Before The Rising Sun: Gratitude Migration Summer Dream 2016

There is nothing like the ocean, Put yourself on the beach with the sun rising, the warmth of fire burning behind you and the music surrounding you. Gratitude’s Summer Dream 2016, this past weekend’s transformational event, provided migrators that exact experience.


Friday night upon arriving to Hello Beach in Keansburg, NJ, I was struck with awe. I shook off my Birkenstocks and proceeded to traverse the Playa, feeling the sand shift between my toes. Subtle music and laughter filled the ocean air as I let the moonlight guide my way towards my crew’s campsite. Activity was all around me, theme camps putting their final touches on stages, artists working on extravagant installations, body paint was in full effect. Once I found my family, my mind began to sink into this pre-psychedelic state, preparing me for the night ahead. We sat with each other, burned sage and conversed. Neighboring tents were set up and although the beach was filling in around us, we felt comfortable and whole in the mess of bodies. After stretching, drinking, eating and overall connecting with each other, we broke free of shelter to join others in the experience. Donning painted hats, dancing along the warm shore line, my body lit with electricity as the heat from the Pex Fire stage drew us in.


My eyes widened as I approached the circle of people surrounding a fire; a single performer in the middle captivated the audience. The stage is ablaze and everyone is catching the rhythm pumping through the speakers. I am trying to focus but keep shifting from one thing to the next. Dancing, I notice a smile from a woman to my left and immediately grin ear to ear. The essence is gratitude, happiness and love; I can feel it from the stage and from the bodies around me. We make our way through the theme camps stopping at each individually to dance. TheFam camp is hosting ebb + flow; we pause to revel in the costumes and rhythm. I see friends connecting, holding hands and expressing positivity towards each other as they circle under the night sky. A sense of welcoming is very prevalent no matter which camp I stopped at, greeted with a handshake or a hug almost immediately upon entering a dance circle. This is the type of place you want to be at, Summer Dream feels like home and the people my family. The ocean air is cooling the beach but still in need of a beverage to quench my thirst I get my first experience of the Mandala Biergarten. Good service, a fresh cocktail and some wild dance performances paired perfectly with the spoken word / hip hop show I stumbled upon. I made sure to re visit the Beirgarten multiple times to refuel and scope the music both nights. I followed an illuminated dragon (being held by many bobbing heads) through the art installations, the hive, the orb, the blacklight temple and the antennae. The Dragon circled us at the Gratitude Earth Stage, where projections from Rhizome NYC were mapped onto the structure. Sound encompassed the beach as friends and I rocked back and forth to deep electronic music partnered with sweet soothing violin. I observed the Flambuex fire ritual along the shore line in awe, feeling otherworldly in the presence of such great heat. As nights wore on, my body began to feel weightless. I was becoming care free and peaceful. The weekend at Hello Beach with Gratitude Migration provided me with an experience beyond imagination. The friendship, movement, love, ecstasy, patience and pleasure all melted together like the paint on my palates. I sat on the beach during sunset with my brother Eric and soaked in the moment saying “what a time to be alive;” these words to me, I thought, have never been truer.