Beautiful havens of peace, joy

Spokane Spokesman Review/August 30, 2000
By Dan Sharp

Your Turn: Colorful describes Rainbow people and their celebrations. "Welcome home," said the sign at the beginning of the Rainbow Family International gathering in Montana in July. After walking four miles past smiling faces, all saying, "Welcome home, brother," I knew I was there.

My first stop was at the information stand, to get a map locating regional camps from all of North America. There also were a Krishna temple, Bob Marley Theater and, in your moment of need, the "love toilets," a two-seated privy.

I chose a camp near the Montana region's kitchen. Before anyone was fed, Barry Adams of Missoula had everyone circle, holding hands in prayer. "Women and children eat first," he said. As darkness fell, musicians and storytellers gathered around the many campfires, often stopping to shout, "We love you!" Responses carried from one camp to the next.

By U.S. Forest Service estimates, 23,000 people were there, all volunteering their hearts to create a beautiful haven in the forest.

These gatherings have happened in most all states plus Canada, Mexico, Spain, Russia and more. I've been attending them for nine years. One Australian sister was so impressed by the gathering in her homeland earlier this year that she flew to Montana.

Security is seldom needed at a Rainbow gathering. Only once, in 1997 in Oregon, did I see someone lose control. Several people quickly surrounded him, all holding hands, laughing and singing, "We love you, we love you," until he joined in.

On the morning of July 4, it was silent, a time to meditate and pray for world peace. Then at noon, a circle started to form and expand to an estimated three miles of Rainbows holding hands. When the circle reached its peak, everyone ran for Boogie Meadow for dancing and music well into the night. No recorded music was allowed, but guitars, flutes, tambourines, bagpipes and enough djembe drums for a Tarzan movie could be heard.

Rainbows in colorful costumes; Rainbows in nothing. Several drumming circles formed in an ocean of people, all celebrating. Most were unaware of the Forest Service officers who were observing from a distant hilltop.

There has always been a mixed reaction to our gatherings from the law. Roadblocks have been set up at some; forest rangers came into another to educate us on plant life in the area.

Find one of the Rainbow Family Web sites for information about next year's gathering and I'll see you at home.

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