Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Call of the Gathering

The gathering calls us from the depths of the earth and the tallest tree. The gathering whispers secrets in the wind, in the dirt being dug for a shitter, in the heartbeat of the drums. We are on a journey to an unknown destination. One ruled by unknown words and the longing for a future we have not yet created.

I answer this call sometimes against my conscious will. The amount of time, money and energy it takes to gather could take me on a three week ocean cruise with a comfy bed, three meals a day and no stress. But at the end of the cruise, I would still be the person I was before, although probably fatter (which I don't need) and well rested (which I do need).

In a world where money and efficiency rule, our souls hunger for more.  For a way to relate to each other outside of traditional power structures and beyond the exchange of money for love. Some might call it madness and perhaps trying to hear the heartbeat of the earth is madness. If believing that the world is more than computers and jogging on a treadmill is madness, then we are absolutely insane. We are mad with love for life and this crazy world we call home.  We are mad with love for each other, the creeks, the boulders, the tiny yellow flowers growing in the meadow.

I cannot count the times someone has quit the gathering, only to come home again. The call of the gathering is strong.

The gathering has left me in tears and so angry that I broke glass bottles on the side of a camper. I have yelled at people and hugged them a moment later.  I have seen people in so much pain that all they can do is try to hurt those who would love them. I have seen people prey on us to fill the holes in their hearts.  The call of the gathering is powerful.

I have worked myself to exhaustion and witnessed my brothers and sisters do the same. We have chopped wood, hauled water, treated the injured and loved the lost.  The call of the gathering is full of hard work.

Sometimes things don't work out and people suffer. Kids get lost. Fights happen and people get hurt. Dreams are destroyed and people die. We experience the lightness and the darkness as nature includes both death and rebirth. The call of the gathering involves suffering.

In a culture that tries to erase suffering and darkness, that tries to protect every second of our lives, we have lost the ability to experience ecstasy and horror.  The gathering restores this experience to us, puts it in our body, allows anyone to be the hero or the villain of the movie du jour. It allows us the freedom to learn how to work together, to be a community, to find ourselves and grow into humans with respect for all living creatures and this beautiful, amazing planet we call home. I have cried with my family and celebrated joy with them. I have seen the worst of myself and the best. It's has been a long strange journey and one that keeps calling me home. 

The call of the gathering is life.


  1. Wonderfully written. Especially the bit about ecstasy and horrors. The rising tide and the crashing wave are part of it all. Sometimes someone feels more of the crash and they "quit" the gathering only to later remember the crest and come back home again.

    That call is tugging at my shoulder the past few days. We must be close to June...


  2. What kinds of "horrors" might one expect to encounter at a Gathering? I'd like to go, but I'm particularly concerned about bringing 1) my 15yr old daughter and 2) our 1yr old granddaughter, in light of your talking about lost kids, fights, etc. Enlightenment?

  3. To the person who posted anonymously today at 12:58 PM: Anything that could happen in a small town of 10,000 people has the potential to happen at a gathering. Sometimes parents don't watch their kids as close as they should and the kids wander off. When that happens, we find them pretty quickly. People have heart attacks, people don't care for their health and get sick, legs get broken, people smoke too much pot and get lost in the woods. People somestimes steal from one another. If you're bringing children, I always recommend that you monitor what they're doing and in the case of a 1 year old, keep your eyes on them at all times, just like I'm sure you do when you take a 1 year old to the playground.

  4. And to Karin's answer - recognize that the vast majority of those 10,000 will be the loving-ist people you will ever meet. Some of the most talented free thinkers, drummers, musicians, clowns and cooks show up at the National Gathering. My children are now grown after attending more than one Gathering. Kiddie Village is where you want to make camp if you have a 1 year old. You need to have good communication with your 15 yr old - because all the reasons you might worry about her are real at the Gathering, as they are in any town, but the freedom for your child to rebel and act out is there as well, and that can be stressful on parents if kids don't make their meet times -

  5. Karin, thank you for posting this. So much love to you.

  6. Once while attending a gathering,the message of a lost child came over my 2-way radio,the responce was so sudden(in finding that child)that within 7 minutes,the little one was found!And that was in a National Forest area of several square miles!Peace.

  7. Karin, Amazing words sister!! I got goosebumps while reading it, it simply capitulated the calling of Home so well!
    To 'Anonymous' at the top of the page: Fear not! Be careful & be observant as you would anywhere, but this is by far a safer place in my eyes than the downtown of ANY major city or large town in the US. My first gathering was in 1985, I was four years old & my sister had just turned three. It was such a beautiful & pivotal moment for me that now I simply must go every year I am able, & do so with my wife & son in tow! My sons first gathering was last year, he was three & a half months old. It was a major challenge camping with such a small baby but we had an abundance of wonderful & loving friends/family who were more than willing to lend a hand. Not to mention the wealth of information so many shared of thier own experiences with children at gatherings.
    Love & Light,

  8. this definitely tugs at the heartstrings, very well said. My first gathering was New Mexico in 2009, and let me tell you, it took a lot for me to even figure out how to free up the time to get there. Last year i was not able to make it to PA (which was disappointing, because I live in NJ, sort of close by), and this year is looking pretty grim as well. I'm hoping that within the next few years I am able to make it to one or more nat'l Gatherings so I can celebrate life with you all. I feel the call of the Gathering all year round... and I won't ever be able to match the experience with anything else. Until then, Brothers n' Sisters.

    Hallie M.