Fuente, Regionals, and Getting The Gift.

Waterfall bliss at an event in Baja.

In 1998 I attended my first Burning Man.
For the next 5 years or so, I spent 11 months a year waiting, less-than-patiently, for the Burn.
Gradually I started to integrate Burning Man principles into my life and find pockets of Burning Man culture.

Now it feels like I am constantly preparing for (or cleaning up from) Burning Man-inspired brunches, festivals, or days at the beach.

In fact, last weekend I attended a festival deep in Baja Mexico called “Fuente Eterno.” (See video below) Now, it sells out in 5 minutes, so I am hesitant to hype it up. The odds are you will probably not be able to attend. But the point is there are LOTS of smaller events, regionals, and opportunities to gather with people who have been inspired by Radical Self Expression, Gifting, and the Burning Man Vibe.

Don’t know of one near you? Create it. Participants-only, baby.

I spoke with someone recently who said that after 3 years they, “had gotten all they could from Burning Man.” Sadly, they had failed to get the most important thing of all: It is about the GIVING not the GETTING. I return every year not to get my mind blown by the new Temple design (although that does happen each year), but because I want to enhance the experience for others. It is through Gifting to others’ lives, weeks, or moments that I receive more than I could ever “get” for myself.

Thanks to the growing number of large and small events worldwide, that process of gifting and receiving can go on year-round. There is a whole section of the Burning Man website for the Regional Network. Events large and small are growing (and being created) all over the world! Find one. Participate in one. Create one.

More and more people are seeing Burning Man – not as an event – but as a model for how to live: A model for how to interact with neighbors. A model for how to express yourself & encourage expression in others. And a model for how to Gift your talents to friends, your community, and the world.

Do you attend any large or small “Burner” gatherings? Please share your experiences in the comments!

Halcyon )'(

(Video reflection from last weekend’s Fuente Eterno in Baja Mexico.)

Babylon Cowboys

Photo: mkgraph

I’ll never forget the first time I was out by the Temple at midnight, scribbling something by the dull light of my headlamp, when the flashing red and blue lights of the default world streaked past, causing everyone around me to nearly jump out of their skin.

A gunmetal gray SUV skidded up to a scene maybe ten yards off into deep playa, where a bunch of EL-wired nightcrawlers stood stock-still. The doors opened and slammed, men in khaki uniforms stepped out brandishing bright flashlights, and they encircled those hapless hoodlums, while the red and blue lights swirled around us.

I didn’t know the reason for this disturbance; those midnight ravers may have fully deserved their run-in with the law. But I was unable to determine how I felt about the situation. Part of me felt intruded upon. Who did these Babylon cowboys think they were, zapping everybody with their lights like that?

But on the other hand, there was something profoundly hilarious about it. The action was beyond earshot, but I imagined this whole absurd scene playing out:

“Awright, son! Put yer hands on yer head! Toooo much fun! Burnin’ Man’s over fer you!” (more…)

Burning Manifestation

The Playa provides. I heard that sentence countless times before I ever made it to the desert. The meaning was explained to me as the power of manifestation. I was, of course, familiar with the concept of manifestation, which as I understood was the power to create the world around you. Sometimes it is a constant flow, other times it blossoms like a flower, beautiful if only temporary. But I can’t say I had any conscious experience with it before I reached Black Rock City.

My first trip to the Playa was an odyssey in and of itself that took 9 years to complete. My dear friend Eva, a veteran Burner who encouraged and motivated me to see it through, hinted that sometimes the combination of the elements and the energy, mixed in with all the default world programming we’re saddled with, is enough to crack you open like an egg. A few days of intense heat, complete whiteouts, self-inflicted sleep deprivation and a little dehydration thrown in for good measure, and I was feeling like Humpty Dumpty himself. I didn’t realize how much baggage I was carrying with me. We all have, or will have, baggage at some point, but I normally try to travel with no more than a carry on. I realized that Burning Man was not normal given my default conditioning. The next thought slapped me in the face even harder: perhaps it wasn’t my surroundings that were abnormal; perhaps it was my programming.


Loch Nest – Participatory Art in Madison

At the beginning of the year a group of artists in Madison Wisconsin continued the local tradition of “The annual discarded Christmas tree spiral” with a special artistic twist. Loch Nest was a participatory art installation of these trees – a mashup of Robert Simthson’s Spiral Jetty and the Art Shanty Projects in Minnesota.

Loch Nest from above photo by Craig Wilson

The artists used the frozen surface of Lake Monona as an ideal canvas for this participatory public art.  Much like the playa, the surface of the frozen lake is a poetic backdrop for temporary art. It made an overnight appearance about half a mile out in the middle of the lake and disappeared just as mysteriously with no trace a few weeks ago.

