Rainbow Gathering Photos and MyStory California 2004

What IS the Rainbow Gathering?To me, it is Woodstock with amateur musicians and I’m in the band…

Thousands of people go backpacking for a couple of weeks… Every year during the end of June and the beginning of July… The location is different every year but it is always in a National Forest… It’s an intentional temporary village…

This is a description about my trip to The Rainbow Gathering in California 2004… I wrote this to help me remember…

Thousands of People chant OM. This photo was snapped just before I decided it was time to put away the camera and experience the event… Yes, it’s important to remember to LIVE LIFE instead of DOCUMENTING LIFE.

 I made it to the 2004 rainbow gathering in beautiful Modoc National Forest of California. I got there July 1st before sunset and left July 6th in the morning. On July 1st, I hiked in a minimum distance and slept outdoors near the giant lava rock. At that point I was upset because I smelled burning clutch when I parked my mom’s car in the sagebrush. It turned out that the car in front of me was the source of the smell but I did not know that then. I drove over from Eureka and had a pleasant trip but I did drink 3 GIANT Pepsi-colas and was wired on caffeine and sugar…

I chatted with my fellow campers and we got along great. They told me the layout of the area and informed me about bears, cats and other local conditions. No problems with the animals. Then I went to sleep. I woke up and was cold and stiff from sleeping on the ground. It was a full moon and I walked all over looking at the sagebrush meadow. Another nap and then at dawn I went back out to the car and got supplies, more clothes, raincoat and water bottles. I walked back in and visited many campsites and chatted with locals… getting a clue about where it was all happening.

Got directions for a short-cut to the main circle… followed those directions and wandered around lost for a while…I really enjoyed the quaking aspen groves up on the mountain. I visited Bread of Life kitchen and listened to people blowing shofars and singing Christian sing along songs.

I visited a Jewish teach-in about the history of different tribes. On the main path, a dreadlocked man was playing bagpipes… including some Arabic harem music…Then I wandered down and stopped at Ram Dass’ tent. I spent 8 hours there.

We are beginning to look like each other.

Many people came to chat with him personally but I never felt the urge to do that. This tent was on the main path and right next to the information booth so there was a constant flow of interesting people to look at. A couple set up a therapeutic massage clinic right next to me. They did a lot of healing and it was fun to watch people get better. We smoked some grass. They had a sign hung up advertising their massage clinic and many people stopped to ask me detailed questions about it. This turned out to be funny to me because I was just an innocent by sitter and had no official connection with them. And I didn’t know any of the answers to the questions… Some 20 year olds were next to me and they were loudly begging for “zuzu”. After an hour of listening to improbable stories about their time machine that ran on “zuzu” and their need to save their invalid aunt, I asked someone to tell me what a “zuzu” was. It turns out to be secret code for candy or chocolate… I had filled my backpack with LOTS of snickers bars and M&M candy to share with fellow campers so I threw a package of M&M’s at them and there was much cheering…

Info Tent… right next to Ram Dass’ tent…

Then I went out behind Ram Dass’ tent to enjoy the sunshine and get away from the crowds. This was the first time that I had smoked marijuana in a year and I was feeling strange and kinda creepy… It appeared to me that I had smoked too much… I could see the giant tents way off in the distance and they looked like alien spaceships that had landed. I found out later that one was called “simply wonderful” and the other was a Hare Krsna tent.

I enjoyed the sunshine and the paranoid effects of the grass wore off…

 The sun set (amazing colors) and I went into a wooded area and played fetch with a dog. There were a LOT of dogs this year and they ran around loose at night. This one brought a stick up to me and dropped it at my feet. We played for a very long time and after I was totally bored he still wanted to play. I kept on telling him that I was not going to play anymore and he kept on trying to get me to play. This experience of inter-species communication was very powerful to me. The grass made everything seem so intense and I had just read a book at school called “A Language Older than Words” by Derrick Jensen that was all about inter-species communication. My ecology class studied this book in detail. We would read a couple of chapters, write a page of analysis and talk about it in groups. So my experience with the dog was strangely significant. Later that night I was eating a stick of summer sausage and another dog came to visit. I fed him some of the meat and we had a good time dining together. He also wanted to stay and eat forever but I was able to get him to go away when I conclusively “proved” that there was no more meat. (I put it inside the backpack and he believed that since he could not see it, it was gone)…

Then I went down the trail in search of drums. This year, there were many drum circles- none could be considered the “main” one. I danced with some people playing a Hare KRSNA beat and waving glowing cyalume lightsticks. I had two super bright LED flashlights (tiny-keychain size) that I tied to a short piece of twine. I could spin them around and make circles of blue and green light. Big fun to dance with. I was slightly concerned about temporarily blinding people because they were so powerful… I also wore them as a necklace and they automatically lit up the trail right in front of me as I walked along. It made the forest look like an underwater scene… blue and green light bouncing around and mixing to form ever changing illumination. Then I visited a tent where a man was telling GURU stories about Hanuman and Lord KRSNA. There was a fire inside the tent and 20 people listening. It was warm, comfortable and I stayed there for a couple of hours.

Then I want to the “Chai-Tea” kitchen and played the drums until dawn. I had my TEAK STICKS and tapped out rhythms in complementary patterns. My wife bought me those teak sticks and they are very lightweight, extremely loud and simple to play. Tick, Tick… Tock… Tock-ta-tic-tic-tic….. I have found that it is possible to make a sound that is similar to a cricket and that makes me feel like I’m a part of nature that is playing in the band. I ran out of drinking water and was saved by a refreshing cup of tea. Truly a miracle. At that time I had not found the source of drinking water and was truly concerned about it.

Then the sun came up and it was time to sleep. Early morning campfire scene.

About noon, I went out to the car for supplies. On the way I stopped for a cup of coffee. VERY strong coffee. At the car I played guitar and sang for an hour. One person was getting stuff from his car and stopped to listen. He wanted to find hot springs near the gathering that he heard were really good. A friend of his just happened to be parked next to him (coincidental meeting? Celestine?) and he complained to her that the noise of the drums kept him awake all night. I confessed to being one of the drummers that interfered with his sleep… I did that! I made that noise… They went away together to find the hot springs (romance?)… I wandered way up on top of the mountain to find the bathroom. This gathering had a huge quantity of people and the tents seemed to go on forever. Eventually, after a very long walk I found the slit trench bathroom… Then I located a wonderful source of drinking water at the “Warriors of the Light” kitchen. I made my way towards the main circle where they were serving dinner but arrived too late. Not a problem because I had plenty of food, candy and water. I also had a large amount of tobacco and shared it with anyone that asked. I was attracted by the sound of the “marimba tent” and went up there for a while playing the teak sticks and a borrowed drum. I smoked a lot of grass for the entire rest of my time there. I did not have any more paranoid effects, just endlessly stoned. Especially the chocolate syrup topping that went onto breakfast waffles… heavily laced with grass…

I ended up playing the drums at the “DunDun Village”. I took some action photographs of the synchronized dancers. The all-female dance troop was so erotic that I did not take any pictures of them. They seemed so sexy that I felt that it would be impolite and voyeuristic to use a camera. I just respected their feminity by taking home memories instead of photographs. Eventually, I spent the night playing drums around a campfire there. They had fire dancers performing at night. They had torches doused with camp-fuel (white gas) that they spun around their heads. One performer accidentally set herself on fire and rolled around in the dirt to put it out. During breaks in their show, I did my LED dance of blue-green circles. Same dance as they did, but high tech. I got a positive reaction from the audience. “GO BLACKLIGHTMAN, GO !”

The word was passed around that the morning of July 4th was to be silent. No talking or drumming at all. Then the sun came up and it was time for sleep. I woke up July 4th in the late morning. I met a fellow that I had played drums with and felt compelled to sing him a song that I had learned the night before. The lyrics are: Om mane padme, Om mane padme, Om mane padme OM. (repeat) The jeweled lotus is blossoming, deep within our soul, The jeweled lotus blossoming is our highest goal. He thanked me for the song but reminded me that we should not talk that morning. 


I wandered on down the path towards the main circle and ran into a person from Arcata. Bart Orlando from the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology. He was demonstrating his solar oven. We communicated using hand gestures and I walked over to the main circle. It was about 11:30 AM and we held hands and chanted OM for a half hour. I could not stand up for the entire time. It was a unique event. 16,000 people holding hands… Then a parade left “Kiddee Village”, the clock struck NOON and we all cheered. I had to find shade and relaxed under the quaking aspens near the Marimba tent.

