Rainbow Gathering: Ocala National Forest, Florida

High off the chocolate frosted glob of dough I accepted from a fellow sister on the rabbit trail, I fell asleep that night among family I had just met on the forest floor…

 

I strongly believe that evolution has not come to its final terms with what we are to be as humans. Everywhere you look on earth you see evolution still happening, from the lioness who has grown a false mane to the natural development of a fungi that can eat plastic in response to our overproduction and pollution.  Humans have not yet evolved to stand all the way up right and have not yet expanded their minds to the fullest potential in which would allow them to protect, cherish, and enrich the nature surrounding them here on Earth due to the ability to sense an all-encompassing vibration of love, light, peace, and empathy. With the help of people like those I have encountered at Rainbow gatherings, the world moves slowly yet exceedingly surely towards this fairy tale of a reality.

This is the story of a marvelous week spent in the woods with strangers whom I considered family before I even knew they existed. But first, some background information to get you all caught up. The Rainbow Family of Living Light is an international subculture of people who live similar lifestyles and share many common beliefs. Most live outside of regular society finding ways to get by without money, and for many without stable homes as well. Most are travelers who call the road home. Some live on communal farms. A few are even regular people looking for an outlet that feeds their soul in a way modern society cannot. There is no set leader to the group, instead everyone shares responsibilities and aids in organizing events. The events typically take place in national forests and are made up of anywhere from hundreds to thousands of people. There are world gatherings, national gatherings, and smaller regional gatherings and potlucks. These events have been happening since the 1970’s where the first gathering was held in Colorado- this was organized by one man and a whopping 20,000 people showed up!

Despite the decision to forego leadership and the laid back lifestyle of the family, the family is surprisingly organized. For each gathering, there is a group of volunteers who obtain a permit to use the land and head out early to set up camps, mark trails, and dig out fire-pits and restroom areas. During the gathering everyone is encouraged to pick up trash found from previous visitors to the park. There is also a volunteer trash crew who stays behind after to make sure the land is in even better condition than it was upon arrival. Groups of people volunteer to set up kitchens and cook for the massive crowd for the duration of the event. The food is donated by members and other generous people of society.

The purpose of these events I have learned is to spread love, light, and wisdom. This is a way to share ideas, to encourage people to do the best they can to enable the betterment of themselves, others, and of course the Earth. The gathering is a time to play, learn, connect, and grow.

 

“When the earth is ravaged and the animals are dying, a new tribe of people shall come unto the earth from many colors, classes, creeds, and who by their actions and deeds shall make the earth green again. They will be known as the warriors of the Rainbow.”

 

This is the quote you will find upon entering the webpage for the Rainbow Family of Living Light. It is quoted from a Native American tribe long before the time of the creation of the family, and I hope it gives you goosebumps like it does for me and other fellow brothers and sisters.

Now for the part you have been waiting for… into the trees we go.

After a journey towards the center of the woods, this time much shorter than the journey into the last gathering I attended, we come upon a sign hung in the trees. Welcome Home. It is a sigh of relief. Immediately after parking off the side of the dirt pathway another car of travelers approaches us and thanks us for being ahead of them, leading the way in through the maze of trees. I am eager to go explore- the land, the people, the portable homes. There is one main road leading both directions out of the home circle. It is filled with buses, vans, a few campers, and regular old cars packed down with people and luggage. At the end of the road on the far side is a lake that we would eventually go in for a morning swim on the last day of the gathering. It had never felt more amazing to get clean, and the uncomfortable exhilaration that overcomes you as you stand naked in the wilderness observed only by trees and water is a feeling that never quite leaves you- its where we come from and maybe even where we are supposed to be.

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Following clever signs hung throughout the forest we began in on the rabbit trail.

This way, silly rabbit. Blue rabbit. Stinky rabbit. Plurr rabbit. Almost there, down the hole we go. 

These clever markings however were not much use to us in the dark and we kept managing to find ourselves at dead ends. “Hey there…” Another lost hippie in the woods. He rescued us and brought us back around through home and out into the main circle. It was maybe 7 or 8 p.m. and the dinner crowd (who gather to collect bliss* in mugs and ceramic bowls) had mostly cleared out. There was a fire going with a circle dug out around it. Clusters of people sat in and around that circle talking and playing.

I sat with a girl and contemplated whether or not the bright star in the distance was a planet or not. We had many people approach us with such an influx of answers we ended the discussion more confused than when we began. It could be the North Star, a meteor, Venus, or even an object as wild as a UFO. At least we got quite a few good laughs out of our inquiry. After a short while, we wandered on.

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One of the beautiful travelers I encountered at Ocala

What must be understood is that the rainbow family is accepting of all people from all walks of life. While the majority of the camps and individuals you will encounter at these gatherings are child-like spirits, exuding love, peace, and selfless amounts of generosity, the nature of the gathering also attracts a bit of a seedier crowd. It is smart to always keep your wits about you… even at a spiritual convocation of people in the forest.

We wandered into a section of camps much rowdier than the rest. My inner party girl instantly wanted to dive in. Luckily we were approached by a train-kid who goes by Little Guy. He was anything but a little guy. He explained to us that all are welcome in this area of camp as well, but caution should be took as this is where a lot of the alcohol and drug use takes part. People get amped up, people fight for fun. If something is going to go stereotypically wrong, this is the part of camp it is going to happen in. We weren’t quite ready for this being it our first night in and so we were pointed to an easier going campsite.

Here we were welcomed in and almost instantly handed a variety of instruments to play with by a group of travelers from the north east. We found them howling in laughter at stories being told and making their own playful fun with no limits on how silly or loud things could get way out in the middle of nowhere-land. A fellow from this circle taught me about trades I would later learn much more about, jugging, busking, and flying,* a hippies salvation on the road these days. We all ended up taking a journey through the woods to visit many other sites along the trail to main circle. It was 1 a.m. by the time we reentered the circle.

Walking into main circle at 1 a.m. was like walking right out of reality and into a dream. The heat from the fire could be felt all the way back from the trail and it cast just enough light to be able to see the lively congregation of people surrounding it. It was flooded with people being moved by a combination of the music flowing in the air and the full moon above. Hippies, dirty kids, rubber-trampers, backpackers, train kids,* missionaries, and lost souls celebrating coming home. People were sitting swaying to the music, kids were out playing leapfrog, there were fire dancers and girls dancing with hoops. There were banjos, keyboards, and ukuleles. There was a guy belting out hilarious tunes. People from here and there were pitching in with random phrases, words, sounds, and beats. One individual was even throat singing- a skill most closely related to indigenous drumming ceremonies. It was truly spontaneous, collaborative, and beautiful beyond perfection.

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After meeting a few others and learning about their journeys, I spotted a familiar face and made my way to the hippie who found us lost in the woods earlier in the night. After two or three protests, he had me up dancing and spinning all around. A song or two later dozens of others had jumped up to dance with us. Soon he stole me away, or in his words “gypsy-napped” me, to go for a long stroll in the woods. We skipped the small talk and began in on a long, deep conversation on how life works and what we are here for.

We eventually joined a group of others relaxing up against some trees and enjoying the peace of the nighttime woods. Feeling high off the chocolate frosted glob of dough I accepted from a fellow sister on the rabbit trail, I fell asleep that night among family I had just met on the forest floor.

It was all I dream life to be. I yearned for months to be home, and I yearn again until I return.

Even if this lifestyle isn’t for you (as I understand it is drastically different than the status quo), I highly recommend taking the lesson the Rainbow Family has to offer. We are all connected to each other and the Earth and it is time we start acting that way. Live peacefully, be kind to yourself, be generous to others, and be protective of the Earth. Get out in nature and take some time to reconnect. And most importantly, don’t forget to appreciate the beauty and wisdom of the world around you.

This is truly a place I will never forget and I take this lesson with me in my daily life, whether that be playing in the woods or working in a corporate office.

 

“Personally, the Rainbow Family is where I have found my greatest opportunities to learn, to grow, to celebrate, to be one with my fellow beings and my mother Earth, to serve, to pray, to play. The gatherings for me are living theater, evolution in process, creativity manifest. I am passionately in love.” Clara.

 

http://www.welcomehome.org/rainbow/main.html

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*Bliss: the dinner provided by the kitchen camps; usually a combo of grains, beans, and veggies donated in bulk

**Jugging, busking, and flying: all ways of collecting money by searching to have a gas jug filled up, earning money by playing an instrument or presenting another talent, or by flying a sign. One common moral I noticed among the family was that they insisted on not lying, they would not say they are homeless in order to collect money. Money collected is used for food and supplies needed for family and gatherings.

***Hippies: a peaceful person usually rejecting the established customs of society

Dirty kids: typically couch surfers, travelers who get by on the generosity of like-minded individuals offering free or work-for stay/rides

Rubber trampers: travelers living in their vehicles

Backpackers: travelers on foot living off of what they can carry.

 

****This article is the first that I personally took none of the photographs pictured here. There is a very strong culture present at these gatherings that encouraged me to disconnect and live in the moment. I also did not want to take pictres out of respect for those who are not comfortable with their photograph being published on the internet. I found it more suitable to choose images already made available by family to the public. Some of these images were taken at Ocala 2017. All other photographs were taken at gatherings around the globe. 

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