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August, 2004

Report From The Rainbow Gathering 2004
By Jim Fox

Welcome Home.

The Rainbow Gathering is a world wide convergence of people that some how has been able to happen for 33 years in a manner that resembles life & magic. This year they changed the name from The Rainbow Gathering to just The Gathering and that it was. People automatically link The Gathering to Burning Man but they are from two different dimensions barely in the same reality and not nearly the same. Burning Man is a party/art show, The Gathering is about love.

The Gathering takes place at a different spot, in a different national forest, in a different state every year. This year it took place in California in the upper most northeastern corner of the state at the Nevada/Oregon/California border in the Modoc National Forest. Thirty miles down a gravel road, 100 miles from the nearest town larger than 100 people. I never saw the Milky Way so bright. It was up at 7,500 feet in pine trees and sage.

When you finally get there, the greeters come to your car and introduce themselves with "Welcome Home" and home you are. You then find a place to park and have to walk over two miles to the Main Meadow. There are probably 20 miles of paths on 3,600 acres of forest and 35,000 people and it is amazing. Camps are about 100 yards apart and offer everything from Yoga to Daycare to food and everything is free. Everywhere there are kitchens serving vegan food, veggea pizza at Lovin Ovens, to curry at The Krishna Camp. Everyday at sunset, in the meadow, 1,000's of people would gather into circles, like a dart board, and all the food camps would bring food and feed everybody an eight course dinner. This is all free, everything. These food camps were amazing. Some capable of feeding 1,000 people a day, and they would carry everything, stoves, ovens, food, supplies on their backs and carts miles from the road, up & down hills, to make this all happen, and it did happen.

I have always wanted to go to The Gathering, but it has always been so far away, places like Montana, Colorado, etc... that I couldn't even dream of making it. I am lucky if I can get the 12 miles from Marin to San Francisco. I knew I didn't want to miss this opportunity of it being in my backyard. It officially runs from July 1st through 7th (though setup & cleanup take months more). So come July 1st I finally decided to try to get my ass there. Through the magic of the Internet and there unofficial web site I was able to get a ride in a converted school bus that day, was blocks from where I was staying in Sonoma, and what a ride. Suddenly I was thrown on a bus with eight people I never met, most whom had never met and somehow, after being stopped by the police twice, and breaking down, we made it there 12 hours later. "Welcome Home" were some of the most beautiful words I have ever heard.

The only way these events can happen is because some loophole in the charter for the national forest service, somehow allows this to happen. You would think there would be major opposition from the forest service, but there is not. This has been going on for over 30 years. There is so much respect for the land, that after cleanup you would never know that an event took place on the same land. This is the most common thing that The Gathering has with Burning Man, "Leave no trace." The locals complained in the papers about the dirty/grungy panhandlers, but the boom to their economy far outweighed their minor hassles.

What was it like? That is what I wanted to know before I went there. My 77 year old mother was visiting here for 3 days from Connecticut, until the day I left, and I was begging her to come, but I couldn't explain to her what it was and to her it sounded too difficult. She regrets it I am certain. There was more love in a minute than the White House could produce in four years. I saw people pulling ricshaws, carting elders in their 90's, up and down the hills. Children were everywhere. Somehow Rob Reiner's cops have not tracked down every family that does not live up to his American values and confiscate their children, thank god.

Everywhere there was so much to do. Music flowed from the skies. At a campfire at Aloha Camp, 1 AM, with about 100 people I heard the most amazing vocals and guitar from this beautiful 23 year old woman, Maria Mango ( (I like her song ONE) then followed by the music of Fantuzi, it was hard for me to leave, especially since I had to walk to my camp at Bus Camp at the entrance two uphill miles away. Throughout the event I never walked so much in my life.

The median age was probably 20 years old. Which means a very young crowd in general, which gives much hope for our next generation. Alcohol was discouraged. In fact they had "A Camp" near the entrance, miles away. There was free beer / whisky and the alcoholics would not make it any further. Easy way to keep the rif-raf at bay. There was much marijuana and I heard that many people were taking LSD. That is to be expected from a group that is mainly under 20. I never noticed anyone high. The police were very courteous on site. Patrolling on horseback, though it was hard for them to surprise anyone because like crows, all the camp's people would shout "6-11" (a police code for a cop on horseback) and it would be echoed from camp to camp everywhere. I guess a couple of people got caught with pot anyway.

The thing that will probably be engraved in my mind are the sounds of people saying "I Love You" that you could hear likes birds chirping in the distance. It was very powerful and like birds somehow your mind filtered it out and in retrospect, in my memories, the sound of "I Love You" is probably the thing I will remember the most. Though that will be hard to compete with the massive OM on July 4th just after noon.

I did not know this when I woke up at 6:30 AM July 4th, that everyone was to be silent until after the OM that started at noon. By then there were lots of people, wandering these beautiful trails and camps and nobody was speaking. There was an amazing silence. Birds were louder. Even the children were silent, they knew. Then in the main meadow, eventually, everyone held hands in a giant circle of at least 20,000 and after the silent parade of children, the OM began and lasted a half hour though when you OM it only seems like minutes. Then there was the obligatory drum circle of 1,000's, and after all that silence, it seemed real loud to me.

Next day our bus was leaving. I wanted to stay, but I mistakenly thought I had work in Novato, so I left with the bus. I am glad I went for many reasons. Including I was homeless for four months, living in a makeshift camp on the hills above Fairfax. My camp was found and dismantled by the authorities the day before I left to The Gathering. One of the people on the bus I had just met, Donald Mosey (71), offered me a place to stay on his ranch in Santa Rosa for free and that is where my computer and I are at, and that is why I have access to the Internet and able to tell you this story.

Welcome Home.

For a different review of The Gathering and to see some pictures go to:

SF Chronicle Article

Author, Jim Fox is an unemployed computer programmer / inventor / co-author of WordStar his WEB site is at


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