Remembering Here&Now — 19 August 2011

Part 1: Roshani, still a non-sannyasin, arrives at her first Celebration on the Ranch

Arriving for the Second Annual World Celebration 1983

We arrived just a bit before midnight June 30 (2 days before the Second Annual World Celebration at Rajneeshpuram which was scheduled July 1-9, 1983), having stopped for a quick cup of coffee in Antelope. Hugs from Kavido and then two busloads of weary sannyasins began to flood into the tiny café. Kavido said twenty buses were expected between 11pm and 1am, so we filled our thermos with coffee for morning and headed for the Ranch and registration to beat the rush—and the buses with tired drivers. Did Ted hear one say he hadn’t slept for 36 hours?

It’s quiet in the registration tent; small groups of people are coming in. Luggage is grouped in small piles near the entrance so Kabir’s famous canine friend, Bear, can sniff them for drugs. Between groups, Kabir sips coffee in a chair, the dog napping behind him on a blanket. The groups sit quietly on the ground to be told of processes and rules, to have their questions answered. We go on through, explain about the parking permit for the car. Ted spots Jay and Sheela. Sheela is chatting with the many workers—a mother checking in to see how her children are doing. It’s a nice feeling to see that they care so much.

We sign a consent to search form, namaste, hug, laugh, exchange a few remarks with Sheela (she looks well—healthier than of late). Next comes a polite ‘pat down’ body search. “Do you have any illegal drugs?” “No.” “Do you have excessive amounts of alcohol?” “No.” “Matches?” “Yes.” “Sorry, these are prohibited on the Ranch.” I think he’s joking. Being a smoker, I say I’ll be in trouble. He’s not joking. “People drop matches; there is a danger of fire; a lighter is okay.” I cheerfully give up my matches, being happy that I’d packed a lighter. A hug and word with Jay, then on to a woman at the very long registration table.

“You’ll need to go to the place marked Special Accommodations. Look for the sign that says, “Elderly, handicapped, teenagers, journalists.” Ted jokes about being elderly and how I look like a teenager. “Omigosh,” I say, “They think we’re journalists.” There are a few other “special lines.” One is for families, whom I later find out included those with children. They are all located in one tent area together—a good idea, I think. The registrar smiles, answers questions from other workers as she helps us. Nice, that’s it, she’s just plain nice. Permanently snapped on, color-coded wrist bands—another good idea. With name and tent number, they serve as identification and a reminder about where in the multitude of yellow tents you belong.

A van driver leads our way to the appropriate parking lot, then stops to give us a lift on to our tent. He’s a bit new at it, not readily knowing where Buddha 3D1 is. The groups of tents near us are Jesus 1,2,3 and Zen 1,2,3. We walk to our tent. The rain has fallen and the sticky, wet clay adds several inches to the bottoms of our shoes. We pull out flashlights to check out the tent numbers, large and legible on the fronts of the tent platforms. “How wonderful the tents are six or more inches above ground,” I think.

We find the tent, but in the dark drizzle can’t figure out how to get inside. It’s zipped up snug. Somewhere an accented voice, hearing our problem, tries to tell us where the zipper is and finally, sweet woman, she gets up, turns on the light and unzips the complicated door. We’re muddy and wet. Some confusion getting off shoes and wet things as we go inside. Four pads are there, on each a brand new Coleman sleeping bag (the guarantee is still inside). They are blue, not red, but have on top a peach pillow-slipped pillow, a still unwrapped new flowered sheet, and a piece of masking tape that says, “ Welcome Home Lover.” Just think of writing that out 15,000 times!

I take a break from writing to go to Sheela’s welcome meeting and zap it’s 9pm and almost dark. I wonder why I’m recalling everything in such minute detail—and I wonder if I’ll ever catch up to now?

The Days are Full!

It is now Tuesday morning. I understand why it is so difficult for those here to describe their experience, much less write about it. The days seem so filled, even with no job. And the quiet times—the time one could use for writing—are times when one wants nothing more than to walk slowly or sit quietly. There is so much peace here—unbelievable peace for a place filled with 15,000 people.

The first day—was that Friday?—many people were filled with exuberance. There were squeals of joy as friends who hadn’t seen each other for a time ran to hug. Many arrived tired and a little silly from lack of sleep. All I really remember of that first day is visiting friends, talking a bit with two Belgian children and marveling at the international gathering. It became a game to decide what language people were speaking—Dutch, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Hindi, Japanese and many indecipherable tongues were represented.

We sat a bit at Mirdad (the welcome center) in the morning—a word here and there with Veena, one of the ‘Twinkies’ (a decidedly American joke title for the Ranch hostesses/greeters). A hug for little Veetmaya, Isabel having a meeting to nail down details with the old hands, the new additions, and the volunteers, the phone forever ringing, TV crews and reporters arriving. We wandered up for a chat with Subhuti at the Times office in Naropa. Friday was a lull day for him, the Times having just come out. Again, a talk between ringing phones—Sunny (another Twinkie) and Al Jennings (a reporter) both called—and people wandering in and out with questions. We played “what if” with Subhuti and devised images of a Long March, an Exodus Walk of sannyasins from Oregon to Oklahoma if 1000 Friends of Oregon should win their lawsuits against the city. Politics, personalities, plots and puns prevailed.

I should speak of the arrangements here—so incredibly well done. Regular bus routes are established and function smoothly with color codes, named stops, regular and volunteer drivers. Nevertheless, we walk a lot—especially on the newly paved red road. We marvel at the new ‘downtown’—a gorgeous wooden building, huge and long and two stories, hanging flower baskets and all. There are entry and exit doors, bag checks, and two stores with a red rainbow of colored clothing warm and cool, hats and shoes, souvenirs and rain capes, drugstore items and deli fare. The sign out front reads “Grand Opening” and another, more to the point reads, “Don’t just sit there, buy something!”

On the second day, a park appeared across the street—graveled, but with huge flower boxes and trees and benches for sitting, as well as a shade tent. There is a new little post office. At the end of the street is a green building—two wings and a cement bench for resting peacefully—which houses the book and tape store, complete with video viewing room in one wing and a boutique in the other. There is also a small complex on the other side—surrounding a courtyard of woodchips and flowers—which holds a cappuchino/bakery/lounge and a Mexican restaurant. Here is where the adults’ night time disco is housed.

The children have fashioned their own disco in the back of the old barn, since alcohol service keeps them out of this building. Just beyond is a fenced in biergarten with music across from a videogame trailer and the beauty salon trailer. There are shower and toilet trailers everywhere. A sign of the efficiency and organization that abounds—an underground pipe breaks and within hours it is dug up, discarded, replaced, covered over and the showers function again.

Text by Roshani
Credit for the photos goes to Deva Bhava and the Rajneeshpuram Residents FB page