Many people came and went. Here is a photo of a maiden playing with a ribbon toy…

A fellow gave me the last half of a marijuana cigarette but I had had enough. So the next group of people set down, and I gave it to them (two couples, about 40 years old). They thanked me but said “We won’t actually smoke that “shake” right now because our HASH is better”. They stayed for a long time and it was funny because the ladies got into a detailed conversation about home-loans and re-financing mortgage rates. One of the guys made fun of her for bringing in “Babylon ideas” to the gathering. Often the outside world is referred to Babylon… I guess that is a reggae/biblical reference to capitalism… We had a great time chatting in the shade.

They showed me a knife that was made out of a deer bone. It was sharp enough to serve as a letter opener, butter spreader or cheese cutter but it’s hidden significance was… no metal… easily smuggled  past metal detectors/xray equipment… The lady that owned the knife explained that she lived in a dangerous city and wanted it for self defense but refused to be hassled by police with metal detectors. I guess I will not be flying on an airplane any time soon since such a simple weapon can totally defeat homeland security efforts.


Some people walked by dressed up as cats on stilts…

An oboe player sat nearby and played middle eactern tunes.

Then we admired a lady that had a KORA. It is a west African 21 string harp used by storytelling singers. She was a tiny oriental lady with a lovely wrap around dress and BALLOON HAT.

I woke up and went to dinner at the main circle. We ate great vegetarian food and I put a dollar in the Magic Hat to help fund the Rainbow Gathering.

I relaxed near the giant rock outcropping and watched the sunset. The stars were especially bright that night. I saw the constellation Aries the Ram. (I THINK) I pointed it out to some people I was sitting with and we all could see the outline of a giant goat with curly horns standing on the top of the mountain. To find this constellation, follow an imaginary line made by the last two stars of the big dippers handle. They point directly at the Ram’s head. Also that night there was an electric parade… people walked by on stilts with their bodies outlined in lights… I spent the night at the Marimba tent.

Drumming at the Marimba tent… in the afternoon…

They had two marimbas (covered by blue cloths in above photo) and the leader would teach a volunteer how to play a simple bass line on one while he improvised on the other. They were not in use during the day of July 4th. That night, they were both played…

 

They also had a complete drum set with cymbals, violin, gypsy dancers, 10 conga drummers, acoustic guitar and ME on teak sticks. I was amazed at how loud the bass drum of a drum set is when you are sitting very close. It was like getting kicked by a mule in the chest. A lady had a red LED flashlight and we both played with our lights on the white parachute that formed the top of the tent… wiggling the lights in time to the music… making a psychedelic light-show… her doing red, me doing blue & green…

mix all three and every color of the rainbow is possible… RGB…

At dawn, I went to the Warriors of the Light tent to get water and sleep. July 5th was spent walking out. I would walk a little, rest a lot, walk a little, rest a lot. I met a guy from Chico that said he was a mural painter and that he owned “The Palms”. (a large farmhouse in rural Chico that is a rock and roll/art commune) I showed him my computer art (prints of my websites) and we had a good time talking about our experiences in Chico.

 

He took the picture of me standing in front of the giant lava rock.

(my campsite on July 1st)

The fellow in the foreground of that picture offered to sell me some magic mushrooms but I declined. The other fellow has a grass pipe on a fishing rod that he dangles out onto the trail… hoping for someone to fill his pipe… “fishing for weed”

 

I spent some time near the “CALM” medicine tent and drew a pen and pencil sketch of it. They provide general medic services for free.

Photo of the CALM Medic tent…

Then I walked out to the car and had dinner, played the guitar and slept soundly inside the car. Picture of the Sunset on the last night…

I listened to AM talk radio and ran the heater… It gets really cold up there at night. The next morning, I tried to drive away but the rear tire dug a big hole in the sandy dirt. STUCK! I jacked up the car and filled the hole with dirt, let the car down to compress the dirt, jacked up the car to add more dirt and eventually, was able to get out. We had to park in a field that was covered with sagebrush and very difficult to drive thru. Major hassle getting in and even worse getting out. Driving home I saw about 20 wild horses running free…

 

I drove home stopping only for a giant hamburger in Redding and a swim in the Trinity river. Many road construction delays and unbearable heat in the Trinity Alps. That dip in the river was so fantastic… I drank so much water I got high… So, how was your summer vacation?


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