First of all, walk/bike onto the open playa in the dark and rising wind to retrieve your art car.
Next, stop halfway out and just stand there (with the wind still rising) taking pictures of the Man like an idiot tourist because he looks cool in the dust storm…
… pausing only to close your mouth because there seems to be a lot of dust in it …
Continue past the Man — trudging on foot now because the air’s too thick to see through — and wonder at how Burners’ lights seem to suddenly pop up out of the dust just in time to avoid running into you. Notice that everyone else seems to be headed into camp in the opposite direction.
This is barely a story; it’s way too short and without a plot. But I swear to all the Playa Gods, this is exactly how it happened.
We were tearing down the French Quarter, moving tons of stuff, large beams by the hundreds and heavy cast iron railings. I felt like I had just exhausted my very last bit of energy and would collapse right away if I didn’t immediately get some replenishment.
Crossing paths with a campmate, I shouted “I need bacon NOW!” And just as I say the last word, “NOW”, another campmate, Jen, shows up, turning around the corner about 15 feet away. She comes straight towards us with a large aluminum tray in her arms full of freshly made bacon, shouting “Bacon anyone? Bacon? Bacon?”
I am not here to apologize or pardon myself. Instead I’m here to let you know what has bothered a lot of people for over two years: why I played “Free Bird” at the burning of the Temple of Juno.
In his wonderfully written essay, “Building the Temple”, John “Moze” Mosbaugh explains just how seriously Burning Man takes the Temple. Moze states that there is a “sacredness, solemnity, a sense of remembrance, grief and renewal.” This is an essential juxtaposition to the high intensity of the rest of Black Rock City, providing an “emotional nexus” as Temple creator David Best called it.
When I first stepped foot into the Temple of Flux in 2010, I was floored by the energy washing over me. Never, even at a funeral, had I ever felt that magnitude of emotion. The power of the space is very real. Many Burners have arrived at the thought that the Temple should always be a quiet space for remembrance, celebration and contemplation of life and death. I’m totally supportive of that idea. But I want to explain that it wasn’t just a “Play some Skynyrd!” moment that propelled me to blast “Free Bird” during the 2012 Temple burn.
On our first night, we birthed eight people. Maybe twenty. It’s hard to know. When beings are flying over you, under the night sky, supported only by your fingerprints and palms, numbers seem a strange reality to track.
We had made our way out to the deep playa by means of a few different vehicles — an island complete with palm trees, a multicolored bus with seats on its sides. We had climbed up and through a spinning metal globe, levering ourselves up through triangles of space, watching the lights of the Esplanade blur as those on the ground pushed the sphere in faster and faster circles. We had cased several strips of porta-potties, oriented ourselves to the compass points of the Man and the Temple. We lit our own path as we trekked through pockets of soft and sinking sand, each of us with battery packs stored on our persons. (more…)
I wasn’t a Burner my first day at Burning Man or my second.
I wasn’t a Burner until my third day.
Wasn’t a Burner until I decided that I wanted to be the performer dancing for the crowd.
Wasn’t a Burner until I went to the Temple and cried as I let go of my self-hate, my insecurities, my anxieties.
Wasn’t a Burner until after writing on the Temple wall and growing I decided to gift the marker that had been gifted to me to a tattooed, bad-ass looking-mother-fucker, sitting outside the Temple.
Wasn’t a Burner until when I handed him the marker he looked up at me and started crying. And I sat and I heard his story, his pain and struggle. And I took a little of that struggle off his back with an open ear and a firm hug.
Wasn’t a Burner until I realized that with the tiniest act, I could change the world.
I’m a Burner now. I know where True Home is but I try my best to make everywhere I am Home, one open ear and firm hug at a time.
Two Burners embrace in the middle of a dust storm at dusk. (Photo by Lucas Swick)
The announcement was made during the Critical Tits event, “White out in approximately ten minutes,” just enough time to get back to camp, maybe. I immediately began my return on my aging bike, a bare-bones, second-hand, yellow vehicle, fifteen speed new, now one. As miserable as the dust storms can be, a greater concern was visibility and the importance of being in our 1958 Jewel trailer as soon as possible. (more…)
This was the first minute of dust storm with still part of blue sky in the background. Dark dot on the playa is the emergency parachute landing.Crude Awakening by Dan das Mann and crew.
“It’s a tornado!” shouted Justice from the top of the scissor lift, excitement and disbelief coloring his voice. I followed his gaze through the cluster of tents and shelters, straining to see if I could make out the form of a twister or oversized dust devil. Instead, to the southwest, a wall of dust was rolling and billowing inexorably towards our camp in the Black Rock Desert. We’d weathered storms before, but this one was going to be huge. (more…)
Writing on the walls of the Temple send final messages to those that are remembered.
As I sat on the bench at the Temple, staring at the ground, contemplating what to write for my mom’s epitaph, someone entered my field of vision. I looked up, she said hi, I replied hello. Then in an instant she fanned a deck of note cards in front of me. She asked me to pick a card. Without hesitation I picked one from the left side of the deck. I said thank you and she replied you are welcome and walked away.
Overwhelmed by sadness, tired, unable to concentrate, I’m at the point of saying fuck it, I’ll write something tomorrow. So, you can imagine how surprised I was when I read what was on the card. It was an excerpt from “Outbreak of Peace” by Isacc Shapiro. It read: “Once there is duality, there is some sense of needing something, or wanting something, or being vulnerable, or being scared.” I read it over again. Then again. All of a sudden, I felt at peace. I no longer had that hollow feeling in my chest, that lump in my throat, or felt the tears on my face. I immediately grabbed a marker from a nearby bench and wrote the quote above my mom’s memorial. To this day, when I feel sad about her death, I think about that experience & make it a point to remember that everything is one & it’s all going to be alright.