Rainbow Gathering TAS – Chapter Two – Bushfires and Public Nudity

 

There were so many workshops on offer at the gathering, tai chi, tantra, nutrition, songwriting, poetry, martial arts, craftwork, bush construction, yoga, freeganism (how to live for free) – oh too many to list – and my interest was piqued for each of them but when the time came I was usually engaged with other activities and missed out. This frustration carried with me for a week until I finally accepted that I was happy just being here rather than chasing opportunities. Our camp was so secluded that we had no accidental visitors and always felt at peace, when I wasn’t exploring and socialising I retreated to the hammock and read a book or slept.

The days went like the snap of my fingers, I awoke to daylight and after my morning routine the first food circle was called, after some time I knew that if I wasn’t disciplined enough to hold to an intention of the day I would get drawn into an activity, counselling, meeting or work. All of this was part of Rainbow and therefore beautiful but before I knew it the evening fell and upon such fell dinner time.

When the evening meal was finished some went for kitchen clean up, some went to their tents and some headed to the chai space for song and dance around the fire cradling hot spicy beverages and chilled out cuddles. Most of the time I found myself tired from the day’s activity and went straight to bed, I have never been much of a night owl.

While we participated in this blissful living experiment the state of Tasmania was ablaze with bushfire, all through our valley and nearby villages persisted a thick haze of smoke. There was concern, talk of leaving, and some acceptance of dying happy in a place like this. The gathering was well organised and we had a support network of locals looking out for us, each afternoon during a week of heightened danger the local fire warden would drive down and inform us how close the fires were and whether we would need to evacuate. Given that to pack up and hike to the top car park to drive out would take hours the general instruction was to muster to the sacred fire area which was devoid of grass or shrubs, lay down and cover ourselves with a dry blanket – a frightening image of hundreds of huddled hippies gathered under a wavy sea of woollen cloth as an inferno engulfed the surrounding forest amphitheatre.

The looming devastation also meant no fires, not for sitting around, not for chai, and not for cooking – the kitchen team had to make do with some hurriedly sourced gas burners, our dependence on the outside world to prepare food was a hindrance but we all still ate well with nutritious, delicious cuisine making its way to satisfied stomach.

A week into my Rainbow experience one of the brothers, Forte, announced that he was playing a gig at the nearby town of Ulverstone, many of the musicians at the gathering put their hands up to play and this outing was quickly turning into a concert – the venue was booked and the hippy class excursion was being anticipated. On the day of the show I took a group into Devonport to do some shopping and afterward we all dove naked into the icy Tasmanaian waters at a nearby beach – people walking their dogs were a little surprised, but the dogs loved it.

We got to Ulverstone just in time, the show began and performers of sound, word and act gave gifts to the local population. Around fifty joyous hippies were also in attendance, glasses of wine in hand – an unusual sight – we bought Rainbow to the outside world. What an interesting experiment this was, the high vibrations of understanding and acceptance into a world somewhat more cautious and suspicious of the other – the dancing, joining in on song, the smiles and love were at times I thought a bit too full on for those seated at their tables after a meal – the mayor of Ulverstone however joined in on the wild movements and when it was all over succumbed to the centre of a giant group hug, the brave soul.

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After the concert we all gathered outside on the wharf, I sat on a step going through some photos I took when I looked up to see a pair getting naked, a pretty normal sight at the gathering, my casual dismissing finally gave way to realisation that we were in public now. The next moment they had both jumped off the edge and 4 metres into water below, shrieks of delight as others doffed covering to join in on the aquabatics – their junk flying in choreographed harmony as they spiralled, flipped and splashed into the salty townside river.

While all of this was happening folk were enjoying dinner or tea at a cafe that also faced the water, large glass tinted windows separated the outside from the in and although we were not privy at the time there was most probably a muffled commotion inside. Soon after the police arrived, too late to catch anyone in the act but enough to take down a name or two. We made our way back to the car park singing ‘Hit the road Jack’, piled into the van and headed back to the wild bushland we called home.

Ulverstone Group

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