Tom Thumb of Road Junky provided a review copy of Somewhere Under the Rainbow for the purpose of this book review.
Tom Thumb has been writing and telling stories since he was six years old. In his latest story, Somewhere Under the Rainbow, he delves into an organic sense of “happiness” through his personal experiences of attending Rainbow Gatherings. Somewhere Under the Rainbow is Tom’s travelogue about the little-known world of these gatherings where intrepid travellers, some who want to escape “Babylon”, gather in the outdoors at destinations around the world. But, these gatherings aren’t just for the nomads. Rainbow Gatherings attract gatherers from all walks of life who live together for an intense and undefined space of time.
Obviously, realising happiness can involve wandering a path of sadness, or even frustration. During his experiences, Tom laments his frustrations over obvious issues that can emerge at a Rainbow. A “master-level” of trust is required at any Rainbow and there’s the constant need to “trust” the Rainbow and individuals within, for example when gatherers insist on nudity or eating more than their fair share. Plus, there’s the regular occurrence of a socio-political tug-of-war between some Rainbow gatherers who try to instil hierarchy; one of the most colourful of Tom’s encounters involved an “alpha male hippie King Arthur reincarnation”.
Stress exists when basic needs fail to be met. Food preparation, funds to buy necessities, available shelter and warmth ultimately depend on those who attend and their contributions to the Rainbow. Just when the reader feels that a Rainbow offers an idealistic, harmonious alternative against a backdrop of rolling hills and sunshine, conditions can changes as disastrously as the weather. The reader then discovers that gatherers can encounter stress like insatiable hunger, to the point where Tom is “one meal away from collapse”. While a Rainbow has the ability to bend its arch when “disaster” strikes, Tom finds some gatherers struggling to show respect for fellow “brothers and sisters” and themselves. Tom admits that it’s “not always a bad thing to suffer a bit” despite his suggestions that gatherers, at one point, are “looking like refugees” or living through a mosquito “war”…“You don’t know what we went through”.
Ultimately, a good Rainbow is as good as its people; the regulars and newcomers alike can experience their own challenges when they’re brought together, which can affect the entire group. At times, “free-spirited anarchy” ensues, particularly when unexpected idiosyncrasies or language barriers among gatherers emerge. Ideals can clash and the potential for anarchy can dampen the spirits of an entire Rainbow. Having said that, welcomed ideas and knowledge spread throughout the group and gatherers do feel they belong somewhere.
Tom experiences surreal feelings of optimism and hope at Rainbows and he notes that “Babylon” does not feel normal; a polarising realisation that is regularly experienced by frequent travellers. Tom stresses that a Rainbow isn’t for everyone and weather isn’t always the only off-putting downside. Social protocols can be challenged and a Rainbow doesn’t always remove the awkwardness gatherers might face when expressing their views in “Babylon”. Despite parallels in beliefs, Tom discovers that Rainbows can be a family affair. Tom has always felt the most welcome at a Rainbow and the compassion he finds along the way is sometimes the best medicine. “You could fill a book about bizarre beliefs” though there is tolerance to be found at a Rainbow when vulnerability exists.
Tom admits there might be “something to this whole hippie dream” and Somewhere Under the Rainbow asks if it’s possible to just wander any more; whether there’s a “spirit alive inside” still. These are questions that many Rainbow gatherers face, as well as travellers in general.
Like any journey, there will always be new beliefs to be heard, new situations to experience and unique stories to tell – just like those found in Tom’s book. His persuasive writing style, objective reflections and candid stories give his readers an in-depth account of the Rainbow experience for those who are already gatherers or those who want to join in. Somewhere Under the Rainbow is also, more importantly, a realistic account of human nature as well as its intrinsic need to explore.
Somewhere Under the Rainbow is available in print and Kindle versions through Amazon.