The Rainbow Gathering is the best of both worlds. I would estimate 10 to 20 thousand people were there,with campsites scattered throughout the hills.There were no sidewalks,no vehicle traffic,no industrial sounds or amplified music, simply people walking around , sitting under trees sharing food , music and conversations.
Shakti Pati and I chose a shady spot near the "Main Circle",spread a tarp on the ground and decorated the area with pictures of Krishna,a few books and incense.
Shakti Pati opened a bucket of Halava and offered spoonfuls to passersby.
There was constant foot traffic.
Occasionally someone would ask me to play the Mitratar.
When I would comply,the foot traffic would stop and we would soon have a large crowd watching and listening.
(If you haven't seen my home made instrument,the Mitratar, here is a video I recorded a few months ago.)
This would often lead to a question about one of the books on display, whereupon I would invite them to sit and read or discuss for as long as they like.
Some people would request a kirtan, which would again draw a crowd who would sometimes sit for a very long time as this cycle of music, discussion and kirtan would repeat again and again until 1 AM when we would walk to our campsite with only flashlights to help us find the way.
Bear Attack !
The first night we noticed our campsite very different from the way we had left it. Apparently a bear had gotten into our things.We learned that the bears in Pennsylvania have no appreciation for Mangoes.The bear also paid no attention to the Karela (bitter melon) and left them on the ground after tearing the bag open.
We were let off pretty easy with no real damage.Our only loss was a bag of cookies my wife made for us and the two apples.
As we zipped up the tent and laid down on our sleeping bags,we wondered if the bear would return that night.
"You can't outrun a bear.",Shakti Pati said.
I remembered an old joke,"Shakti Pati, I don't need to outrun the bear, I only need to outrun you"
"Mitra,if a bear turns up, there is no way anyone is going to outrun me."
We had a good laugh and slept well without another thought of the bear. We woke the next morning to a nice breakfast of mangoes after cleaning them and cutting out the portions that had been pierced by the bear's claws.It looked like a pencil had been driven through them,I considered what damage such claws could have on my skinny body.
From that day on , we hung our food supplies high in trees and had no more visits.
Roots Acoustic Kirtan
Nada,from Dallas,invited us to his campsite for kirtans.
We went the first couple of nights and made a lot of friends there.
It's comforting to see how so many varieties of people have incorporated kirtan into their life.
Ovens built on site
Lovin' Ovens is one of the public kitchens.The photo shows four ovens made of 50 gallon drums built into a clay and mud foundation.The cans on top function as chimneys.Fires are built below the drums,in back of the oven. They make rolls and pizzas all day giving them to whoever shows up. They also bring a large supply to serve at the main circle for the evening meal.
This is the first time there was no Krishna Kitchen, I had numerous inquiries where we were set up,as we have a reputation for the best food at the Rainbow Gathering.The devotees who normally do this had been caught up with several other festivals this year.Somehow this one slipped by them.They were certainly missed by all.
Bumper Sticker Wisdom
Leaving was difficult.We had developed a schedule, a routine, and fallen in love with it.The constant cycle of music,discussion and kirtan for hours and hours kept us going with very little need for sleep or food,hiking up and down the steep trail carrying heavy loads of books and halavah(the next week I felt it though).
I learned a lot from the questions of these sincere people.Some had sat for hours patiently waiting their turn to ask a question such as,"What is the nature of reality?"or,"Is it absolutely necessary to have a guru?"
As we drove down the unpaved road I noticed a bumper sticker that read"If things can go really well, they will"
"That's the opposite of Murphy's law. I like it"
"Murphy's law.You've never heard that one?'If anything can go wrong it will' "
"This one sounds a bit more positive"
"Yeah, these hippies have to protest against everything."
"Well let's see if they're right.Let's see if we can find our way out of here"
The roads were mostly unmarked,we had had a very difficult time finding our way in.
The directions to get us out proved to be entirely inaccurate and we found ourselves somewhere very different from where we were supposed to be.
"Don't forget, 'If something can go really well, it will'"
"I don't know if that applies here.We're lost"
We found someone on the roadside who was able to show us on the map how we were on the best path home.Somehow the imperfect directions had given us the most direct route.
"I guess that proves it"
"If something can go really well,it will"
"Yeah,let's keep that in mind"