One Month Later


by Bernard

I promised myself I would do this. I promised myself that, one month later, I would sit down and put my thoughts down on paper. But I can tell already this is going to be harder than I thought, there’s so much to try to explain, so much to try to hold.

And here’s the irony in that struggle: what I could really use right now is a letter from myself, dated the last week of August 2003.

I had many plans for the Burning Man this year, one of which was “The Letter Home Project.” The idea was simple. Playa people would sit down and write themselves a letter, they’d address it and leave it with me. I’d bring the letters back with me and, a few months later, I’d drop them in the mail. Imagine. A letter from yourself a few months off the playa. What would it say? What would that playa person say to you? What would they ask you to do? Would you listen? Would you do it? Would you be inspired? Are you the person in that letter?

I know what one of those letters would have said. My cousin would have scratched down pages of proof.

“Evidence!” a friend said. “Yes! Proof,” he agreed.

Right there in front of you. Burning Man is all the proof you need. All the evidence you need gathered up and dropped in your lap. Proof that people want to treat each other well, and evidence that we all know how. Proof that happiness is a state of mind. Evidence that creativity is contagious. Proof-positive that, yes, it can be done. And further evidence that you are not crazy.

And, in all of this evidence, in all of this proof, is a hint of something far more vast, of something almost too large to consider… of something well beyond belief… a hint that, if the power of Burning Man could be directed, it could solve the world’s problems faster than they could be collected.

But I didn’t do “The Letter Home Project” this year. I brought the paper, the pens and the envelopes, but I didn’t do it. I don’t know if I decided against it because I felt it was bigger or smaller than my other projects, but I decided against it for 2003. Next year, right?

So, in the meantime, I’m on my own… listening for that voice from the playa.

Thankfully, I think my letter home would have been simple. It would have said, “Life is amazing, dreams are possible, people are beautiful. Let down your guard; leave it down. Stay happy. And don’t apologize for feeling this way.”

I think that’s my letter. I think that’s the letter that would have arrived postmarked Black Rock City (with, perhaps, a few other personal notes in the margins).

And a smile crosses my face as I write this. Because I still believe it.

One month later.

The Bell Tree


by Celia Chung

Early morning was her favorite time for exploring the outer playa. There were still traces of desert night cool. The light was ideal for photography, the winds light. Discoveries on the playa were usually a luxury to have to herself and not have to share with others. Most folks were still asleep. The few others she did see at this hour often carried cameras too.

Aimlessly cruising on her bike, she caught an intriguing sight, a tree laden with bells. A young man had just settled into a chair under the bell tree. He must have arrived only moments before. His red basketball jersey was emblazoned “No. 30 Wallace.” She hesitated, not wanting to disturb his solitude. After all she knew if she been there first, she would have resented his arrival.

But mentally shrugging her shoulders, the playa and its art was open to all. She approached the tree to examine it more closely. The trunk and branches had been joined together, held by screws. The bells were handspun ceramic, like upturned Japanese tea tumblers, with little unglazed nubs for chime. No two were alike. “Shake boughs gently to ring the bells,” invoked the handwritten sign. The set-up was so sturdy that human intervention was needed for the tree to sound, unless there were strong winds. Sensible engineering on the artist’s part. On this playa, tents had to be staked with rebar, lest they blow away in the 50 mph gusts that passed through.

There was one other chair, set at 120 degrees next to Wallace. Silently seating herself, she drank in the emptiness of the immediate playa, the stillness of the mountains beyond, and the swath of turquoise sky above. Yet it was harder to tune out the presence of her noiseless companion than the artillery beat of the techno clubs defying daylight on the suburban fringes of BRC.

A motorcycle roared in approach. An older man with a scruffy beard encased in a black and fluorescent-green leather suit dismounted like an animated beetle. “I am official Burning Man photographer. I come from Italy. Please, stay as you are. I do not exist.” His shutter snapped in staccato.

As the beetle man packed his camera away, Wallace called out, “Hey what’s your name?”

“Mauricio.”

“Mauricio, I have something for you.”

“Ah grazie.”

(It is a common and encouraged custom to give little gifts to people you meet at Burning Man. People come prepared with little tchotchkes to hand out: stickers, temporary body tattoos, earrings, postcards.)

As Mauricio tucked away his gift, Wallace unpacked a trumpet, and began to blow.

