managed to make it all the way up Heart Attack Hill and were threatening some of the Hobo Alley campers. “About a hundred hippies confronted them” in the words of this brother, “and turned them away.” One of bikers got into a personal argument with one of the Rainbows and cut him with a knife, but no weapons were brandished by any of the Family, and they were finally chased off only by words. There were threats by them to return with more of their friends, but these never materialized. Later at Vision Council Garrick Beck said he was inspired by this demonstration of nonviolence by the young people.
On the afternoon of the 5th I heard a call of “six up giddyup in a hurry” while sitting in Info, and I walked out and saw a mounted LEO trotting up to join the two others in the middle of the main meadow. Later I heard an explanation: at the “main council” circle that had been starting every day at noon in the main meadow since the 1st, and to which about two dozen people had been showing up every day to share concerns and heartsongs and such, one man got angry at what another had said and pulled the peace pole out of the ground and hit that person on the side of his body. That person was finally arrested by the policemen.
On the 6th the piles of plastic trash bags awaiting further removal started to appear, and the sisters of Fat Kids again did their annual tradition of handing out garbage bags on the trail while topless. At maybe two in the afternoon I was at the grand intersection when I heard, “Well if it isn’t the number one bliss ninny, four years straight”, and looked around to see who said it, and saw it was the man who had challenged me at Kid Village. He was carrying some large silver metal object that looked heavy, and he looked like he was frustrated with his efforts. I didn’t give him any reply, and he walked on, saying again as he left, “Bliss ninny!”
The morning of 7th I made breakfast at Info and got over to my campsite later than I had wanted to because I was still feeling weak. I took down the tarp and the tent and got everything into bags and into the wheelbarrow and towards the end I was again feeling out of breath and exhausted. I wound up having to stop and rest so much that I saw the Vision Council assemble, make a circle holding hands, and then sit down and start talking while I was still working at my campsite. I had wanted to be there at the beginning, but I had to just sit down one more time.
Then I heard a woman’s voice in a tent that was still in the clearing next door. She was sobbing, and saying things like, “Now I’m out here and I don’t know where she went to and how I’m going to get out of here. Where is my family when I need them?” My Shanti Sena alarm went off in my head, and I got up and went over to the tent and asked, “What is your situation? Are you out here alone?”
After some more questions, she told me that her female friend had left her to take some of their gear out to their vehicle, and she was starting to feel very sick, and she still had a large heavy backpack to carry out, and she didn’t know where her friend was and when she was going to be coming back and didn’t think she was going to be strong enough to get out of there. I asked her if she thought she could make it over to CALM, and she didn’t think so.
So I thought about how to find someone with a radio to summon them, and the nearest place that seemed likely was the Vision Council circle, so I started walking over there. As I was walking, I observed how fast I was doing it and how suddenly my energy had returned. I had just gotten a dose of spiritual adrenaline thru my concern for her.
I first went up to Robbie and asked in a soft voice if he knew anyone who might have a radio, and he said no, so I started around the outside of the circle toward Marken. Then Robbie interrupted the circle and asked if anyone could find me a CALM radio. Nobody there had a radio, but some suggested that the whole circle together holler “Hello, CALM!”, which they did a few times. This brought a few people coming down the hill to the circle asking about our call, and I pointed out the tent to them. I told a tall and muscular young brother that I could lead him there, but he walked faster than I could keep up, and several other people got there before me.
When I got to the tent I found the woman sitting out on the ground in front of the tent and a young sister was asking her some medical questions. There was a brief time during the conversations that we all introduced ourselves, and the tall muscular brother said that he was part Lakota Indian, and his name was Strong Bear. A person casting actors for a western movie would have found his appearance perfect for the part. The CALM sister decided that the problem was the same altitude sickness that had hit me and so many others.. Strong Bear offered to take the backpack out and put the straps over his shoulders.
