Saturday, March 26, 2011

Scouting 101

The first Scout Rendezvous, called by Thanksgiving Council, is happening Sunday, May 8 at a location to be announced the first week of April on this blog and all the other usual places.

As with all things Rainbow, no experience is necessary to participate and new blood is always needed provided you can be self sufficient, have a dependable car or gas money to donate to someone who does, and want to do the hard work.  The more people who come prepared with potential sites to the Rendezvous the better.  Do your homework before you come. I realize that weather conditions may preclude actual walking (Step 7 below), but map work should be done ahead of time and if you come to the Rendezvous with sites in mind, bring the topo maps and all the research you've done on the area: endangered species, first national (tribal) land issues, grazing permits, etc. For all you know, someone else scouted that site last year and found some reason why it was unworkable. It's hard to find sites for the Annual Gathering and it's important we use our collective wisdom in site selection.

If you've never been scouting, here's my short list of how to scout (based on the collective wisdom that has been shared with me and my own hands on experience).  We generally gather on lands managed by the United States Forest Service (USFS) but some areas of the country do have good land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). We don't gather in federally designated wilderness areas, national park, or  national monuments as these areas are not compatible with our needs due to one of the following reasons:  no cars, focus on protecting wild life and land, need to preserve sensitive ecosystems, and entrance fees to name but a few.

Step 1) Pick a gathering or gatherings that you personally attended.
Step 2) Find those gathering sites on a topo map. I was taught to use 7 minute maps. Many university libraries have good collections of topo maps. Or visit topo zone maps online.
Step 3) Once you find the topo map, correlate the parking lots, kitchens, main circle, and various camps you remember with spots on the topo map so that in your head you can see a gathering on a map.
Step 4) Pick a national forest or area under BLM management that you feel would be appropriate for a gathering - if you're planning on  scouting for the annual gathering in 2011, we're looking in Washington State.
Step 5) Look at the topos for that area trying to find a site that has the qualities you liked about the previous gatherings you've attended. Some of my personal favorite features are a good hike in at least 1 mile, closer to 2 if it's an easy hike because I feel that the harder it is to get into a site, the more committed people are to staying and creating gathering reality. For a large gathering, having a main meadow and a couple of separate smaller meadows is a good thing, water is of course necessary. Places to hike away from the main part of the gathering for people wanting to get away. Two roads in and out to the gathering site (Front Gate/Back Gate). No roads into the gathering site proper or the cops will drive into the heart of our gathering.
Step 6) Make sure the site is far away from civilization to minimize gatherer/non-gatherer conflicts and runs into town for booze.
Step 7) Go out and walk the site and see if it has what the maps showed and the above mentioned features, if it's workable and if it has the magic. In my experience, if you have done you're home work on five sites, maybe one is workable as there are always issues that don't reveal themselves until you are on the land.

Thanks to all my family who are spending time and money scouting for this gathering! We Love You!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's been 30 years

Since the Annual Gathering of the Tribes manifested in the state of Washington.

Just a blast from the past to show folks how old school communcation worked.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The less tangible side of gathering

At the annual gathering in Pennsylvania in 2010, a few people mentioned how much they love these series of blogs but were interested in the why or less tangible side of a lot of what I post on this blog.  That's a tough one to accomplish as it gets very personal.  However, I will attempt from time to time to give some more of this side of gathering. Keep in mind that what I write represents my opinion or my experience only.  I'll try to include links to other people's thoughts when relevant.  So here goes post #1 on this topic.

Why I gather:

If I went into how I started gathering, I'd be writing for months, but looking at why I want to gather in Washington and why I gathered in Pennsylvania, it's all about learning. Every time I go to a gathering, I feel like I'm entering a huge sandbox where I get to learn about other people, creating community and myself.  Here is one example - the details may be off as life becomes a blur after a while but the truth is accurate:

A lost child:

Every time I go out looking for a lost child I am faced with challenges. Remembering what the child looks like, trying to put myself in the place of the child so I can try to go where that child went,  making sure I'm observing details, and talking to other gatherers about my search for the missing child. At the New Mexico Gathering in 2009, I was at INFO after dark when a frantic mom came to report that her son was missing.  He was eight or nine but had some issues that left him functioning at the level of a much younger child. The mother said he loved fires and drums and hung out by the hydration station.

