A finale full of Grace

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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.

David Best watches the burn ...
David Best watched the burn …
... and then threw his arms up as the structure fell with a twist
… and then threw his arms up as the structure fell with a twist

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.

The participants moved in
The participants moved in

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:

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The flames just began to light up the inside of the structure
The flames just began to light up the inside of the structure
The art cars were present
The art cars were present
Karen Cusolito helped with fabrication and then on the playa with construction.
Karen Cusolito helped with fabrication and then on the playa with construction.
David Shearer had been at the site since the earliest days
David Shearer had been at the site since the earliest days
Little Wing was a tremendous crew member from the first days on the playa
Little Wing was a tremendous crew member from the first days on the playa
Sage was thick in the air
Sage was thick in the air
The burn left many people feeling renewed and strengthened
The burn left many people feeling renewed and strengthened

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People circled the fire when the flames died down

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Zac watched silently
Zac watched silently

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About the author: John Curley

John Curley has been Burning since the relatively late date of 2004, and in 2008 he spent the better part of a month on the playa, documenting the building and burning of Black Rock City in words and pictures. John is a longtime newspaper person and spent many years at the San Francisco Chronicle, where he was a deputy managing editor in charge of Page One and the news sections of the paper. Since leaving the Chronicle in 2007, he was a contributing editor on Blue Planet Run, a book about the world's water crisis, and for the past two years has been a lecturer at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. He has also started an event and editorial photography business, and is also working on a book about the "Ten Dollar Doc" from Arco, Idaho, which will make a lovely film someday.

10 thoughts on “A finale full of Grace

  • The Temple of Grace burn was simply beautiful.

    The fire within it shown like a that of an intricate and delicate lamp with patterns of fire and light that seem to change with the whims of the souls remembered within.

    When the temple spiral danced in on itself, a power and grace rushed over the crowd as the fire reached the sky.

    I am pretty sure there wasn’t many dry eyes then, for even for those who had no loved ones mourned within were touched by the power, beauty and grace of that night. I know I was.

    Many thanks to David Best, the Temple Crew and the Temple Guardians and the attending burners who granted this year’s temple its ascending soul.

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  • Prefect discription of the night. Just want to add how amazing how amazingly consistent the temple burned – it just burned so smoothly and bueatifully. And all the burners that stayed (many left during the day Sunday) were just awesome and dressed amazingly

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  • Correcton:
    “– 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.” Six words into the song the crowd around her told her to shut the fuck up and demanded that her giant VW Bus art car turn off it’s lights. These requests were heeded and then there was only silence and the sound of the fire.”

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  • I had never heard thousands of people say “Ohhhhh…” simultaneously before, but I did as the Temple spiraled down. It was beautiful. Thanks to David Best for the talk in Media Mecca on the Temple too.

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  • In the fall of the Temple of Grace, David Best revealed his genius not only in static beauty, but also in the temple’s dynamic, graceful pirouette. Immense kudos and thanks for this unique fall; it took my breath away and evoked many tears of joy and gratitude.

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  • Thank you David and crew for the beautiful temple, the Burners who blessed it and the grace in which it burned. One note about the burn. In my video the crowd applauds Marisa for signing Freebird but asks her to stop the next song (not shut the ef up) and for the art car to turn off its lights. Once done, in true Burner fashion, you can hear the crowd say “Thank you”

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  • The Temple burn was perfect, like something out of a movie. Perfect. I remember thinking, “Well, people are going to hear about this and go ‘Oh, that’s just nostalgia talking.'” Nope, and apparently it wasn’t just me having that experience.

    THOUSANDS of people there, and I could hear the wind being sucked through the structure as the fire drew it in; you could hear the lick of flame, the crackle of burning wood. You could see the fire reflected in eyes of people huddled together but lost in their own communion. The Temple is where we remember that even though we don’t always get along, indeed, we are all a family. What a magnificent conclusion to the burn. Thank you so much to everybody who caused that to happen!

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