I finally got out to the Vision Council circle at about a quarter to two. There were about 50 people there, and the circle did not get appreciably bigger for the rest of the afternoon. The feather had apparently already gone around twice, and when I arrived Robbie was beginning to speak. From all of the people that the feather went to afterward I heard near universal agreement that the gathering had to go someplace east; there had already been enough in the Rocky Mountain west. (The discussion remained remarkably focused on the question of location. There were no speeches that started out with “C’mon, family” or laments about us losing our original ideals or calls to join political demonstrations after the gathering or pitches for new communities that were forming.)
The disagreement that remained was where in the east; there was perhaps a majority that wanted New England, but there was a sizeable faction that wanted the Great Lakes area, and one brother enthusiastically pitched for the Talladega National Forest in Alabama, where half of the split gathering in 1993 was and got a few supporters. All of the reasons for not choosing either area were ones I had heard before: not enough sites that were big enough, we’ve scouted that area before and haven’t found anything, heat and humidity, mosquitoes, private land scattered within National Forest boundaries, the cops in that state, do you have any maps that show specific sites in mind?, etc.
There were several unsuccessful attempts at calling for consensus, but one brother managed to get thru a temporary consensus restricting the agreed upon area to the Northeast, Lake Michigan, or Alabama. This was not to be considered the final consensus; discussion could continue afterward to narrow the decision down.
The council was interrupted at 6:30 by the last Dinner Circle and the last collection of the Magic Hat. Most of the estimates of attendance that I saw were from 8 to 10 thousand people, about what it has been for the last several years. The total contributions to the Hat were $13,498 in paper bills and probably about $300 in change. This would average from around $1.40 to $1.70 per attendee.
We discovered the value of announcing the total collected in a loud voice to the people still in the circle. This would often bring people coming up to the place we were counting (always inside the innermost circle of seated people) with additional contributions. We would then announce the new total, and this would bring more. This especially worked when we were in the high eights or nines near to an even thousand dollar amount. It got us over 1,000 on the 30th and 5th, and over 2,000 on the 2nd and 3rd.
After the banking council was over I was walking back to my former campsite when I heard the man where the feather had stopped calling the Vision Council back to order, but I wanted to get the last of my gear back to Bus Village before it got dark. I found out on Facebook after getting home that somehow South Dakota had arisen to replace Alabama, and the rest of that temporary consensus had become final. The 2015 annual gathering will be in Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, or South Dakota.
On my very last walk up the hill to Bus Village I finally was able to do what Gary had told me to do several times during this gathering. A young sister walking up behind me said, “Would you like me to push that for you for a while?” I said yes, and she took the two handles of the wheelbarrow and started walking at a steady pace, never stopping to rest until we got to the intersection at the top. If I had been walking by myself, I might have done it a little slower and taken some rest stops, but I said to myself, “If you keep pace with her, you’ll get there a lot faster and be able to rest a lot sooner.”
Towards the end of the walk, we started to converse, and she said that she had seen me out there with the Magic Hat and doing other things around Info and other places. “It seems that every time I see you, you’re doing something for the Family.” Before and after that there were other thank yous and more stuff like that, but that’s the line I remember. I took the wheelbarrow the rest of the way to the van and set it down by the side door with the load in place and the bungees still stretched, and immediately went inside to sleep. I disassembled the wheelbarrow and transferred it and its contents into the van shortly after sunrise the next morning, and a brother at the front gate who stopped me to tell me I had left a backpack on my roof got a ride down the hill to Heber City.
Thus ended my stay at the Heart Attack Hill Gathering, where I went all the way from “if it isn’t the number one bliss ninny” to “every time I see you, you’re doing something for the Family”. I drove east on highway 40 until it was late enough in the day to check into a motel, and that happened in the town of Roosevelt. Then I took two more days on I-70 and I-35 in Colorado and Kansas getting home to Muskogee on Thursday the 10th.
