"I love us" - the new saying heard around the gathering this year, joining the heavily used "we love you" and the half assed "loven you." I LOVE US sums up my gathering in three easy words. We were amazing.
Vermont felt to me like we finally found our way back home after the years of conflict with the USFS. The last few years of no drama allowed us to dust off collective wisdom on how to gather safely. Last year in South Dakota we were on our best behavior and small in numbers. This year we swelled over the July 4th weekend. Some people said 10,000, I might guess more like 8,000 but no matter the number there were so many positive faces on the land all I could do was say "I love us!" We had lots of new family and lot's of old family who hadn't made it home in 15 years or more come home.
What was great about this gathering?
Even though Vermont was in the midst of a drought, we were getting enough rain and a couple of days with downpours that that the ground stayed damp, the fire danger was low, and people were generally keeping the fire scene chill. Most of the evenings were warm (except for two nights while I was there) so people didn't even need to over do the number of campfires. Of course, the valley was still full of fire smoke in the evenings.
Main meadow was a clearing maintained by the USFS to create non-forested wildlife habitat. There were a number of these areas around the gathering that were off-limits to parking.
Circles, councils/counsels, and workshops galore. A huge shout out to the Shining Light Crew for bringing the lodges (tipees) where many workshops took place. In the evenings after dinner circle, it almost felt like a conference center with a wonderful sister directing people to one of many workshops taking place in different lodges.
We had multiple sister circles and I know of at least one brother circle and at least one grandfather circle that took place. The men were rocking it!
At least four weddings took place including one where the couple first fell in love at the Annual Gathering of the Tribes in Colorado (1992) and then lost touch with each other until one of them went to give a "kind rainbow sister" a ride to this gathering and discovered his long lost love. And it turns out the groom was also long lost friend of mine from regional gatherings in the 90s. Even as I type this, my eyes are welling up with tears of joy and I wish the happy couple an entire universe full of joy and happiness.