2015 Gathering

The 44th annual rainbow gathering of the tribes is happening in the Black Hills of South Dakota." (The consensed areas include Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, and South Dakota.) For posts related to the gathering location including directions and site updates, click here. For the Howdy Folks, click here. To find out specifically where the gathering will be, you need to understand how we find our "home" each year. Click here for an overview of the process. To make it into the gathering without a ticket, click here. Please ignore all rumors of cancellation. Copy and distribute this information freely.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

On Health and Handwashing

One thing that goes a long way to keeping folks at a gathering healthy and safe is washing hands - a lot. And I don't mean just rubbing your hands with sanitizer, but actual biodegradable soap (Dr. Bronner's is great) and filtered or boiled water. Some awesome Rainbow engineers have designed a hand wash station that's transportable and light weight. One goal of a Rainbow hand wash station is to make it hands free, so no one picks up germs in the process of washing their hands. (A smaller setup of this same type can be used for soap dispensing). If you're not up to speed on drinking water issues, Hawker has a great website showing what he's done in the past and discussing issues in greater depth.

Here's a great drawing of what I'll explain in words below. Thanks Tim Bear.

"From our experience, the primer bulb check valve can fail if the water gets trash in it. The solution we found was a small piece of filter material (like the filter from a wet vac) or fine mesh screening (a couple of layers of panty hose) around the end of the water intake. The pvc pipe allows you to direct the water where you want it, even if there is no tree where you want the water." - Tim Bear's words, not mine.

The key is a one way siphon valve. It's made of rubber and can be squeezed by hand. Each end has a place to clamp hose onto. I usually get them at my local Marine supply store. Hook it up to some clear plastic tubing - one end to go into a bucket of filtered water. It looks like this:

The other end should be fastened somewhere (if not using Tim Bear's Pipe method) and hopefully have a drain system so people aren't standing around in gray water. To conserve water, get spare sun shower nozzles and put it on the end. These are $1-2 each from a camping supply store. They work great for the "faucet" end. Here is a photo of one.

Then to wash hands, all people need to do is pump the black siphon ball with their feet, and water comes out the shower nozzle. Portable hands free hand washing.

I also like to make a sink. I've been using a plastic bowl in a round tomato cage. Then drill a hole in the bottom and put in a connector so you can clamp a discharge pipe and run the waste water into a gray water pit. WARNING! HIPPIES CAN BE DUMB. Every time I use my sink setup, someone thinks we should recycle the gray water by putting it back into the fresh water container. THIS IS UNSANITARY AND IS WORSE THAN NOT WASHING YOUR HANDS AT ALL. So if you use a sink, please make a sign telling people that the drain DOES NOT go into the water source.

I'll be bringing a few extra setups to give out - but we needs lots of them. If someone(s) are looking for a great public service project for this year's gathering, here's a great one. Let's make sure we have enough hand washing stations scattered around the gathering so that people can't help but wash their hands at least twice a day.

Clean hands creates a healthy gathering.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Raps

In Rainbow lingo, the "Raps" are collective wisdom that has been distilled and written into a format suitable for printing on paper and distributing at gatherings.  They cover a wide range of topics, from that very basics of gathering, Rap 107 , to the basics of cleaning up and going home, Rap 701.

We have raps on alcohol for the drinker, Rap 151, and on  how to deal with drinkers at the gathering, Rap 515.   Rap 420 teaches you how to come into a gathering with minimal or no contact with law enforcement.

We have a Rap on Access to help all our family come home safely with tips for the able and disabled bodies coming home to make sure we include all our family.

We have a Kidz Rap for those coming home with children and the infamous Mini-Manual of Gathering Consciousness that was printed as a small booklet to be handed out at the gathering once upon a time. You get get the latest copy in the annual Rainbow Guide print publication available at INFO every year.

If you've never been to the gathering before, then the Turtle Guide is for you as it will help you plan what you want to bring with you.
As an FYI, when you go to a gathering, the spot between where the car ends up and where your tent ends up may be 2-3 miles or more on rough or hilly terrain and may take 2 to 6 hours to traverse.  Plan accordingly.

