by Jen Livingston
I’ve been baptized by the playa. From dust we came and to dust we shall return, but I feel blessed not to need to wait for death to experience the full saturation, this cleansing transformation. Every pore of my skin is chalk white. My lungs, my hair, chalk white, At this moment, my appearance is the truest projection it has ever been of my Self. And I feel beautiful.
I asked Black Rock City to help me let go of some things. It understood me literally and took away my goggles and face scarf. So I had to embrace the white outs with a soon sensual surrender. When all I see is blankness enfolding me, I am one with it. There’s nothing else in that surreal world which comes and goes with the wind. I am humbled to be the dust. When a figure emerges from the whiteness – bedecked in the full regalia of their own self expression, we are alone in this world. We are mirrors. I am him, she is me, we are the dust of the Earth. And just as gracefully as it emerged, the figure fades away again into the haze.
Never have I been so seen, so felt, so respected and so uncomfortable. Black rock city might be mapped a mile south of the fringes of my personal boundaries. Free of my comfort zone, I can play myself without inhibition. I came alone and I leave alone, though the journey was shared with the deep sweet hearts of burners as enrapt with the surreality as I.
The flat cradle of the playa, like a vessel in the black rock mountains, holds the extremes of our thoughts and emotions – those we must leave there in order to carry on with life afterward. What unfathomable depth and strength in that Earth.
On day 1 I believe it could (and should) last forever. By day 7 it’s far too full, nearly overflowing with the byproducts and leftovers of 60,000 people’s mental/emotional/spiritual catharsis. The catalyst is too strong to be sustainable and we can’t swim around in the energetic moop any longer. We leave. No trace. Vast. Empty. Desert.
Perhaps the wind carries it all away. Perhaps the ground soaks it down deep. But invariably by the next year, the black rocky arms are fertile again, empty, and ready to hug and accept whatever the fuck we bring for her this time around.
The sun has been our witness, our jury, our judge, our murderer and our white dove. How, then, can I recognize it as the same sun that shines over me at home? There it merely floats, out of mind, above the ceilings that shelter me. It’s all but forgotten as I navigate my way through the gruelingly elaborate labyrinth of Babylon.
I wonder, when I wear a polo, does the sun recognize me, too? In my Honda, am I still the nude Goddess who danced on a flaming dragon? Are the sun and I companion strangers who only meet when there are no shields between us, as on the playa?
It’s Temple Sunday. The pieces of art that changed my life are being dismantled. They lay in scattered pieces on the sand – mere memories of themselves, as disjointed as my recollections are sure to be when I look back on them. Will it seem like a dream, like something that would bear rich metaphor if I search for meaning in symbols I didn’t understand? Were his eyes really that shade of blue? Exactly how deeply did they penetrate my being? Will I think of them again? Will my burners think of me?
Or will I soon write it off as that sleepless night I sat under a heat lamp transfixed on a Salvador Dali painting.
As high as I’ve been lifted this week, I’m so much more grounded now. As far from default reality as I have travelled, I’ve become more realistic in my expectations of the world. I’ve aged a year in a week, just in time for my birthday right after exodus. I’ve been anywhere from 7 to 70 years old in 7 days and I’ll be happy to settle at 22 on Tuesday… at least until the next burn.
Life is nothing if not rich with contradiction, and the playa is the playing field upon which polarities party together rejoicing in their own impossibility.
360 days hence, in another lifetime, I’ll see you once again. Bring your libations of blood, sweat, cum and tears to pour at the feet of the man in a year many thought would never come. Save every syllable of sadness and surrender them in a smear of ink on a temple trellis. Transmute all the gratitude that our hearts only wish they were big enough to contain into gifts for our once and future family.
To the Burn and the Burners of 2012… thank you for stripping me of the layers of my self to reveal my Self.