There were so many things to like about the Temple of Grace burn last night, it’s hard to pick a favorite moment, so we won’t even try. We’ll just tick off a list of things that were just about perfect:
— The weather was calm, warm and dust-free. The sky deepened from pink to purple to blue to black, and by the time night had fallen, the fire from the Temple threw a warm orange glow on everyone’s face.
— The crowd was unusually respectful. There were many art cars lining a perimeter circle, but, as in years past, their sound systems were turned off for the burn. There were few, if any, raucous outbursts that would have changed the mood.
— Marisa Lenhardt Patton sang “Freebird” as the fire was lit, a fitting nod to the DPW’s fallen brother, and an echo of what happened two years ago, when a blaring version of that song offended many in the crowd. This time, it was only a single, beautiful voice. That song was followed by the Doors” “The End.” And then there was only silence and the sound of the fire.
— David Best his own self actually asked a Ranger to lower her voice as she was telling the crowd what to do and where to sit.
— Similarly, David made sure that all of the people who were privileged enough to be in the inner fire circle were sitting on the ground so that the crowd that had gathered behind them would have a good view, too.
— When fire engulfed the structure, it collapsed in the most graceful way possible, a half-twisting pirouette of flame and wood and embers. The Temple of Grace, indeed.
The fire lasted just about as long as seemed appropriate, and when the fire perimeter was dropped, the crowed moved slowly forward toward the flames. Best left the people he had been sitting with and called out, “Maggie! Where’s Maggie?” and went off to be with his wife.
The smell of sage and copal became thick in the air, and people pulled picnic blankets and food and drink toward the smaller piles of embers. They joined together to share what they had brought.
Fire dancers and other performers moved amid the smaller flames, making the most of the setting and the appreciative participants.
We wandered back beyond the art cars, and we heard Dylan Blackthorne and others playing acoustic music on the back of a DPW truck, which was also just about perfect. We gave them what was left of the handle of Dewars, and we accepted a cold beer from Bruka and others who had ridden the Volare to the burn.
Coyote was there, and he said he had had numerous conversations with Grover Norquist, and that Norquist seemed like a good guy. Norquist had stopped by Coyote’s camp numerous times, and they traded stories. This was one of many reports that seemed to indicate that Norquist had indeed experienced Burning Man and the people who make it happen, and that he had not just stayed inside the cocoon that First Camp can offer. We were told that he was impressed by the creativity of the people here, and the enormous amount of work that it takes to stage the event. We hope that the experience has been an enriching experience for him.
Today we are breaking down our camp, and in fact are shirking our communal duties by writing this update. So in hopes of avoiding more dirty looks later, we’ll say goodbye for now, and thanks for following along, and thanks for your many words of encouragement, and we look forward in the coming weeks and months to emptying our notebook, tape-recorder and picture files to bring you more stories of Burning Man 2014.
Thanks again to the whole Burning Man organization for the access they granted me over the past month, to Megan Miller and Marian Goodell, to each and every member of the Department of Public Works, and to David Best, Matt Schultz, Peter Hudson and Andrew Johnstone, among many others, for their generous gift of time.
A few more pictures from the Temple burn: