For years, my 'best' friend and I would take a 4th of July road trip to the National Rainbow Gathering in whatever national forest it was taking place. The Rainbow Gathering is a city in the forest created by the tens of thousands of people who attend these things, for the purpose of coming together to celebrate and meditate for our nation. It is an incredibly healing and joyful journey, and we have traveled to many different state forests to attend, even driving most of the way across the country from NY to Wyoming one Summer. This Summer, the National was held in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania, a mere 5+ hour drive away! It was incredibly exciting for us to embark upon this journey after more than 10 years away (hey, we can't be 20-something hippie freaks forever, can we? Or can we?), and to be bringing my son along for the first time. This was the beginning of our road trip:
The hike in was pretty gnarly, and I had to constantly encourage my 6 year old every step of the way that the 5 mile hike was not going to kill him, while trying not to have a heart attack myself - I hadn't taken into account the aging process, and the extra hundred pounds of fat I'm carrying, so I was pretty damn happy when we made it to the Main Meadow, myself!
Once we had made camp and settled in, it was an absolutely glorious experience to be among the freaks again, to be loved and cared for like family, because that's what Rainbow is - family. People hug each other, and say 'lovin' you!' all day long to complete strangers, and make new friends at every turn. The drumming lasts well into the night, and I haven't slept better on my mattress at home than I did on that forest floor, listening to the celebratory lullaby that I hadn't realized how much I'd missed.
After the Silent Meditation for World Peace on the morning of July 4th, I handed the camera-phone to the kid to see what he would do with it. I think he took the best shot of the vacation:
Well, okay, it's not a great shot, but it's hopeful and joyous, and communicates the buoyant feeling in the meadow after the serious nature of the morning's activity. Me, I preferred hanging out in the shade by the river rather than in the blazing hot sun of the open meadow:
The worst part about Rainbow is having to leave all that concentrated, loving kindness behind, and return to the everyday world, where people aren't nearly so kind, and random strangers don't stop you on the street for hugs, or to chat for no reason. It really makes you think about what's important, and the kind of energy and people you want in your life. There's always a part of me that's happy to come home (mostly because I need a good, long shower, and want to wash my hair!), but mostly, I can't wait for next year!