Mauricio stopped, and took out his camera once again, snapping the trumpet in action and the bell tree. Finally, he packed the camera away for the last time and sped off until he became a silent speck of playa dust.

“I only played because he was here,” he said, in intimate conspiracy.

She smiled. Ivory teeth gleamed at irony.

“Is it alright if I continue?”

“By all means.” The notes were organic, breathed alive, unlike the synthesized sonics emanating from the techno clubs.

She had not stirred since she sat down, still poised, seemingly meditative and relaxed behind her sunglasses. But it was impossible to disengage her attention from the trumpet. She listened for snatches of melody to be picked out from the random cacophony. A toddler could more easily be distracted from a tricycle under a Christmas tree.

He paused. “Let me know if you want me to stop. It sounds jarring, I know.”

“Is it because your instrument is playafied?” she couldn’t resist wondering. Nothing could stay free of the alkaline dust at Burning Man.

“No, no, I’m just warming up. My lips are bit stiff.”

Musicians in evening dress black, instruments of brass and varnished wood, under bright lights. Pre-performance notes swirling in frenzy on stage at the San Francisco Symphony. So this is what it sounds like if a trumpet is extracted out of that.

Then she heard herself ask . . . “Would it help if I kissed you?”

“Yes,” he exhaled, stunned. “It would,” more firmly immediately, before she could change her mind.

He put down his trumpet and they shifted in their chairs inwards towards each other. He was also wearing sunglasses so she couldn’t see his eyes either. His jaw was covered with stubble, probably hadn’t shaved since arriving on the playa, but her alarm was too late.

Only their lips met, mutually soft, sweet and gentle. He had gallantly avoided brushing his bristles against her face.

Oh dear, I hadn’t brushed my teeth this morning. I hope I don’t have morning breath.

The trumpet resumed warm-up mode, for quite a while.

Oh dear, I hope I haven’t given him performance anxiety instead.

Deus ex machina in the guise of a very genial cowboy. “My girlfriend made this. Last year she said ‘I’ve got to make a tree with bells for Burning Man,’ and took up pottery again. She made all these bells herself. Where are you from?”

“I’m from Mountain View,” she said.

“Bend, Oregon,” said Wallace.

The cowboy scribbled into the guest registry for the Bell Tree.

She lifted a bell to examine the glaze. Inside it was inscribed ‘Sara 03′. “So your girlfriend is named Sara.”

“It doesn’t ring easily. Maybe the bells are too heavy. Maybe next time she needs to add little sail below the nubs to catch the wind.”

“Perhaps she made them to withstand the winds on the playa.”

The conversation had shifted the dynamic, releasing her to her bike. She retrieved two gifts for her companions. “Here. I’m sorry, this is not for you, but for your girlfriend, for having created something so wonderful. Scout’s honor you’ll pass it on to her?” she said to the cowboy.

“Of course.”

“This one is for you,” extending her gift to Wallace.

“It’s beautiful.” He reciprocated with a miniature portrait of Shiva, overlaid with the burning man logo, framed in a bottle cap. “One more kiss?”

A smile bloomed over her face. Their torsos bridged over the rear of her bike, a tender kiss of conclusion.

Then she took out her camera to capture: a cowboy, the Bell Tree and Wallace who played trumpet.

DPW’s Nite Out

Okay so I slipped up, after not having any camera tragedies on the playa, I left my camera in the Miner’s Club in Gerlach (hmmmm I wonder why). Thankfully, my fellow DPW peeps, found my camera and gave it back to me in once piece. Oh I forgot to mention, they took the liberty of documenting their night out at Bev’s Miners Club.

Photos By: Unknown inspired DPW photographers

Bev, owner of Miners Club has a drink with Dove aka Mad Bunny our Receving Manager
Bev, owner of Miners Club has a drink with Dove aka Mad Bunny our Receving Manager
Miss Ada looks like she has something on her mind
Miss Ada looks like she has something on her mind

(more…)

DPW’s Nite Out

Okay so I slipped up, after not having any camera tragedies on the playa, I left my camera in the Miner’s Club in Gerlach (hmmmm I wonder why). Thankfully, my fellow DPW peeps, found my camera and gave it back to me in once piece. Oh I forgot to mention, they took the liberty of documenting their night out at Bev’s Miners Club.