A group of people instantly ran off in the direction of the hydration station along one side of the main meadow. I walked into the main meadow and stopped, trying to listen the my heart.  Gazing around the meadow, I noticed the big boogie pit at the bottom of the meadow and headed there. A large crowd was involved in drumming and dancing and just hanging out.  When a small break in the music presented itself, I stood up next to the fire to get people to quiet down so I could let them know about the lost boy.  Many people told me to leave that this wasn't the time and place to discuss a lost child.  Others shouted them down and told them to listen to what I had to say. Finally after a bunch of back and forth, silence fell and I could explain the situation.

When I was finished, a sister said that sounds like the boy who was over here bothering us so we told him to leave.  (This broke my heart)  I said where did he go.  She pointed up the trail en route to the trade circle and I immediately left (not without wanting to lecture her and all the others at the drum circle who thought drumming was more important than helping a young boy be safe and happy, but finding this boy was my mission).

I hurried up the trail and stopped at each fire. At the second fire, I found the young man listening to some kind family playing guitar and singing and he was entranced.  I squatted down and asked him his name. After he confirmed that he was in fact the boy I was looking for, I took his hand and said, let's go to Kid Village and find your mom (all lost kids and lost parents should always be taken to kid village).  As soon as we were on the trail, I saw a friend of mine with a radio and asked him to call in and let everyone know the child had been found and we were en route to kid village. (we walked that way together as it's always best when escorting a small child to have at least one other person with you to ensure the safety and sanity of all concerned).  Half way across the meadow, a man ran up claiming to be the father, but in his infinite wisdom he said he would walk with us to kid village as I didn't know him from a dragon.

I'm sure I don't need to spell out all the lessons I learned in finding this boy, but they are powerfully strong lessons and very sad at the same time.  I find that people who aren't willing to learn the lessons that the universe is teaching them, tend to have trouble gathering. After all, if you want the world to conform to the way you believe it is, you're not going to be happy when the universe keeps breaking down your sense of self and reality.  But then again, this is just my opinion.

Other People's Thoughts:

If you're interested in some other opinions by people who I highly respect and have been gathering far longer than I have, try one of these great explanations:

Why Gather
What is the Rainbow Family of Living Light?
What is Rainbow?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The practical side of gathering

While everyone is welcome to show up at the gathering in shorts and flip flops, I find that making sure my basic personal care is taken care of helps me focus my energy on fully participating in what ever the gathering desires from me.  Bring too much stuff and you're a prisoner of your possessions, bring too little stuff, and the nights can be very cold.

Keep in mind that depending on the site, you will be hiking your gear in from one to three miles. (Sometimes we have special parking locations for those whose physical abilities preclude them from long hikes; sometimes we have Sherpas who help other people carry their crap in).  Don't bring anything you can't keep on your person that you don't want to loose. While most people at a gathering are honest, there are usually a few thieves in the crowd and every year some bellies get stuff stolen from their tent. Of course, camping in a community and making friends with your neighbors, helps with the "tent neighbor watch" and keeps you and your neighbors junk safe.

Here's what I consider essential.

Tent, sun shower, my personal toiletries, sleeping bag, pad to sleep on, a tarp for over the tent if conditions are rainy, personal water filter, warm clothes, sun hat, sunscreen, water bottle, hiking books and a pair of sneakers. Heavy duty work gloves. A stash of apples, carrots and granola bars. A flashlight. Emergency C. Rain poncho and day pack. And of course a bowl and spoon.  Some green energy for the magic hat. A couple of roles of TP.  I always bring a number of small cotton wash clothes that I use as a "pee rag" so I don't use too much toilet paper. 

There's a great rap on this very topic called the Turtle Rap, which you can find here.

Remember, if you haul it in, it's your job to haul it out again. This means empty soda cans, used tampons, clothes (even if wet and muddy), pianos, and small children.  The only thing to leave behind is fruit and veggie scraps in the compost pit, poop and toilet paper (buried in a shitter never on the ground), and pee behind your favorite bush.