Friday, June 03, 2011

Enterprise Reservoir

Hitchhiking up through Arizona and the Grand Canyon, and then Navajo country, I got a ride on the back of a pickup truck and noticed somewhere in there that it was now well over 110 degrees and as usual, I didn't have sunblock, or even a good strategy, really, to deal with the heat. People were nice to me, but the weather was excessive; I had to get out of it.

At some point I heard of a gathering of nomadic travelers called the Rainbow people, and this was in Enterprise Reservoir, on the Nevada-Utah border but not far from Arizona. I found it, and, much to my surprise, there were hundreds of people, mostly huddled in caves and staying away from the heat.

I'll never forget the entrance: a couple of sheriffs had found the place; the desert sun was setting, and a full moon rose at the same time over the reservoir. It seemed that I had forgotten that full moons arose at sunset, but I had. The sheriffs were somewhat mystified at the arrival of such a large crowd of people like me, who had no cars, who arrived out of nowhere, who claimed to be peaceful; I'm sure they were suspicious too, but they were polite to me. I was in a state of near heat-stroke; I found a cave, and slept maybe fourteen hours.

Much is written about the Rainbow people, and one can either be romantic, or realistic, or even quite cynical, but I didn't really join them for much more than a drum circle or two, so I didn't learn much. Many of them lived on the road permanently, or for most of the year. They had families, people who lived together or knew each other well from living together in remote outposts in places like Oregon, New Mexico or Wyoming. This happened to be one of the early gatherings; they had legends about earlier gatherings in Lander, Wyoming or Granby, Colorado; they had other gatherings for maybe fifteen or twenty years, always on the Fourth of July, and usually way out west. My memory of them mixes the extreme climate of the far west, the rugged atmosphere, with their here-today-gone-tomorrow nature, their "welcome home, brother" greeting.

As I traveled I developed a fascination for community; unhappy with life in the suburbs, where I grew up, or the big city (Boston had been one of the best), and unable to make it, really, in the country alone, I needed to find the right kind of community. As a permanent arrangement, the Rainbow people draw too much trouble, really, and I could see that. But, at that moment, on the road as I was, I was glad to have a family, however temporary.

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