It was a spiraling display of 40 old Christmas trees. Inside of the spiral was a box full of ribbons with a note inside encouraging visitors to write “a resolution, wish, or something to let go.” The note read:

Loch Nest
Welcome and please enjoy the forest! This is a temporary art installation that will exist for approximately 1 month. The trees will then be removed using a ‘Leave No Trace’ ethic. If you would like to make a resolution, wish, or have something you would like to let go of in 2011 please write on a ribbon and attach it to the trees.

Loch Nest photo by Adam Briska

Participatory ribbons photo by Adam Briska

Loch Nest is one of many participatory art projects happening around the globe. What do you see happening in your neighborhood/community/city?

Larry Harvey Speaks at Burning Man’s Regional Culture Mixer

If you’re into Burning Man culture and its place in the global community — and you live in the Bay Area — you’ll want to attend this great event on April 1st, including a thought-provoking talk by Larry Harvey on the future of Burning Man.

Free Talk by Larry Harvey
The Convectional Caucus

A Burning Man Regional Culture Mixer
WHEN: Friday, April 1st, 6PM-9PM
WHERE: Bently Reserve, 400 Sansome Street, SF

This is a free, private event.  If you wish to attend, you must RSVP to: caucus-rsvp@burningman.com

Join us for this very special event!  This social mixer is a rare opportunity to meet the visiting 150+ Regional Contacts and community leaders from all over the world! They will be in town to participate in the 5th Annual Regional Network Leadership Summit. Designed to strengthen and spread Burning Man’s culture, the Summit is an opportunity for the visiting Regionals to learn from one another and to be inspired by the Bay Area Burning Man community.

On display will be a cross-section of our cultural fabric from around the Bay Area. Community organizations, Burning Man departments, related non-profits, and art groups will be on hand to share their missions and goals for the future. They will be displaying materials expressive of their methodology for both Regionals and you to absorb and take home, inspiring growth in world-wide Burner culture and events.

At approximately 7:30PM, Larry Harvey will speak, addressing the future of Burning Man’s culture and community in this ever-changing world.

We hope you’ll join us on the 1st to learn and share what you know. Help us take a monumental step into the future of our global culture!

This is a free and private event.

Because there are ONLY 500 spots available, PLEASE RSVP!

Please RSVP to caucus-rsvp@burningman.com

Burn-BQ at SXSWi!

For the last few years, Burning Man staffers have attended the SXSWi conference in Austin, TX to learn, connect and develop our minds around community organizing and technology, discovering what’s going on with cutting edge social and cultural tech — ever-more important as our population grows and spreads further around the world. (Our relationship with the technology world goes back years — November 1996’s WIRED magazine declared Burning Man “The New American Holiday”, after all.)

As Burning Man is effectively a social network in and of itself, we realized that we have a lot to contribute to the SXSWi conversation as well. So this year, we decided to send a somewhat larger contingent — including staff members from Communications and Technology teams as well as two Burning Man Board members– to participate in this tech-cultural institution, sharing information and ideas.

We’re excited to connect with the Austin Burner community while we’re in town, too. To that end, we’ve hooked up with our friends at Honk to help celebrate the climax of the HONK! TX festival, an energetic street-music festival featuring some of the most amazing marching bands in the country.  Following their final parade, we’ll be heading over to Pan-American Park at 2100 E. 3rd Street on Sunday, March 13 from 5-8pm to join them for some fun. There’ll be Texas BBQ (by Lick and Suck), and all the interactive eye candy you can stomach – including you, SXSW Burners (after all, there are only participants in this world).

If you’d like to join us, we will be marching with the HONK parade, and then celebrating with them in the park … and remember, YOU are the entertainment. Participate! And Leave No Trace! Show SxSWi what interactive is all about!  What is that? A costume? A bizarre piece of performance? You bring it!

We hope to see you there!



Burnal Equinox: The Halfway Point

Hey, we’re halfway Home!

That’s right, we’ve made it to the Burnal Equinox, that point during the year when we’re halfway from the last Burn, and halfway to the next one. And maybe we’re spending a little less time looking backward, and more time looking forward.


It’s an occasion that doesn’t go unnoticed, of course. Like so many things about Burning Man, it’s marked with … wait for it … a rite of passage.

So hundreds of folks showed up on a warm but wet evening Saturday at Kelly’s Mission Rock in San Francisco to show off their finery, ogle some art (and each other), and dance the night away.

There’s an art theme to each Burning Man, and this year ringmaster Larry Harvey has chosen Rites of Passage. As he put it:

“… Moving from one state of being into an unknown other can be frightening. This is not a facile transformation; it obliges us to face our innermost insecurities, and it requires faith, a willingness to leap off the ladder of ordered existence. Our theme this year invites participants to join with others in creating rites of passage.”

Think of all the passages you make in your life — from young to old, from poor to rich (and maybe back again), from novice to expert. The transitions are endless, whether we acknowledge them or not.

And Burning Man itself is in a rite of passage, from what it was and is, to what it must become. But what is that thing?