~ ~ ~ Please copy and distribute this information freely ~ ~ ~

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Feeding the Family

Many people wonder how we can feed 10,000 people in the woods for free.  Well just because it's free doesn't mean it doesn't cost money or sweat. Some years, food is plentiful at the gathering especially in the early part of the gathering, other years not so much.  Seems to me that everyone is happier when they're not hungry.  So in the interest of making sure all the amazing kitchens have plenty of food to cook up for all the bellies in camp, here's some suggestions on how to insure we have plenty of food.  Some people seem to like to bring their own food and cook for themselves, but to me that seems to miss the point of gathering and learning how to share what we have with each other. Of course, bringing snacks for yourself like energy bars is a great idea especially if you tend to need to eat when you need to eat as meals (other than dinner circle) can be hit or miss.

Many of the folks who focalize kitchens work hard during the year to buy supplies to feed this family. For the kitchens, this is a labor of love and the kitchen crews (of which you can be one if you volunteer) want you to have nutritious, good tasting and filling food.

If you're not to far away and you're growing crops, bring what you have to the gathering.  Food grown with love is always the best.  If you're coming in by car, stop for supplies on your way. If possible, shop at the stores close to the gathering and be sure to let the store know you are buying supplies for the gathering and invite everyone to come up.

If you're buying supplies, fresh fruits and veggies are the best as we never seem to have enough. If you bring fruits or veggies, pick varieties that can stand be hauled around in the bottom of a back pack and that do not need refrigeration.  Apples and oranges, cabbages, mushrooms, onions, carrots, zucchini, etc. Also important supplies to bring are olive oil, garlic, spices, herbal teas, whole wheat flour, coffee, brown rice, dried beans, quinoa, yams/sweet potatoes, oatmeal and maple syrup. Try to bring things the vegans can eat cause then everyone can eat it.  When you arrive with supplies, feel free to take them direct to your favorite kitchen or if you have a large load, ask for "main supply" and drop off there for distribution. Try to support local farmers whenever possible. The longer the food has to travel to make it to the gathering, the more green house gas emissions were added to the ozone. 

The only other way food arrives at the gathering is via cash donations to the Magic Hat. We don't accept food stamps, EBT cards, Visa, checks etc. If you do not have cash, please go to town and buy supplies and bring them back to the gathering.  If you have cash and you don't want to go shopping, donations to the Magic Hat can be made nightly at dinner circle or at INFO anytime it's open. 

How long does it take food to get in your belly?

If you bring supplies with you, it may take 24 to 36 hours before the food your brought is in your bowl ready to be eaten.  Supply runs during seed camp make take 4 to 6 days between the time a donation is made and the time you're eating the food.  Here's what happens.  You put $20 in the Magic Hat on Monday.  On Wednesday folks start putting together a supply run. The run maybe leaves on Thursday morning early and makes it back around dark or even later on Thursday.  Then on Friday after Kitchen Council (usually at 11 am), the food is hauled from the drop location to the kitchens. If the distances are small, maybe you eat the food Friday night, if not it can take half the day to get the food from the cars to the kitchens, so then the $20 of food that was bought with your donation is served up as dinner on Saturday. 

Generally, seed camp can suffer from a lack of food. The best way to keep people feed is to bring food in by the case load.  The more food folks have at seed camp, the harder they can work and get things ready.

However, if you're hitchhiking in and can only carry so much, or doing a big shopping is to hard, you can always donate cash once you are at the gathering.

If you decide to donate cash, give all the funds you have to share as soon as possible so you can be eating the fruits of your labor.  Some kitchens have their own donation cans and you can donate to them as well but the lag is just as long.  Going on supply runs is time consuming and costs a lot of gas money so people don't go "shopping" every day.

Keep in mind that all food is free at the gathering. Food flows freely to all regardless of donations.  Children, pregnant and nursing women, and their families eat first because proper nutrition is key to growing strong bodies. No one is keeping track of who donated what.

 If anyone asks you for money in order to enter the gathering, camp anywhere or eat any food, just say no cause that's not how we roll and who ever is doing the asking is also doing the scamming.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Scout rendezvous (or not)

If you've read the blog post on how the site is selected, then you know that Thanksgiving Council normally picks the dates for one (or multiple) scout rendezvous. For a long time the time and place was a location in an area central to that areas being scouted but also where people could only hang for the afternoon. 

Thanksgiving council called for a three day scout rendezvous from April 18 to April 20. However, just because Thankgiving Council called it doesn't mean anyone has felt motivated to do it. Since no one who plugs into a gathering has a job that requires them to implement a consensus, looks like no one was inspired to focalize a rendezvous in the physical realm.

Snow is still on the ground in most parts of the consensus areas. Given that our consensus area is half the United States, some people I know will be having a technology enhanced get together on Sunday, April 19 at 9pm ET/ 6 PM PT (and the rest of you can figure out the time from there).

If you are out scouting and don't know how to plug into this effort, please email me (k z i r k a t e a r t h l i n k d o t n e t )and I'll hook you up.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

On Being a Peace Keeper

Some would say the phrase “Shanti Sena” means “peace army” from Sanskrit and has its roots in Gandhi’s concept of non-violent volunteer based peace keepers. While in gathering lore, some would translate the phrase as peace scene.  No matter the logical translation you wish to put on it, I translate it as being part of a family and looking out for my family in peaceful ways.

As many of my friends point out, “Shanti Sena” is a verb not a noun. In other words, no one “is” Shanti Sena, but many people “do” Shanti Sena. Most functions at the gathering are verb rather than noun based.

In a culture where individual liberty and communal needs often clash, countless opportunities arise to “do” Shanti Sena and increase the peace.

Before we worry about keeping the peace, we need to define “peace.”  For different people, “peace” takes on different connotations. For some, acting peacefully precludes any acts of physical violence, but yelling is considered peaceful. For others, cussing is not peaceful. For every one hundred gatherers, there are probably ninety different perspectives on what “peace” means. When we gather, I believe that 99.999% of gatherers have every intention of being the peace we crave. We’ll get back to the 0.001% later.  So how then do we create and increase the peace at the gathering and take those skills into the world at large?

In my perspective, the single most important aspect to “doing” Shanti Sena is to be observant. Sure there are big movies that happen and lots of gray haired folks get involved with radios, but most of the time when a big movie happens, the root cause was a failure of each and every one of us to pay attention to the hurt, suffering, pain and/or stress building up around us.  (As an aside, not everyone with a radio has a clue.)

Reality check!  Going to a gathering, especially for the first time, can be very stressful. It’s a crash course in a brand new culture. Access to food and filtered drinking water can be haphazard. Being unprepared for the conditions can leave people cold and wet or sitting up by a fire all night to stay warm instead of sleeping. Many people who take medications for chronic conditions often seem to space out on taking their meds, leaving their health further compromised. Dehydration, low blood sugar, and lack of sleep are just a few of the stresses gatherers experience -- add to that doing activities or substances that are new to you. When one small thing goes wrong, people who are stressed out can explode.

Being observant means noticing that some belly is having a hard time or a bad day. Allowing each of us to be our own unique self means not telling other people what to do. Telling people to eat or drink can backfire. So what’s a kind loving brother or sister to do?

Pay attention to the people around you. Notice if they seem to be struggling, are confused or look disoriented. Offer to share your water or an energy bar you might have on you (always good to bring lots of these). Introduce yourself and make a friend. Usually people are more willing to share their troubles with a friend than someone just trying to fix a problem. Share a song or a joke if the vibe feels right. Sometimes people are in their own head space and don’t want to interact. That’s OK.  You can still stay near them (but not too near) just in case they need help. If it’s two am, please don’t walk away from someone. If someone wants to wander the woods all night, grab a couple of friends and trail after them just in case they need your assistance or decide they are ready to accept food, water or a hug.

If someone doesn’t have a safe place to sleep, try to hook them up with a camp that can help. If they have small children, Kid Village is a great place. But there are lots of other kind loving camps at the gathering that have the space to squeeze another body into a crowded tent or provide emotional support. If you yourself are new to the gathering (blessings to you for helping others), you can stop by INFO and ask for some advise.

If you find a lost kid, you and a couple of friends should escort the child to Kid Village. Make sure to take the child up to the kitchen and announce very loudly that you have a lost child. DO NOT JUST DROP THE CHILD OFF AT KID VILLAGE. If you find a lost parent, get on the radio with a description of the child including age, gender, size, hair color, clothes the child was wearing, and as many details as you can find out about the child. Then take the parent(s) to Kid Village while organizing people to look for the missing child. If a call comes in on a missing child, stop what you are doing and start looking.

If someone is having a health crisis and is willing, take her/him to CALM. Most of the larger kitchens/camps like Fat Kids, Mudder Earth, Loven Ovens, and Kid Village (to name just a few) have medical people as well. If the person isn’t willing or able to move, find someone with a radio and medical people will come to your location. If that doesn’t work, send a runner to INFO or CALM with as much information as you have about the situation. By taking care of people’s critical needs before people reach the point of explosion, we create the peace we want to see in the world. Please let's take care of our own health care on site.  Involving outside authorities generally causes more problems than it solves.

Other times we have conflicts that arise from differing lifestyles. For example in 2002, the gathering site was small and we ended up with Tea Time and Yoga Camp next to each other. Talk about a mismatch in energies. Tea Time likes to stay up all night, serve tea and make raucous noise at 3 AM. The Yoga folks are more into silent mediation and mellow energy. Two distinct energies colliding is a classic gathering issue. If we want each camp to express their own vision of peace and love, what to do?  When space permits, it’s always best to camp in an area that meets your vision of what comprises peace and love. So don’t be expecting to sleep in silence until noon every day if you’re camped in Kid Village as kids wake up early.

As to the 0.001%, when the situation gets a bit crazy, yell “Shanti Sena” and other people will come and assist. With a circle of people, we can try to get a council going where the parties’ involved and random calm and centered gatherers can sit down and listen to each other.  Keep in mind that sometimes people’s emotions are volatile and getting a council going is difficult at best and make take hours of shouting and yelling, arguing, and crying. Then what?

Get people out of harm's way. Stabilize the situation. Prevent any further violence.

Sometimes we have to restrain people who are hurting themselves or others. We always try to be as gentle as we can and not hurt people while we are restraining them. Please don't perpetuate violent behavior. Wrap someone in a blanket and hug them. Share some green love to help someone mellow out. Share a cigarette if the person smokes. Sometimes just holding someone and slowing your breath down will help the other person calm down. 

SITTING down on the sidelines and oming tends to help ground energies. If nothing else, it makes misbehaving people feel a bit silly and often times that breaks up the situation. This doesn’t mean the root cause of the problem is solved, but at least it buys some time and space to work on the issues. I’ve experienced a beautiful voice singing appropriate songs calm everyone down as well. Peaceful, mellow music helps everyone feel better.

I've seen humor and silly behavior resolve situations if you have a knack for that.  Proceed slowly as everyones sense of humor is a bit different and the goal of humor is to diffuse not escalate.

Sometimes problems don’t seem resolved at the time. That’s OK. Rainbow magic takes time to work. I’ve sat in circles with people who were full of anger. At some point the primary people stomped out of the circle and didn’t return.  Then a day or two or three later, I ran into those same people again, very happy and peaceful. Rainbow magic doesn’t always have a logical cause and effect.  Sometimes, just hanging out with someone for six hours prevents someone from getting lost in the woods (yes it really happens and if it’s cold out can be a cause of death), drowning in a lake (yes this has happened multiple times at gatherings) or wandering up to the road and getting arrested (you know this happens). Plus you’ve just made a new friend. The more we get to know each other, the more we create community. The more we actively work on creating community, the more we increase the peace.

Please remember to breathe.  Please remember to listen. Please remember to observe who and what is going on before you start offering suggestions. Nothing makes a situation worse than a bunch of know-it-alls running up and telling everyone else what to do.  Shanti Sena is best done when you can hold a Zen Mind. If you are angry about the problem, you are probably not the best person to help.  Sometimes the best action any of us can take is to stay out of it if we can't approach the situation with a level head and love in our hearts.

Sometimes opposite gender energy helps diffuse a situation. Sometimes not. Different energies solve different problems. No one gatherer is the right person to help with every problem. If the situation pushes your buttons or if you notice that your presence is pushing other people's buttons, take yourself out of the situation. This ain't about ego, but about healing.  Pay attention.  Read body language, feel the vibe, and listen to what is unspoken.

If you are not able to help when the universe calls you, please, please, please, make sure someone else helps. Ask others for assistance, guide the person to one of the larger kitchens, go to INFO or CALM and let them know what’s going on. Be the change you want to see in the world.

Many years, we have Shanti Sena councils or workshops at the gathering where people who have “done” more Shanti Sena share the lessons they’ve learned with those who have “done” less or no Shanti Sena. As with everything gathering related, we are all of us teachers and all of us students. In the spirit of sharing other ideas on what Shanti Sena is and does, here are some other voices on the subject.

From Welcome Home with links to multiple Shanti Sena Raps by well respected family (must read).
From Niman - a scholarly look
From Medicine Socks - old family great ideas.
A Shanti Sena Manual.

Ask not what the gathering can do for you; ask what you can do for the gathering.

We are our brothers and sisters keepers.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Getting Ready for the Gathering

Now that spring is here and the gathering is still months away, what's a home sick gatherer to do?

Now is the perfect time to start getting ready for the gathering.  So here's a random list of steps you can take now to create a positive gathering for yourself and others this summer.

Make sure your car is 100% legal. All brake lights, turn signals, seat belts, registration, insurance and nothing hanging from your rear view mirror.  The cops seem to like to pull people over and write mandatory court appearance tickets for the littlest thing.  Who needs the hassle of a mandatory court appearance ticket just got you forgot to fix that broken tail light?

Make sure your camping equipment is in good shape. Check your tent for leaks. I'm hoping we'll see rain this summer and camping is much more fun in a dry sleeping bag.

Check out thrift stores, garage sales and swap meets for things you can share with others at the gathering: tents, 60 quart cooking pots, sleeping bags, cast iron grills, very large metal mixing bowls, hiking boots, digging shovels, pick axes, rain gear, etc.  Once you get to the gathering, ask around and someone will be sure to need what ever you brought to share.

Have a garage sale of your own and send the money you make to CALM, the Rainbow Guide, Team Hydration or the Magic Hat.

Get in shape.  Yup, at the gathering you'll be walking for hours every day so now is the perfect time to get in shape.  Try walking an hour a day for starters if you're not in the habit already and plan to be up to four hours a day by mid-June.  You will have more fun at the gathering if you can experience it.

Plan a workshop or camp focused on your special talent.  Some ideas are singing, drawing, ocarina making, drum making, meditation, yoga, belly dance, Tai Chi, sewing, caring for dogs or cats (probably not a great idea to mix dog and cat camps),  massage, or beading.  Start getting your supplies together and your friends lined up to get there early and find a great place for your camp.  Then arrive a week or so before July 1st and start creating the camp.  You are the rainbow magic and the gathering happens because individuals like you share your unique talents with other gatherers.  Don't forget to announce your workshop at breakfast/dinner circle, post a notice on the workshop board at INFO, and maybe make some signs on the main trail informing people of when and where the workshop takes place.

Plan a fundraiser for CALM or a mini-CALM that you support.  Every year the gathering treats hundreds of people from blisters to heart attacks at no charge to the patent. Remember just because everything at the gathering is free, doesn't mean we get everything free. Medical supplies aren't cheap and it costs thousands of dollars each year to keep everyone healthy.

Get involved with scouting.  If you like to read maps and walk the land, email me and I'll hook you up.

Build a rickshaw or other fat tire wheeled device powered by human or animal energy to help transport mobility impaired gatherers and food supplies to kitchens - you will be one of the most popular people at the gathering.  

Start a list of all media outlets in the consensus states (see top of blog) and get together with other folks and start contacting people with positive information on the gathering.

Get your first aid certification so you can help keep our family healthy.

Rehearse your best rainbow story for Hipstories on the night of July 5, than share your hard won wisdom with your family.

Starting going to your local circle (or start one if there isn't one already) and plan a camp like Muskogee, Oklahoma camp or whatever city you live in.  Get together with folks in neighboring cities and plan a regional camp.

Get a job and earn money (or set aside some money from your existing earnings) to donate to the magic hat on the land to feed your family or to buy a boat load of fruits and veggies and bring with you to share with the hardworking kitchens that are feeding you.

Learn how to play guitar and share your music with your family. Learn some of the Rainbow songs now and teach them to people on the land. Or become a wandering minstrel (trail musician) and share music in tense situations.

The most important lesson I've learned through my gathering experiences, is that the more I give to the gathering, the more the gathering gives to me and the more I grow and evolve as one of the amazing creatures on this miraculous planet.