We’ll ask for your indulgence today and offer a personal story in place of the regular blog post. But we’ll write a little about love, and we’re hoping you’ll be touched by the people involved, even if you don’t know them.
The Burning Man guide book will tell you that love on the playa is a complicated thing. Burning Man is good for couples, Burning Man is bad for couples. That’s what it will tell you. It’s a hard place to be together, and it’s the best place in the world to be together.
We will tell you, though, that playa love, the kind that blossoms in the extreme atmosphere here, both sensory and emotional, where all your experiences are intensified and more vivid, we will tell you that playa love can survive, prosper and endure. It can take root, and flower. We tell you this because we have seen it over and over, and we saw it again last night.
Helen and Ben met here in the desert four years ago. We know Helen a little better than we know Ben, and we know that she moved from Baltimore to San Francisco in large part because of Burning Man. The first time she came, she came by herself, but she found a home here, and maybe she found herself, too. And she found many like-minded souls, and the experience became part of her life. These days, she coordinates the volunteer activities for the Decor crew at the Center Cafe, the folks that make it so pretty.
Ben is a builder and a thinker and a soft-spoken, hard-working kind of guy. Their courtship quickly turned to partnership, and last night, at a “chapel” built between the Man and the Temple, and surrounded by what looked like a thousand friends and admirers, they got married.
There are many playa weddings here, and they are almost routinely beautiful. But this one was otherworldly. And we say that having seen a lot of weddings, because that’s what we do.
Helen had asked us to take pictures for her, and we were honored to be asked. When we were planning things, we thought it might be fun to travel to the chapel together and take pictures along the way, but we couldn’t arrange that, so we made plans to meet up with the wedding party just after sunset near the Temple. We hitched a ride on the Narwhal, which left Media Mecca and took us and others to the wedding.
About three quarters of the way there, in the middle of the playa, in the middle of a brief whiteout, Helen appeared. We didn’t even know it was her right away, because the dust was blowing so hard. But HER art car had broken down, and she needed a way to get to her own wedding. And as so often happens here, serendipity led her to us, and now we were all riding along together.
When we got to the chapel, there were hundreds, maybe a thousand people around. Ben and Helen are those kind of people. They touch your heart; you meet them, you love them. And here was the evidence — so many people gathered at the far end of Burning Man to help them celebrate.
There were bagpipes and singing and dancing. Little Zach was the ring-bearer, and Juni was the bubble (nee flower) girl. There were heartfelt oaths, there was a joining of hands of everyone present, and honestly, we’ve never seen so many people so weepy. We know that many people cry at weddings, but we’ve never seen so many people sniffling and wiping their eyes.
Ben and Helen promised many things, she to always have his back, he to always protect her. They promised to be playa buddies, and all that implies, forever. Then there were hugs and kisses and fireworks, the deal was sealed and the celebration began.
It went long into the night. The was a champagne toast right there in the middle of the Center Cafe, which had been roped off with white sheathing for the gathering. Then it was on to the reception at the Mansonian Institute, which we really wanted to go to, but, alas, we couldn’t find. (That happens a lot here, too.)
Anyway, that’s our playa love story for today. We think it’s a good one, and we think other people think so, too. We may not always be able to say what love is, but we sure know it when we see it. And we all saw it in Helen and Ben.
There are many places you can fall in love, there are many places you can go to on a honeymoon. Some are even more beautiful than this one. But we don’t know of any other place where 50,000 people gather to encourage the best in each other, to open themselves up, to live freely and honestly and openly, and encourage others to do the same.
So cheers to Ben and Helen. And to playa love. We hope it lasts forever.