Into the woods with the Rainbow Family of Living Light

Each year, for a few weeks in summer, a loose confederation of like-minded souls called the Rainbow Family of Living Light quietly converts a site in a public forest somewhere in the United States into a communal living space for thousands. Campsites are established, latrines are dug, and an elaborate water filtration system is erected to bring water from nearby streams. While the group’s origin is a bit cloudy, it’s generally accepted that the first “official’’ gathering of the Rainbow Family was in Colorado in 1972. For the summer of 2016, they gathered in Mt. Tabor, VT.--By Jessica Rinaldi
1
The Rainbow Family gathering draws free spirits from across the country, including this man dressed as a tree-like Ent from “The Lord of the Rings” at this year’s event, held on public forestland near Mount Tabor, Vermont. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
2
Some people come for the sense of community, some for a chance to party. Others are travelers — modern-day vagabonds seeking a safe space to let their guard down. After meals, participants often celebrate by dancing to drums, singing, and playing instruments.
(Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
3
A small peace sign hanging in a tree marks the path that leads to a clearing full of hammocks called Safe Swingin’ where Kamali, a traveler, hangs in a hammock beside her dog, Petra, and some friends. It’s a quiet place, nestled beside a stream and far enough from the meadow to be a refuge from the noise there. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
4
Rainbow Family members hold hands before a communal meal. The idea is that each person will pitch in to help out with whatever needs to be done whether it’s collecting garbage, digging latrines, or cooking the meal. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
5
People dance and sing at a drum circle following dinner. While the group’s origin is a bit cloudy, it’s generally accepted that the first “official’’ gathering of the Rainbow Family was in Colorado in 1972.
(Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
6
Rainbow Family members bathe in a swimming hole. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
7
Children at Kid Village clean up at a hand-washing station before breakfast. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
8
A footprint is seen along a muddy trail that connects different camps. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
9
Campsites are established for the gathering, latrines are dug, and an elaborate filtration system is erected to bring water from nearby streams. Each campsite has an identity and a name — there are the religious ones like Om Shalom and Promised Land alongside secular versions such as Fat Kids and Nic@Nite. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
10
A Rainbow Family member plays bagpipes. People are free to express themselves. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
11
A young woman plays with a hoop at the edge of the meadow. At the gathering, the goal is to leave the outside world and all of its trappings behind. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
12
Rainbow Family members embrace after praying for peace. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
13
A woman walks along a trail. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
14
Rainbow Family members sing and dance in the meadow. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
15
John plays the role of messenger, carrying messages to attendees. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
16
Rainbow Family elder Diamond Dave (center) collects donations for food with the “magic hat.” At this year’s gathering near the town of Mount Tabor, Vermont, no money is exchanged, except for that dropped into the “magic hat’’ passed at communal meals. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
17
The culmination of the yearly gathering takes place at noon on the Fourth of July as thousands gather to break their silent meditation, raising their hands to let out a collective “Om” and sending up a prayer for peace.
(Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
18
A Rainbow Family member called Summer (left) applies glitter to Zu Zen in the middle of the forest. (Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
19
People gather around a bonfire to dance and sing on the last night of the annual weeks-long gathering.

(Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff)
In this blog: Big Picture