We Love You

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I Love Us

~~~My thoughts on this gathering~~~

 "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.

We ate a lot of veggies at this gathering thanks to the wonderful farmers of Vermont and the great crew doing Main Supply and making sure our diet was varied.  I heard many stories of Vermont farmers showing up at the Supply Gate with donations of food they had grown. The kitchens were rocking it all over the place. In fact the last few days of June, the amount of people who had come home thus far were small in number. The kitchens seemed to have anticipated a larger turnout for the end of June so we were eating wonderful food and lots of it. That changed slightly for the dinner circles on July 2nd and 3rd when the number of gathering participants increased rapidly but by dinner circle on July 5th, food was plentiful again.

We had a wonderful and interesting 4th.  For the last 5 or 6 years, we've been oming before and during the arrival of the children's parade and therefore had been asking people to hold the om/silence until all the kids were in the center.  Loving family who hadn't been home in a few years, thought we should be silent when the children come into the circle so they tried to shush the om. Then we ended up singing along with the children: "All we are saying is give peace a chance."  Then we om'd and broke the om quickly. Some people started hooting and hollering, but after a moment or two, everyone went back into the om and it was beautiful to see so many of my amazing family wanting that om to last, wanting that energy to build, wanting to speak the language of the universe in peace and harmony for a little while longer.

We had many camps experience positive transitions and some Shanti Sena movies that involved lots of counciling and ultimately resolutions that were physically peaceful if not always harmonious to all individuals. I had the joy of sitting in Shanti Sena council with many of my younger brothers and sisters who were working hard on the peace things and I give mass shout outs to you for the respect and heartfelt manner you gave to the process -- you know who you are!

Of course a huge shout out to INFO for holding space, sharing information, and helping tripping hippies late at night. To everyone who worked the bench, you kicked ass! And a huge shout out to the folks who built INFO.  I love you all!  Call Your Mama camp had a book at INFO that anyone could write their note to be passed along to their mothers.  Great idea!  I hope it returns in 2017. Finally, I have to give a shout out to INFO's neighbor, Wanna Burn who fed us, hydrated us, and generally did an amazing job while making sure everyone did it clean!

I made a lot of new friends and found all sorts of young people doing the hard physical labor of gathering.  Music to my heart!

The problem areas

Of course, no gathering is perfect and most of the big issues centered on the parking situation. This was a road parking gathering and road parking is always tough. This year more so then it was in Washington 2011. This forest service (FS) road was also the main thoroughfare between the towns of Mt. Tabor/Danby to the west and Londonderry to the east. FS 10 was the local community's highway to get to work and then thousands of hippies landed on the road and the problems began. The road had a maximum speed of limit of 50 MPH or slower depending on conditions. 

Early on, we were able to manage family dropping off people and supplies at the main trail head (old FS Road 31) but things started getting crazy on July 1st. 

A huge shout out to my family. While I love you and wanted you to be able to drop heavy gear and people at the gate, when I tell you you've unloaded and it's time to move your car, it's time to move your car. My apologies for yelling at some of you, but when the road starts to back up, you have to move your car.

Family working the road were trying to manage the the traffic. There were a few hiccups, but mostly people were doing a professional job. Shout out to Front Gate Camp for the orange safety vests and trying to make sure people were trained on how to be professional about the task and for keeping those who could not conduct themselves appropriately off the road.

The USFS LEOs got so many complaints from the locals about "their highway" that the LEOs started hassling us for trying to manage traffic on a 2 lane road with cars parked on one side. By July 2 the road had become a cluster f%#k and the stretch of road from the a bit west of the west gate to a bit east past the east gate was closed to vehicle traffic by the LEOs. It took hours before we were able to work out the shuttle situation and people had to hike 1-3 miles on FS 10 to get to one of the trailheads.  Then it was all uphill into the gathering. To my beautiful family who were smiling during the hike, you are the magic!

Part of the road situation was the number of outs-and-ins or people driving into Danby and back daily. Especially on July 1st, it seemed to me there was as much traffic on the road from outs-and-ins as from family coming home.  This tends to happen when town is < 10 miles away.

While there was a very small bus village, it was filled by June 26 or so and was located east of the east gate - so not an easy commute. A few people hung at the baseball fields in Mt. Tabor where there was parking for large vehicles.  Other larger vehicles parked on the side of the road in line with the cars if they could do so in a manner that still allowed two way traffic.  

Often we have a parking area called "Handicamp" with close parking so those who have special needs can minimize their walk in but that didn't happen this year. The one place that could have been used was initially off limits to parking as it was a wildlife clearing and then Camp Awesome ended up there (all this happened before I arrived so I don't have a good sense of how that movie played out). Thanks to the hard work of one of the road fairies, a few people with handicapped placards were allowed in during the road closure and the LEOs found them found places to park, but that was a catch as catch can movie.

A huge shout out to people who drove shuttle from the evening of July 2nd to whenever the shuttles ended (I'm guessing the morning of the 4th but wasn't out on the road on the 4th).  

We had a locked gate at the bottom of FS 31 (Main Trail) which made it hard for wheelchairs to get through. Similar situation to other gatherings except this time we did not create an elevated path for wheelchairs to go around. Some people were able to make it under or hobble around and meet their chair on the other side.  It wasn't easy. In discussions with the USFS on opening the gate to allow ingress/egress for wheelchairs, I was told if we had signed a permit, we could negotiate thing like the gates. This is the same message they gave us in 2011.  Not that I'm advocating signing a permit, just sharing this as a point of information.

Early on during the road closure, we had problems with medical evacuation issues and non-emergency rides to the hospital but that seemed to be a short lived issue and then we had passes for such needs. Unfortunately even during the 6-10 hours that the problem was occurring, we had some family leave the gathering because of the issue.

Water on the road was tough during the blockade and even before it. There were no safe sources of water along the road so people staying on the road had to travel into the gathering or drive into town to get water. There was no water at the baseball field, and family kicked in funds for porta potties so they would have some place to poop. I wish more of my family would come into the woods and camp.

Sister / brother sensitivity issues.  Not all of us have the same level of tolerance for comments. Please treat every one you meet like you want your daughter or son treated. Just be cause "f u" is a sign of love with your close friends, doesn't mean everyone will take it that way. Unless you are in a private conversation with someone you know, please use gentler language so everyone feels welcomed. The great news is that people on the land were discussing these issues and I believe gathering participants are working towards treating everyone with respect. Some suggestions I heard were ask before hugging someone, don't use foul language with people who may be very intimidated by it, always make sure that tripping family in the woods late at night have someone hanging with them to make sure they are staying hydrated, safe, and feeling like they are in a safe space.  I also heard calls for people to leave the four letter words and confrontational energy outside of Kiddie Village.

I am thrilled that we were communicating as a family, sharing ideas on how to do things better, learning, and growing. I look forward to seeing this year's sprouts burst into full bloom in Oregon.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing your perspective. You are awesome! I really enjoyed our dinner date in the Circle.
    Loving you,
    Loving US!

  2. Thanks Karin, This was a lovely read of this years gathering. I'm so glad to read of the children breaking the silence with their song. Hadn't heard the song at the last 5-6 gatherings I was at. Thanks to all the family for being there and for the young ones who are bringing their energy. I Love US too !!

  3. Thank you sweet sister Karin for all that you write, and for who you are.....WE LOVE US!!!!!!

  4. I love us. Thank you for your words and your wonderful self

  5. Sorry I missed your gathering.... Sounds like a group requiring research☮

  6. Sorry I missed your gathering.... Sounds like a group requiring research☮


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