At the end of June, Carlos and myself took off on a journey to the rainbow gathering in the Cherokee National Forest of Tennessee. I heard of rainbow gatherings a few years ago and have met many people who are "rainbow family" throughout my travels. When we heard the 2012 gathering was going to be held pretty close to Missouri and in a state we had not yet ventured to, we had to go!
A little background on the rainbow concept...
Many in the rainbow family study and apply a native american or tribal way of life. They live lightly on the planet and try to be as self sufficient as possible. They people don't need a government, that we should all help eachother. They don't believe in capital, but that we should share what we have and barter for what we need. The gathering is totally free - free camping, free food, free water, tons of things being traded and given away.
I am in awe of the ones who set up the gatherings. They set up a filtered spring water system that gets fresh, clean water to thousands of folks during the gathering. This year it came from the top of one of the Appalachian mountains in the national forest and the water was amazing! It made me feel incredibly energized. Every year between 7000 and 20000 people show up to the gathering. The main part of it is from July 1 - July 7, but people arrive a month in advance to set everything up and they are there for about a month after the 7th to clean the place up and make it look like no one was ever there. An amazing feat.
During the main part of the gathering, the place is like a festival. There are drum circles and fire spinning every night, people set up on the main trail bartering all kinds of stuff, hallucinogenic drugs are everywhere, people are walking around naked, there are bon fires... it's wild.
And then most of those people leave before the 7th and leave tons of garbage, clothes, tents, sleeping bags, etc. etc. etc. behind in the forest... for others to clean up. We stayed until the 13th spending the last 5 days cleaning up as much as we could. We walked the trails bagging up moldy clothes, pillows, blankets, and all sorts of trash and we carried it down the mountain time and time again to the main road - to TRASH MOUNTAIN. A mountain of trash. A big one. We helped dig through the trash bags to sort out glass, cans, plastic. It's so ironic to me that the foundation of these gatherings is to be self sufficient without a government entity regulating our every move, and then at the end there's hundreds and hundreds of bags of trash from all these folks that came out just to party... and of course from all the food waste that happens when there are 7000 people hanging out in the woods.
I met some amazing people there. Teepee Dave brings his teepee to every gathering and he shared his gratitude with us for helping clean up the woods. He had us over to enjoy fresh hot coffee and gentle conversation. He played his dulcimer that he made himself and we sang songs. We helped kitchens with dishes and helped them cook meals. The most amazing part for me was lending a hand wherever I could to create a harmonious space.
While there, I realized that traveling around makes it very difficult to be self sufficient in these times. Unless I become a hunter/gatherer which is really difficult in a country where the land is bought and sold, I feel like the most simple and harmless way of life is a stationary one. If I stay in one place with a bit of land I can grow all my food, build a little house, and live in harmony with the land off the grid and with minimal government.
The police were totally crazy. Every day there were cops rolling up and down the road where people park, where "A Camp" was set up, the anarchist camp that tries to keep cops out of the woods. They would ride into woods on the trails with their ATVs and give people fines for anything. They searched cars without warrants. They yelled and played threatening music from their megaphones. "Let the bodies hit the floor" was one song I heard when we first arrived in the woods.
The people who stay behind to clean up the woods are incredible.
And the journey there was a hot one! Hitch hiking in the southern Summer heat was very trying at times. We drank tons of water and sat in the shade every chance we got. Nashville, Tennessee was my favorite city that we stopped in. We saw a jazz show at a local coffee shop and drank an amazing latte. Then we met Sweet Annie, a beautiful jazz singer, who let us camp in her backyard. We talked for hours, she made us breakfast, and sang us a song. She says the 1990 rainbow gathering changed her life forever and shaped who she is today. :)