The Circus of Visionaries

20th Rainbow Family Gathering of the Tribes
July 1-7, 1991, Green Mountain Forest, Vermont

(On July 7th every year, the Vision Council convenes
to decide where the next year's Gathering will be.)


July 9

The clouds move through a silence
above the bird-songs

                                    between the dim ridge
of dawn and the crescent moon

like a shoal of whales,
                                     one after the other

the young ones still forming
crowding close under
                                     their dark bellies

the whole clan taking on substance
against the daybreak,
                                     travelling the high
currents on their ancient way

Spirit, my tribe too is
                                   migrating once more,
seeking our direction in the ancient way.

We have just retired
                                   the feather for the night;
the third day of the Vision Council breaks.

Since we began we have
                                        wandered the whole map,
following this feather around our circle.
We go to our rest
                              as the cooks are waking.

All afternoon outside the yellow-striped
medicine tent where we
                                      listened in our rapt circle,
the rest of the tribe was working:
hauling out the trash, separating
                                                  glass and metal and plastic,
covering the shit in our latrines and
scattering the hearthstones
                                            of our many circles
back to where the glaciers left them

a lingering warmth
and everlasting memory in them,
flutes and drums, song after song to the vanishing of flame

(I know, because today
                                      I spent breaking down
the Wise Crackers kitchen, trusting the visionaries
in the circus tent
                            to listen without me)

The feather was an eagle's, it flew
from a staff, then alone,
                                      it changed to an owl's,
it became a rock, then a peacock feather.
We listened.

                      (It had rained
the morning of the 7th, so the Council started
in the big tent
                       where the medics dealt
with a half-dozen cases of craziness this Gathering)

The sun stood above us;
                                        someone started
taking down the canvas around the sides,
and mountains too
                               were listening.
One after the other we stood to speak our pieces
of the shattered dream.

(Once it started, there it
sat, the feather progressing slowly around
the same circle
                         of faces always changing,
each one stepping back after speaking, leaving space
for the listener behind)

                                     The Earth turned
and we listened. Like tattered seamstresses,
we drew the thread
                                 of our attention
tighter and tighter, focused on the feather

as though following the point
where the tip of the needle gleams and disappears.

The sun went down:
                                 no decision till daylight.
For miles around us the work is done for today.
Not here; we lit candles
                                       and kept listening.

The sun stood above us again the second day
curtained by showers
                                   as the clouds moved across
the mountaincrest. We listened.

In the afternoon
                            the rainclouds passed
and a rainbow lifted all the colors
hidden in our circle
                                way up into the air.
Two rainbows. Three concentric rainbows,
with one half-grown
                                  young one still forming—

It was a sign, to be sure (to be sure and listen,
pass the feather on
                                and on till all the colors
have spoken, the quilt of vision complete . . .)

We passed the feather
                                     clockwise— our clock
slower than the digits on my watch, I noticed—
sun-wise, always slower
                                       than the circling of shadows,
it seemed. But wisdom flowed from somewhere,
out of crones and greybeards,
out of the drooling mouths of babes . . .

The happy stream of voices out on the main trail
and the sanctuary of listening
                                              made a kind of harmony where I
stood on the edge of the circle, returning
just after sundown
                               of the second day.
The candles were already burning: no decision tonight.

Good. Time now
                            for the listening.

On the muddy road outside, the footprints of loved ones
blot out the footprints
                                   that were there moments before.
Every so often our asking for a true direction
home is pierced
                           by the laughter of farewell.

At midnight against the flung stars
tall shafts of light leaned
                                      in a parallel rank
over our council from the northern horizon.

It was a sign, to be sure
                                      (to be sure and speak
from our humble prayer-rug of earth,
gazing to the stars
                              not the other way around)

The feather migrated on from hand to hand
in the candlelight.
                            I am no longer waiting
for my turn to speak, turning over
what to say.
                     I am listening.
Through every interruption, the Spirit speaks.

We listened.
                     We laughed together.
A prayer, a confession, a speech.
No one wept alone.
                                Many visions.

The night passes so quickly when you really
listen! Effortless.

                            Three times
we asked for consensus. We're learning.

The feather goes
                            so slowly around.
At last it reaches my hand. I look around, and I'm
the last one left.

                          What shall I say, Spirit?

At last it's dawn, and the birds' turn. Today sunshine.
All my relations.