Marcia is there, as always — setting things up and checking them twice.


2009 Burning Man Evolved Our Love

Captain Amazing and Sticks rode into the magical playa that evening, the cool wind licked her face, causing her furry bear ears to wiggle and flap around incessantly. He pedaled with all his strength, carrying the black silhouette of a little bear on his LED trimmed bike, lights spun with each turn of the wheel, pulsating to the music of the night. Sticks stood on pegs that were attached to the back wheel. It felt as if she was gliding through the desert effortlessly… It felt like that every time he took her for a ride… they went everywhere together that year. This night was special. They didn’t know it then, but the memory of it would remain deep in their hearts only to burst forth at a later time unexpectedly, like a six tier rainbow that reveals itself after a freak thunderstorm in the desert.

Something glimmering in the distance caught his eyes and he said, “Let’s stop here” as he slowed down the bike to let little Sticks jump off.

Together they walked towards the larger than life art installation that stood before them. It was truly a gift of love… someone had conceptualized and realized this work of art for all who would come across it and most likely it would be burned down at the end of the week. Four letters of the alphabet stood before them, each one taller than the Captain’s towering 6’3 frame. The capital letters of “L”, “O”, “V” and “E” were clearly there but try as they did, it was impossible to view it in a way that allowed the letters to spell the all-too-familiar word. They ran around it left and right, backed up a few feet, closed one eye and then the other, even did a headstand and a backwards flip… but still, there was no “love” to be spelt. That year the theme was Evolution, so perhaps the artist intended people to E-V-O-L-V-E from trying so hard to find “love”.

Fat markers hung from the sides of the 3-D blocks of white letters which, upon closer inspection were covered with love messages. Sticks could think of nothing better than to write a short poem on the letter “E” dedicated to the two E’s in her life… It went something like this: “E is for Eric… and sometimes Edison… but mostly Eric… penis bigger-er anyway”… she then encapsulated the poem with a drawing of a large penis and a smaller one inside it, followed by an even smaller one inside that one.

“What did you write?” Sticks asked Captain Amazing. She hopped and pranced around eagerly, trying to look over his sexy broad shoulders…

“I’m not telling you” was his response… Sticks knew well enough she’d have to wait for a more opportune moment to dig it out of him.

“Ok. Just don’t forget it when you do decide to tell me.” She knew it was only a matter of time. In her heart, he’d already told her because he intended to. Time didn’t matter.

Then, out of nowhere a song began to play… it was the kind of sexy, bluesy, soul music like the Otis Redding tracks Captain would play back in the default world. The kind of music that the two lovers would listen to before drowning in each other’s eyes, lips and every part of the body for a night of deep, inspiring sex. But out here in the middle of nowhere out on the playa, which was the middle of nowhere in Black Rock City, which basically is the middle of nowhere… Captain Amazing turned to his little Sticks and asked; “Wanna dance?” he smiled knowingly because standing before him was a girl who said “Yes” to simply everything.

Sticks draped her furry arms around his shoulders, pressed her face into the concave of his chest and breathed. The couple swayed to the music a little… it was only the second time they slow danced, ever. The first time was at his office Christmas party almost a year before. They were a couple in every way except for the title.

Sometime after the burn, Sticks had a house warming party and Captain Amazing came over with his friends. They were looking through photographs from the burn, some more R-rated than others, when one friend stumbled upon the poem Sticks had written that night. Everyone had a good laugh, especially the Captain since it was his first time learning what she had written. Sticks took the opportunity to ask him what he wrote, but the stubborn bastard kept his mouth shut tight.

Christmas rolled around and Sticks found herself up in Sacramento with the Captain’s family. It brought her back to that summer’s burning man trip since they had made a pit stop at his parent’s home. She thought he’d be crazy to refuse her the secret message during the holiday season which doubled as her birthday… “Uh… I forgot what I wrote,” he proved to be crazy.
Valentine’s Day arrived and Captain Amazing took Sticks to a fancy shmancy restaurant with the most stunning view of tidal waves crashing against the sea shore, complete with real sea gulls flying above the water. It was late in the evening, but a light fixture kept the ocean perfectly visible. Sticks thought it looked like a movie set from some documentary film like Planet Earth.

After dinner and dessert came the awkward gift exchange which turned out to be only slightly weird because the Captain had watery eyes while Sticks laughed out loud out of sheer delight of the holy moment when they realized that they had both gifted each other something to remind them of the night they danced in the desert at burning man…

She had drawn stick figures of them coming across the art installation and inside the card was the poem she wrote that night along with a few more phrases on “e”verything he meant to her.

He had given her a tiny slip of paper resembling those found in fortune cookies, but instead of a fortune he’d finally confessed the sacred words he wrote in the desert, “I realized I loved you.”

“You fuckin bastard… I knew you didn’t forget it.” She smiled and all he could do was kiss her.

by Sticks