I continued to be exhausted all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and Monday happened to be the day scheduled for my regular four month checkup at the VA hospital. To my surprise, my oxygen level was at 100%, my hemoglobin level was normal, and the problem turned out to be abnormally low blood pressure. After abstaining for a day from all four of the medications they had put me on for the opposite condition, I gradually started them up again while measuring my pressure with my own machine. It has returned to the way it was before the gathering, but with only half of the daily dose I was previously taking of three of these pills. It has continued this way for two weeks, and I’m wondering if this will be a long lasting change. I’m also wondering if had been taking my BP at the gathering and reducing my dosages there in response to it, instead of continuing what I had been taking before it, my days there would have been better.
How was this gathering for me? It was strenuous, exhausting, and mostly malnourished. The last was partly because of the effects of the altitude sickness, and partly because of the uncertainty of finding food. The only physical labor I was able to perform was walking the Magic Hat around the Dinner Circle. No construction, carting in supplies, no posthole or latrine digging or water transporting. (No need to chop wood in Info except maybe to build benches; we don’t have firepits.) Otherwise I had to summon all of my will and stamina just getting my body around the site – and I never felt so old in my life. This feeling alternated between misery at feeling this way and optimism and pride at seeing myself being able to endure and prevail in spite of it. The latter feeling might be more conducive to my overall survival, but the former might be the one that makes me be more realistic and not overextend myself and do myself in. Whichever I felt, I was not able to do all that I wished I could do., and I was very frustrated. There were a lot of places I only had the energy to visit once, where if they had been nearer to the center I would have been able to partake of more good times there.
How was the gathering for the other people around me? I heard many say that this gathering, in spite of the sometimes constant cries of “six up”, it was one of the most peaceful ones they had been at in a long time. The air was full of lovin’ yous and namastes and that certain kind of laugh I call “the stoned giggle”. I myself did not hear the call of “Shanti Sena” once during my entire stay at this gathering. I asked around about it once at Info, and the only story that came back was from a brother who saw a commotion around a person who was trying to take pictures at a “naked parade” that walked down the trail from Shining Light and proceeded all the way to Welcome Home on the 3rd.
There were no complaints coming thru Info about a rowdy A-Camp, and all reports were that the front gate stayed sober under the ogreship of two strong-willed older men who built a small kitchen and kept it manned all day. Some stories I heard suggested that many of the regular A-Campers had gone instead to a gathering at the same time in West Virginia, one intended to be an alternative to the “national” and called the “rational”. At this gathering in Utah the alcohol was absorbed at the end of the initial climb in by the far less rowdy and more compassionate energy of the young people at Hobo Alley. Those who drank further inside the gathering mostly did it discreetly, and there weren’t any pouring out onto the ground confrontations. The old tradition of absolute prohibition of alcohol continued to break down, but in a way that was compromising to the concerns of those who didn’t want to be around it.
(Marijuana use continued to be open to the point of a man passing out little clumps of leaves from out of a plastic bag one evening at Dinner Circle.)
Many times I have read posts on the Rainbow internet forums desiring an ideal gathering that would be far removed from the influences of Babylon by being at the end of a long and arduous hike into the woods of several miles, one that would filter out all the day trippers and drainbows and leave only the pure in spirit to dance in the gathering utopia within. This gathering certainly qualified as having that hike, and there might be many who point out to what they perceive as the elevated spirit of this gathering as demonstrating the efficacy of this concept. Have all of our gatherings on nine thousand foot mountaintops and they will remain pure.
But if this is the world you want, you’d better hope you can find a way to be forever young. Us old farts and old bats are going to be left out, along with our experience, our stories, our songs, our kitchen orgeship and organizing abilities, our ability to help you not make all the mistakes we did, and any other things you young people might want from us. I know that I will not be coming to another gathering that is held at over 9,000 feet. I’m looking forward next year to large numbers of flying insects, parking on the side of a road in a place that is quiet at night, not having to walk hundreds of yards to get from one kitchen to another, and a long and resonant Om on the 4th because everybody is jammed together into a small meadow.The story ends here, but the gatherings remain
to be continued...