The Unspoken Word

Preface: hi folks, for almst a week now i thought i might be blocked
out of this site forever, but i finally figured out how clear my cache
and toss my cookies, so to speak, and was granted access once again,
after a week of frustratedly trying all sorts of things that didn't
i wrote the following piece about a week ago in response to an ad on
craigslist calling for stories about how you met your sweetheart. i
realised, as i was composing the narrative, that it had a lot of
rainbow family hipstory in it, so i thought it would be good to post
here. hope y'all enjoy...

It was the winter of 1991, just after the first Bush's Gulf Disaster,
the war for oil dominance in Iraq began, and I, a single mom, had
travelled down from New England to my beloved Ocala National Forest to
do a couple of weeks of winter camping in the Florida sunshine with my
two young sons and a few hundred other 'back-to-the-landers' at the
Florida Regional Gathering of the Rainbow Family of Living Light.

Since the early 70's these free and open-to-all-who-come outdoor
gatherings have taken place in a different National Forest each
summer, and many regional "rainbow tribes" had begun hosting
gatherings at other points in the year, so that people who couldn't
get enough of the magical vibes and comradely ambiance of the summer
gatherings would not have to wait a whole 'nother year to meet
somewhere on the land again.

So there we were again, happy campers in one of the eastern
seaboard's loveliest and most diverse (seven distinct ecosystems!)
National Forests, doing our bit to help the gathering run smoothly by
volunteering at the various Gilligan's Island style kitchens, at the
first aid station, and of course, since I had my kids with me,
socializing and playing with the dozens of other children attending.
Some people had built a temporary homespun playground of swings,
monkey bars and see saws for the kids at one end of a broad white
sugar sand trail near our favorite kitchen. One warm starry night, a
talent show was held there, lit dramatically by a row of flickering
tiki torches.

The most memorable performer that night was a tall, slender, dark
bearded fellow with laughter in his eyes who did a manic, antic,
hilarious spoken word act, in his own words, "... performance art,
somewhere between poem, song, comedy, and erotica..." called
Deviations from the Norm. Norman, the performing artist, fairly took
my breath away! It wasn't just the wit and brilliance of his wordplay,
or the freewheeling, wideranging content of his poem-songs, or the way
his strong, graceful, willowy

body moved in the torchlight, it was something about him, as I
watched, that made me want to hug him tight, something mysteriously
familiar and instantly appealing about this fellow's face, as if we
must have known each other from before... it was love at first sight,
to be sure, but it felt, for the life of me, like the return of a long
lost best friend... I felt I had found a true kindred spirit in this
beautiful, mercurial man.

And he seemed to like me back, I thought... but he was so shy,
offstage, that it was hard for me to tell just what he was really
thinking. Still, I liked very much what I saw in the man, then, and at
several subsequent gatherings where we'd run into each other, cross
paths on a forest trail somewhere in upstate New York or high in the
Rockies or back in the Ocala... each time we'd stop and spend a while
chatting, catching up, covering subjects that compelled us both; The
writings of Joseph Campbell and Robert Graves on mythology, for
instance, or the politics of our time, art, or ecology, or the
rhythms of poetry, the fate of the earth. One thing that impressed me
was that my sons actually seemed to like and look up to this guy.
Usually when I evidenced any interest at all in a man, or if a man
showed signs of liking me, that would trigger an automatic massive
monster brat response in my kids.

I suppose it was a test... if they did their worst could they
make the interloper go away? If a man seemed to like Mom "that way",
could he love them too, even at their most impossible? How serious
might this person be about getting with their mother? If they gave him
hell, could he take the heat?

Three summer Rainbows later Norman was still taking the heat of my
sons' personalities rather well. They admired him, even imitated him.
had gotten into writing music and poetry and getting up at readings
and taking part in grass roots community organizing. Were they trying
to help me attract him? I still ran into him at every gathering, and
I was always secretly elated to see him again, but I still wasn't sure
where I stood with laconic, lonely, loveable Norm.

...Until that forest fire summer in Wyoming. Ten acres of National
Forest land were ablaze in Wyoming where the Rainbows were encamped.
Hundreds of thousands of other acres of forest were burning in rampant
drought season firestorms all across the American West. A professional
fire fighter on site told us later that ours was the only
conflagration that was contained and actually put out by local campers
in any area that summer. The Rainbow Family had pulled together and
courageously faced the sudden challenge of putting out that fire. My
kids and I were safe, my firstborn's sneaker toes were a little melted
but he'd had an experience, fighting that wall of blazing trees with a
brave brigade of thousands of Rainbows wielding 5 gallon water
buckets, that was surely as real a rite of passage as any young man
might experience.

Where was Norman? It was the morning of the 4th of July, and I
hadn't seen him since the day before, before the fire blazed up... and
I was frantic, going out of my mind with worry. Was he alright?

On the 4th, thousands of Rainbows uphold a tradition of holding
hands in a circle at noon and meditating together, all praying
silently or focusing inwardly with all their hearts on world peace and
healing. If you've never experienced something like that, you can't
imagine how moving it is, to stand in the cathedral of nature and feel
how vast and connected everything is, how magnificent, when all the
human beings grow quiet and listen, together, to the wind, to the
cries of the birds, to the unspoken yearning, in every heart, for
peace, to be at one.

But where was my Norman? The meditation was over, children were
being slathered again with sun block and aloe juice and spritzed with
cooling water spray, munching down big juicy slices of watermelon,
drums were sounding and flutes were playing and people were singing,
dancing and hugging all over the meadow in celebration when I saw him,
moving swiftly toward me through the throng, drenched, sooty, his
eyebrows singed clear off his face, which was wreathed with the
broadest, most wonderful smile I've ever seen, calling out my name...
we fell gratefully into each others' arms and said those magic words
I'd waited so long to say, and to hear.

Coda: We're happy, we're still together, we are passionate for each
other and still have a million things to say to each other. We make
videos on YouTube under the name medicinesocks. First born son is
thirty and off to medical school in the Dutch Antilles in September,
we hope, if his school loans come through. Baby bro' is married and
living in L.A. When he graduates, he and his wife will be joining the
Peace Corps, and they may be sent to Eastern Europe or Central Asia.
Life is a good story, if you make it so. Come up with a great one, and
live it! This is our story and we're sticking to it.