(Photos By: Unknown inspired DPW photographers)

Bev owner of Miners Club has a drink with Dove aka Mad Bunny our Receiving Manager.
Bev owner of Miners Club has a drink with Dove aka Mad Bunny our Receiving Manager.
Miss Ada looks like she has something on her mind.
Miss Ada looks like she has something on her mind.
Look into my eyez, you will see.... nothing but red drunk eyez.
Look into my eyez, you will see…. nothing but red drunk eyez.
Lizzie looks pretty sweet with her hair flowing, but BEWARE don't be fooled, I've heard that some people call her Evil Lizzie.... no one could ever be that sweet!!!!
Lizzie looks pretty sweet with her hair flowing, but BEWARE don’t be fooled, I’ve heard that some people call her Evil Lizzie…. no one could ever be that sweet!!!!
Last call already???
Last call already???
Okay time to head, pile in guyz.
Okay time to head, pile in guyz.

Magnesium


by Corrie Harding

I look over my shoulder and see him there. I smile. “Hey baby.”

He smiles too. “Come on baby.”

My fingers grip the handlebars. I step onto the front tire. I push my body up and lean back against Brandon’s chest. Brandon has been doubling me on his bike for three days. My ass is sore from the bumps we’ve gone over. I have scrapes and bruises from falling off. My throat is raw from screaming with excitement as we dodge other travelers. But I don’t want to stop riding on these handlebars. I don’t want to surrender this feeling to the earth below.

“Let’s go baby.”

He starts to pedal. We head towards the playa. We have seen night fall over the Black Rock Desert for the last time this year. We have to leave this place tomorrow. We came to Burning Man separately. We didn’t know what we would find. He offered me a drink on Thursday night. We held each other in the temple. We burned the man together. I want to burn the paths that lead us to one another. I want to explore with Brandon forever.

We speed past the huge triangle of lights that mark Comfort camp. Comfort camp is the tallest structure in Black Rock City. It is how we find the way to our tent when it is dark and we are drunk. The air is cold tonight. I feel Brandon’s breath on my neck. I feel warm beside him. I see Kaleidosphere on our left. Last night we danced there to the beat of Robert’s music. On the other side of center camp I recognize the bright archway belonging to the Space Cowboys. I think about being alone together under that archway. We were lying on our backs on the trampoline there. He saw all the shooting stars that night.

In the distance a blaze of fire divides the sky. Brandon steers the bike towards the flame. The wind stretches across my face as we move into the open playa. We cut through the dark night. I close my eyes. I smile. We start to slow down. We come to a community burn platform. I jump off and he drops the bike at his feet. We join the circle around the fire. Brandon sits on the ground. He reaches for my hand. I sit down between his knees. I lean into him. I put my head on his shoulder. He closes his arms around me. He kisses my cheek. We watch the fire. It is the playa art that is burning. I know that there are words and shapes and colours being eaten alive by these flames. They are beautiful orange killing flames.

“Hey, do you see that?”

I look in the direction that Brandon is pointing. In the bottom corner of the burn platform there is a small white glow of fire. He stands up. He walks closer to it. I follow him.

“What is it?” I ask.

He stares at it for a moment.

“I think it’s magnesium,” he says.

We stand beside the unexpected white flame. We hold hands. We watch it burn.

Home


by Six Codig

As I drove into the Playa a dust storm enveloped my vehicle, shrouding me from all surroundings, nothing but a white dust cocoon of smoke and energy manifest. The greeter, a man dressed in the respectable kung fu gui, accepted my gift of two cigarettes, we hugged, cheered, unfolded a map and swapped huge brotherly smiles… It had been a long time, but I was home again, this time in a new place far from the cracking surf which I call church.

Home is a state of mind I first found in the redwood forests of Humboldt County, a timelessness of being surrounded and welcomed by the ancients, the smiles of friendly strangers, an unconditional sense of belonging. I drove further into my mad max fantasy while as my sparkling eyes were met by others erecting fresh camps, and the greetings of ‘welcome home’ became a mantra in my mind and a large warmth expanded through my chest and my body became alive, finger to toe.

