“It’s called the Rainbow Gathering”, repeated the seemingly innocent blonde-haired girl, as we perched on the pavement amidst the hustle-and-bustle of Mexico City’s largest market: El Mercado de la Merced. “It’s hard to explain exactly what it is… I can’t even tell you where it takes place”. I felt that familiar sense of intrigue that comes with envisioning something so completely unfamiliar, a rousing excitement, which urged me to find out more. “You’ll just have to try and find this place yourself”, she said, as a faint smile spread across her face. The idea grew in my mind until it became almost too much to bear; I had to discover this secret location and the mystery that lay within.
Four weeks later, I found myself sitting in a very different spot, gazing in awe at what had been absent from even my wildest visions. A new world, one so far removed from the ‘real world’ had been created in a remote jungle setting, where humans and animals interacted freely with one another and everybody was naked, bar the expressions of peace and contentment they each wore across their faces.
Imagine waking up on a bed of dirt and leaves, sunlight beating down on your semi-nude body, then beginning your day with a ‘bath’ in the cool stream. Imagine serving your morning coffee with a ladle from a large, dented metal pot gently bubbling over a campfire, before drinking it from the closest thing resembling a cup that nature could provide. Imagine singing and chanting in a circle, hands interlocked with unclothed strangers, as a meal of fruit, grains and more of the jungle’s offerings miraculously appears before your eyes. Finally, imagine attempting to smoke from a pipe that runs through the earth, witnessing a talent show take place on a stage composed of mud and topping it off with a colossal fire, around which people were dancing wildly and losing themselves to the hypnotic rhythm of drums – that was my first day at the Rainbow Gathering.
Before arriving here, my imagination wasn’t able to stretch that far. I learned more about humankind, once stripped down to its simplest form, in that day than I ever had done before. Here were people who had found peace and harmony in the most unlikely of places; people who were satisfied living with the absolute bare minimum; people who had managed to create so much from so little. I will never forget the events of my first day, nor the rest of the week I spent here, during which I gradually began to adapt to this way of life myself. Upon my return to the city, I felt incredibly self-aware, the various sights and sounds all around me too much to bear, for my senses were so heightened. I did, of course, readapt to what we know as ‘normality’ after a short while, but I forever think back to that very first morning in the jungle and often yearn to be there once again.
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