“Shuttle” never counted how many Rainbow Gatherings he’s been to, but he was at the first one in 1972.
He’s worked on the parking crews and estimates he’s helped park three quarters of a million cars. He strives to make the gathering a safe and enjoyable place for people to attend, and tries to greet people at the gate with a joke.
“If you drive 3,400 miles with two kids in diapers, the last thing you want is somebody agro at the gates. You want somebody who makes you laugh,” Shuttle said.
Now 64, he cannot breathe much dust for health reasons. Instead he helps with safety, making sure everyone at the gathering is properly hydrated and touring camps with fire pits to ensure they have a shovel and at least five gallons of water on hand.
“My whole goal, over my lifetime with the family, has been to keep the family safe. From each other, from the police and from outsiders,” Shuttle said.
This is Zia Martinis’ first annual gathering. She first experienced the Rainbow Family at a regional gathering in Maui 1999. A young mother on the island with a military husband, she felt isolated. Then, someone invited her to the Rainbow Gathering and told her “you can come home.”
“It was freedom. It was family. It was like I felt like I belonged,” she said.
The feeling of family is what attracted her to the gathering, but it has also taught her valuable life skills.
“I’m an urban girl. I’m a black woman born in Berkeley, but I get to come out here,” she said. “I’ve read my books. I know how to build my fires. I know how to take care of my woods.”
She said, in a world reliant on electricity and infrastructure, being able to survive outdoors is a valuable skill.
Khy prefers life on the road. He said he’s tried the whole “adulting thing,” but after his house burned down and he was laid off from his job, he decided it wasn’t for him.
This is his first national gathering, but he said he attended a smaller one in Florida.
“It’s a way to get away from Babylon and all the nonsense of the world,” he said, describing “Babylon” as modern society and the dollar.
Without it, he is less stressed. He travels with his dog, Lady, hitchhiking where he can and walking when can’t.
Over the last nine months, he has traveled from Florida to Oregon to attend the gathering.