I arrived at the playa with a soul brother, one who knows and respects me like no other. We beamed and yelled and broke into song about every twenty minutes of every day. To be free is hard to describe. I would be pressed to say it is an awareness of the limitless potential which lies within, a knowledge of the deep-seated creativity which lies ready to burst forward round every bend and turn and the capacity to anticipate and harness opportunity when it reveals itself. I am lucky in many ways, though I have heard it said by a surf master “That there is no such thing as luck, only good preparation.” I still feel lucky and unprepared, I suppose that is the nature of embracing chaos. I am able to live and breathe cleanly only through optimism, motivation, creativity, flexibility, reverence, and respect. Honesty is a temperamental glue and fiction is steadfast yet slippery like a watermelon seed.

Home. A place where I am free to be me. A place where I can step across absurd societal norms, expectations and mandates with no fear of intervening self-appointed third person authorities. A place where I can be expression, not a pilot of expression, but to actually be expressive in any way possible – minus destructive tendencies which amazingly tend to vanish altogether from my psyche when freedom is reality.

I wish to give my deepest appreciation to each and every person who was both guest and host in our most interactive shared home of the Playa this year. I love you all for being who you were during that week. I have been flying ever since I left BRC with dust-filled tears, I constantly am reminded of the beauty and potential I witnessed as a member of a most amazing little temporary autonomous zone.

Magic never dies and love is only as far away as you push it. One big collective hug.

Outsider’s Journal


by Sonnivhek

Next Door to Forever

It is the greatest spectacle I’ve never seen.
The grandest celebration I never attended.
The most ecstatic, uplifting, mind-altering, ego-shattering,
Soul-connecting experience I’ve never participated in, ever.
It is Burning Man.
In another year or so, I will find my way back in the desert to a place I’ve never been.
And I will greet the people I have always known, and never met.
I will find ways to give back to each of you who have given so very much to me, a perfect stranger; family.
I think it must call to us, the way the ocean calls to some, or the mountains.
I think it is a beacon of sorts; broadcasting on the silent, iconoclastic, superconductive wavelength of the heart.
An outsider, I will find next year that place of recognition and remembrance, where even the intolerable are tolerated, the excluded come to shelter others, and the dying breathe life into the living.
Here, the profane is mixed in equal portions with the glorious and the sublime; the ridiculous and the reverent.
Here, we come to be human.
We will bring with us our hopes and our fears, our dreams and longings; desires and insecurities, creativity and frustration; our heartache, sorrow, and our joy. And in return we will accept what the Playa offers us, with gratitude, if not always understanding.
Who can describe the sound of a tear on a child’s cheek?
What is it to wake up, knowing you are truly alive?
It will be enough.
It always is.
For a single week, we will once more embrace what it is like to live next door to forever.
As strangers, we will find our way home.
With open arms, we will welcome us in.

Ring of Light


by Daley Dunham

3:00 a.m., at Boombox, under the open desert sky on the Esplanade, Black Rock City

I sat for a moment on a block of wood situated near the rear of the crowded dance floor, still involuntarily moving my body to the kinetic beat that was reverberating throughout the open desert. Then she walked past me, moving quickly in front of a wall of light and becoming an anonymous silhouette. I never saw her face.

Amid the shadows and light, I could see that she wore her hair in small braids, held in long ponytails on either side of the back of her head, as many dancers in the underground subculture of Burning Man did. The artifacts of light she had chosen for the evening were a thin glowing band on each ankle, as well as a blinking red heart in the middle of her chest. She also carried with her a hula-hoop, with glow-sticks affixed at four points, equally spaced.

Her lithe figure moved slowly across the dance floor refusing to acknowledge the energetic music coursing through all of us. She mechanically chose a spot and stepped into her hoop – and was transformed. She became a part of the music, and the music became a part of her.

Her body moved with impossible grace and skill, effortlessly moving the glowing hoop the full length of her body, above her head, even into the air. I could not escape the feeling that I was watching something beyond the reach of human expression. It was like watching a brilliantly colored hummingbird, dancing furiously and gracefully around a flower – only with innocence and natural beauty replaced by rebellion, freedom, and sexuality. Her wings were the ring of light racing around her silhouetted body.

And she soared.

It was, in that moment, the most human, most beautiful thing I had ever witnessed.

***

When she eventually left the dance floor, I couldn’t help but tell that what she had just done was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

“It’s not me,” she said as she walked away. “It’s God.”