My favorite Gathering was probably my very first one, the Cumberland Gathering in the spring of 1993. OM Valley from Cincinnati also had a big presence there with their Bliss Kitchen (music all the time, usually Grateful Dead on banjos and mandolins) and their hand built Kid Village playground. i had no idea what Rainbow was, and i went there on a "camping trip" that my boyfriend promised me i would love and never forget.
so we drove down winding country roads thru eastern central kentucky, where all the dripping caves and shady hollars are. well, you can imagine my bafflement and surprise to be greeted by the most beautiful Rainbows, with dredlocks, muslin and calico clothing, all kinds of funky jewelry, people of every possible description including straight looking people and old folks, all up in the parking lot, yelling "welcome home!", "we looooooove you!" "you're beauuuuutiful!" over and over again, trying to outdo each other and breaking up into laughter and silliness, jumping on each others backs for piggyback rides and stuff. i was amazed. the Rainbow Flag was there, saying the family that prays/plays together, stays together. also an Earth Flag. lots of colorful banners with raps and advice, and flags to the shitters and kitchens and stuff. i felt i'd arrived in a different country, all of a sudden!
so i put on my boots and shyly gathered my pack up, trying not to look anyone in the eyes, but study them without them seeing me do it. they were so open and sweet. running up and demanding a hug and then kidnapping the person, spiriting them away to get high in a nearby tent. i had never smoked ganga, so i had no hunger for it, but i was very curious.
i walked down the trail slowly, marvelling at the natural wonders in the treetops, with blue sky peeking thru, the rocky creeks, the sharp curves where i had to grab a tree to not go off a cliff. i felt i was crossing a threshold into another world. there were little camps all thru the trees, like an ewok village in star wars. drums. heavenly scented smoke, children giggling.
the first place we arrived was at the kitchen, to even more welcome homes and hugs. i'm sure my eyes were shining very brightly by now. i forgot all about my pack and just dropped it, so i could wander around. the culture shock was so strong, within my own culture, that i will never, ever forget it. i was reborn that day.
that night, the bonfire was beautiful. i saw dragons and faces of ancestors and so much else in the embers of the bonfire, and i had never tripped yet. whenever someone stoked the fire, embers and sparks showered upward into the clear night sky, to the moon and the stars. the heartsongs literally made me lay on the ground and cry so hard. i cry now just remembering it. a beautiful sister was drinking wine and yelling "I....FEEEEEEL....FREEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!" over and over again. cool old men sat around playing guitar and reminiscing about the heyday of acid rock and psychedelia. god, it was great.
the food was mainly 12 bean soup with cornbread, and it was so delicious that my mouth waters remembering it. also, the Hare Krishna were there with their bells, their storytelling, and their sweet delicious food. they threw flowers on the fires that made the entire area smell like heaven. they did cartwheels and told stories and make everyone smile. at night, the dudes in the kitchen, Scooter and crew, made tons of pizzas in a clay oven, and pretzels with chocolate, and fudge brownies. Scooter made sure to put some for me in a little hole in the ground with a stiff piece of earth over it, because i could never get in line fast enough, before it was all gone. what a sweetheart. he also carried my pack out of the gathering for me, all uphill, and i gave him my favorite turtle bead, because my name was Turtleheart at that time. last i heard, he still has the bead in his medicine bag.