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.
I asked this guy to run through the chute nude, another photographer from a newspaper caught it too and a similar image ran that weekend in the SF Chronicle... in B/W though.
As I bent forward into downward dog, hands touching chalky playa, muscles screaming for a release from their agony, and sun, oh hot desert sun, baking my naked-for-the-last-four-miles body, I wondered how I had wound up here. Here being a 50K ultra marathon in the buff, here being Black Rock City, the people still up at five-thirty in the morning to slap us five, cheer us on, create a human tunnel and scream war cries in the middle of a dry lakebed… but that was hours ago. That was lap one when I was fully clothed and my legs were fresh and the dawn was breaking and this is lap four and the sun is merciless and even the hardest of the partiers have retreated home for their vampiric day-naps. Now it is just the runners, the guy with the speaker medallion blasting 80’s rock warble guitar and the guy in the kilt who gave me the idea run one song walk one song run one song… and the guy who is even more naked than I am with his bare feet and bare body and only the water of his sweat. And occasionally there is a lone bicyclist or a veteran Burner MOOPing the playa and their shouts of “keep going” and “you guys are incredible” sound more like “better you than me” with every step. (more…)
From the very beginning, I had friends who went to Burning Man. They always said “Sarah, you and Max have got to go! These are Your People!” But what with kids in school and vacations that had to be scheduled a year in advance, it wasn’t until 2000 that we managed it. It turned out to be every bit as much Home for us as our friends had thought it would be. That first year we biked around in awe at the abundant smorgasbord of creativity served up by people unafraid to explore and be themselves — we knew we’d be back every year to share in the adventure!
The next year, our youngest, 13 at the time, wanted to go too. An old soul, I wasn’t worried about what he might see or experience — he was always wise beyond his years — but I wasn’t up for being “Mom” at Burning Man. So I got a ticket for his tutor and she was his chaperone for the week. Running into the boy in camp I might say, “If your mother were here, she’d remind you to put on more sunscreen and make sure your water bottle is full before you head out.” He’s been a Burner ever since. The year after that, the boy’s best friend wanted to go, but his parents didn’t want him to go without them, so we all camped together along with their friends Boyscout and his wife. The year after that, our older son, my sister and her husband, and Boyscout’s parents from Kentucky joined us, too.
So I guess I wasn’t that surprised when in 2004, during our pit-stop in Reno on our way to the Playa, I got a call from my parents saying, “Can you buy us tickets at the gate and we’ll meet you there?!” (more…)
A shaman named Rafiki gave me my playa name. He dropped it into my lap, a casual jewel, and then ducked away. It was a tiny and huge moment all at once. It happened, and then it was over. I swung in its wake, letting the shape of the name settle around me like a cloak.
Going into the experience of Burning Man, I had been curious about playa names, wanting to hear their origin stories. I was delighted when folks I met introduced themselves as “Laser Wolf” “Huggles” and “Gummi Bear”. How did one get a playa name? I asked. Could you name yourself or did it come from some sort of elder? Could your friends make it up or did it have to descend in some kind of epic moment of glory? (more…)