Consider Sobriety

by Julia, Dacha Project inter-at-large


One of the daily plant walks with 7song.

Utah stunned me with its dramatic landscape, the roads becoming smaller and more unkempt as we got closer to our destination. We slowed the car down to a crawl, wincing at the bounce from the potholes peppering our path. I did not mind the slow ascent,  gazing at snow capped mountains with fields of wild flowers nodding in the sun. There wasn’t a cloud in sight and the sky was consistently blue during our stay in the Rocky Mountains.  The Rainbow Gathering is always located off of back roads in the heart of national forests around the country. Everything on site is built from scratch often weeks before the masses arrive by those who enjoy truly “roughing it”. This group of brave individuals stay for several weeks after the event to clean up and break down, leaving the mountainside without a trace.  The Rainbow Gathering has been occurring for the past 25 years. They claim to be the largest non-organization creating an intentional community that has no centralized governing body. The movement was born in the early 70’s as an experiment in caring for thousands of people who want to come together in efforts to create a peaceful community dedicated to the acceptance of alternative lifestyles.

We parked in the first available location, taking the time to untangle our belongings from the tightly packed car. There were four of us prepared for nearly a month long excursion. Everyone from 7song’s Community Herbalism Intensive were required to make the trip out to the Gathering as one of three field trips. We had a week to get across the country, a week at the Rainbow Gathering and then another week following at a previously unknown location to wildcraft, and make medicine. Burdened with our backpacks, one of my car companions and I refused to wait for one of the few “shuttles” helping people to bring their belongings up the three mile hike to the main entrance. We had a desire to be capable of bringing our gear in on foot, as we had been warned to expect a hike of several miles where private vehicles could not access. Somehow the idea of being able to shoulder all our belongings added to the experience of backwoods survival.

Once inside the main entrance we started to see campsites pop up along the dirt road as people slowly started to organize themselves into little camps. The Rainbow Gathering is grounded in lore that when the world begins to crumble a new society of people from all different backgrounds (aka “a rainbow of colors”) will come together to help one another survive. This an idealistic form of socialism that created a tradition of a money-free event. The work of setting up this makeshift community is intended to be divided equally. There are groups of people who pickup trash, others dig latrines and there are many people that come together and organize their camps into “kitchens” provide food for free. Necessities like filtered watered are taken care of by these kitchens. Springs were re-routed and systems set up to provide for washing and hydration needs. Many people have to learn the hard way the difference between “live water” and “filtered water”. Working at the first aid station we experienced plenty of people who made that mistake.   More