Friday, July 24, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
The first time I woke up to rustling. I looked blearily out of my sleeping bag and noticed that little drops of rain were settling happily on my face and into the folds of my unprotected bed. Eric was already moving our stuff out of the rain. We resettled our sleeping bags under some nearby tarps but there was a gap that corresponded perfectly with the nicest flat patch of ground.
I woke up cold and wet, and wearing a fuzzy animal hat I'd put on my head to keep the rain out. Eric was wearing a lion on his head. The camp, under whose tarp we had settled, turned out to be the "wanna-be pirate camp." The wanna-be pirates didn't seemed perturbed to find two damp strangers sleeping under their tarp and wearing over sized stuffed animals on their heads. One woman opened her tent, looked straight at us and said, "Meow....." in a long relaxed drawling kind of way. We meowed back and then left to find breakfast.
Eric and I spent our first day at the gathering hitching back to Cuba to buy "lots of chocolate" and to make some phone calls. We caught a ride part of the way down with a taxi that some savvy rainbowers had talked into taking them all the way up to the gathering from downtown Albuquerque. As it turned out, Cuba doesn't have chocolate (good chocolate) but it did have phone reception and we got in touch with our friends telling them to meet us in Main Meadow. Before we headed back I walked into a gas station to use the restroom still sporting my animal head. I overheard a girl say to her friend as they passed me, "why are there so many hobos around today?" I was offended for a second but then I noticed that the place was crawling with dirty hippies. Even if she was talking about me we totally outnumbered everyone else.
Catching a ride back up to the gathering was as easy as saying "welcome home" and we spent the rest of the day wandering through a myriad of camps with our bags and stilts slung over our shoulders. We met up with some friends who came up for the day and had dinner at Fairy Camp, which was one of the cleanest friendliest and most organized camps I witnessed. It was also, quite magically, infested with extremely adorable kittens that posed on mossy logs just waiting for Cat Calendar photographers to come by.
As night fell we began to wonder if we would again be sleeping in the open. Bethany was coming, supposedly, and bringing us a tent. We headed for Main Meadow to wait, but as ten o clock rolled around we decided to find shelter under another tarp. This night passed without rainfall but with an outrageous amount of loud drumming that seeped into my sleepy head making me feel grumpy and uncomfortable. But at three or four the drumming died down and the sun rose on a hushed fourth of July. The rainbow family requests silence all morning on the fourth of July so Eric and I communicated by spelling words in sign language, an entirely silent process except for the moments in which we yelled with laughter because of all the mistakes we were making.
I headed down to the main meadow and was amazed by the sight of thousands of quiet people. Everyone seemed to be wearing their most tiedyed outfits for the occasion. I walked through the field mesmerized by the silence, the colors and the light. I walked toward the notice board where we'd left a note for Bethany and was totally pleased to see her seated in the grass amidst the crowds of people I didn't. We had an almost silent greeting and wrote each other notes as we took our place in the concentric circles coming out of the middle of the field. It started to rain just as Eric found us.
Everyone stood up and slowly, almost imperceptibly the humming began. It started as a low drone and grew nearer and nearer. Suddenly we were engulfed in the ohm and added our voices to it. The rain continued to fall. When we joined the group we took our place in the outermost circle. I looked behind me and was amazed to see row after row of people holding hands in bigger and bigger circles behind ours. The sound continued in a huge rising and falling and harmonizing wave. I don't know exactly how much time passed but the agreed upon time hit and there was a great yell, all of the voices joining together rising into the rain that continued to fall in great wet drippy drops. When the yell ended the rain stopped and the sun shone warm, yellow, and bright. The children marched into the center of the circle to recieve their blessing...
That was my favorite part of the rainbow gathering. I spent the rest of the day ducked under tarps as subsequent storms roamed the mountains, eating, drinking, and making merry with Bethany and Eric. We put on our stilts later in the day and toured the meadow bringing joy and happiness everywhere we went. And right before leaving our elevated states the sun and rain converged in such perfect angles and delicate proportions as to create the brightest and most beautiful double rainbow I have ever seen. Everyone applauded and cheered loudly for the rainbow that seemed to brighten the more we smiled. Later I heard many an old man comment on the rainbow, saying it was the best that they had ever seen in all their many years of being alive.
After stilting we were muddy and sang about it, "bare feet and a baby in yer hair, watcha gonna do....?"
That night we slept in a tent, and a good thing to because the most outrageous thunder and lightning storm danced garishly right over our heads all night. The tent lit up in frightening strobes of white light and the rain pummeled feircely with tiny wet fists. I nervously counted seconds but couldn't remember whether I was supposed to count after lightning or thunder (it was about the same either way). Needless to say I woke up relieved to be waking up.
We took down camp after a muddy breakfast and slowly made our way out of the family-like cacoon that was the rainbow gathering. We hiked from its beautiful camps complete with compost facilities, into its hovel like shanty town complete with trailers and piles of trash. This bordered the edge of the gathering where we were reunited with Bethany's car parked with thousands of other cars from all over the country. We gave a couple a ride down to their car (a couple of miles away) and commented on which cars we thought were definately going to roll down the mountain (based on the precarity of the way in which they were parked).
I looked at my feet and noticed they were quite muddy.