Rainbow Family Gathering

Photography by
Reto Sterchi
Poetry by
Anders Carlson-Wee
A non-organization of non-members


Welcome Home

Sign at the entrance of the gathering. Along with “loving you” you hear “welcome home” more than any other credo while strolling thru the woods among strangers. 


The annual “Rainbow Family of Living Light Gathering” took place in Vermont this year. Founded with a utopian vision of life after the apocalypse, Rainbow is an event that attracts people from all walks of life—it’s a mix of Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven”, George Miller’s “Mad Max”, and Woodstock ’69.  You don’t need money, you don’t need to bring food; everything is taken care of. Miraculously it works, for those few days at least. Photographer Reto Sterchi spent four days in the woods there, documenting people and happenings. The Rainbow Family is a community, or as they say “a non-organization of non-members”, gathering several times annually in locations spread over the world, celebrating counter culture, alternative lifestyles, non-violence, and Peace & Love & Planet Earth.





I get everything I need for free.  
These boots came from the factory 
dumpster on the far side of town. This hat 
was moldering on the kitchen floor 
in the foreclosed home I picked through. 
This coat, this backpack, this brand-
name headlamp. I got this cornmeal 
behind the grocery store, this flat bread 
behind the bakery, this french press 
in the alleyway next to the coffee shop in uptown. 
This bible in a bum camp, this banjo 
in a trashcan, this headless mannequin 
in a free-pile outside Honest Ed’s Antiques. 
The British call it skipping. 
The Brazilians call it living, call it vida. 
Vida que surgi de nada. Life out of nothing. 
I bike past the butcher’s on Pike 
and find a bag full of pigs.  
None of them whole. A few sets of hooves, 
a half torso, two heads, another head 
with no nose, a leg, a pile of coiled tails |
slowly uncoiling like white worms 
taken out of a hole. Most of it going 
musty, the muscle falling away 
from the fascia, the skin drained of color 
and feeling like withered pumpkin. 
But some of it might be good. 
A pair of milky gloves is clumped up 
and tangled among the little hairless tails.  
I dig them out. I blow to check 
for holes. I begin sorting the pigs.


No man

As a “Babylonian” from the outside, I assumed this man was part of the core group of gatherers. Much to the contrary, he said: “No man, I don’t know what the fuck is going on either.”


It is possible to show up to the gathering without anything except a bowl and a spoon. Most people do pitch their own tent.

Babylon clothes

This guy judged the photographers outfit (jeans, boots, T-shirt) as “Babylon clothes”. Babylon is everything outside the gathering.



 Nothing you’ll find more orphan than the heart. 
The dim mission of its reptile-eyed insomnia, 
its nameless drive, its bulging catalytic beat. 
The night sky wheels with the same fever, as if thrown 
from a bowler’s hand with english on it. Orion. 
Ursa Minor. You cannot constellate desire anymore 
than you can braid cord from the tongue’s sinewed utterance 
of a name, a name hallowed at night into the wind, 
the wind tethered to the earth like flame to black spruce, 
quartered and four years dried. Beargrass. Monk’s Hood Lichen. 
Methuselah’s Beard. Old Man on the Mountain. 
You take your bearings by a belt of pulsing stars. 
You turn to reckon with the one that doesn’t move.
Polaris. Dog’s Tail. Leiðarstjarna. Nail. Mismar


Rainbow couple

I met people who hitchhiked and train-hopped their way  across the country in order to participate in Rainbow. 




Heaven Hell and Heartbreak

Heaven, Hell, and heartbreak. A Rainbow non-member’s tattoos




Born and raised in Signau, Switzerland, Reto Sterchi is a portrait and documentary photographer currently based in New York City. 


Anders Carlson-Wee is a 2015 NEA Creative Writing Fellowand the author of Dynamite, winner of the 2015 Frost Place Chapbook PrizeHis work has appeared in Ploughshares, New England Review, AGNIPoetry DailyThe Iowa ReviewThe Southern ReviewBest New PoetsThe Best American Nonrequired Readingand Narrative Magazine, which featured him otheir “30 Below 30 list of young writers to watch.Winner of Ninth Letter’s Poetry Award and New Delta Review’s Editors’ Choice Prizehe was runner-up for the 2016 Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Prize. Hlives in Minneapolis, where he’currently a 2016 McKnight Foundation Creative Writing Fellow.