The Rainbow Shitter – Natures Calling

Rainbow Family ShitterThe ‘Shitter’One of the basic physical elements that needs addressing at the Rainbow Gathering is, where will all these people poop?

Over the years, a number of different structures have been tried, but the most basic and usable is the slit trench, known in Rainbow parlance as a ‘shitter’. It is generally about 2.5 feet wide and 3 or more feet deep.

Some years there are some dedicated workers (the proud ‘Shitter Diggers’) who make new ones as needed, which can be daily during July 1-4, with the largest population at the Gathering. And this can be quite a chore, depending on the type of soil and how rocky and rooty the area is. Also, it needs to be away from any water source or other possible contamination. These are good places to not camp too close.There are a number of complications associated with the shitters.

The goal is to squat over the trench while having a bowel movement. Sometimes they are too wide making this an experiment in balance and trepidation. Then there is the concern that an item (flashlights are the most common) might fall in, begging a messy removal. Next is the quandary of company. As can be seen in this photo, there is no privacy here (though they tend to be tucked away from the crowd). In general, people will give each other the space to have a bowel movement by themselves, but this is not always so, especially during the busy post-coffee rush in the morning. This predicament causes constipation in many individuals. We see this often at the first aid station.

Someone will say they are constipated and we will ask if they have ever pooped in the woods before or potentially in front of others. They may bashfully say they haven’t and we will usually suggest that they try to go early in the morning, when there are less people around. Or they can bring a friend who can stay on the trail and ask people to wait a bit further away. Or put up tarps around individual latrines. We do give laxatives as well, Turkey rhubarb (Rheum palmatum) being one of my favorite as it is more gentle, to help loosen their bowels and quicken the action.

There are a few items hopefully at each shitter. These include toilet paper and hand wash, which is a bottle with a hole in the cap with a solution of water and a small amount of bleach and soap. There may also be an antibacterial soap. To cover the poop, there is either ash or lime. Unfortunately these run out fast and people cover their stool with dirt. The problem with this is that it fills in the latrine much faster then the ash or lime. Not that anyone asked about this aspect of the Rainbow Gathering, but I figured I would share it with anyone interested in attending sometime in the future. Meanwhile, a good stress-free poop to you.

~ 7Song, Ithaca, NY. July 9, 2016