Posts in playa life

October 9th, 2009  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

Sweet serendipity

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.

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One of the lessons of the playa is that sometimes you find what you didn’t know you were looking for.

There’s a word for it: serendipity. Black Rock City may be one of the most serendipitous places on the planet. You can go off looking for one thing, but you come upon something that seems far more valuable than what you originally set out to find.

Maybe you went off to meet up with friends, or to hear a certain DJ, or maybe you headed to a class to learn how to tie up your partner. But you got sidetracked along the way, attracted to something that, as it turned out,  might have been far more important for you to experience.

Mystery writer Lawrence Block says of serendipity: “Look for something, find something else, and realize that what you’ve found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for.”

Basic needs can be taken care of that way sometimes: You set out for Center Camp in search of an iced coffee, say, and along the way you come across a pancake breakfast yours for the having.

Or you are going across the open playa at midnight, trying to catch up with the friends you haven’t seen for hours, and a small light catches your eye. You approach and find yourself standing at a martini bar, and you didn’t realize until that moment that a perfectly made, ice- cold vodka martini was in fact the exact thing you were really looking for.

Some serendipities can be more spiritual, more nourishing for the soul.

Tell us about yours …

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October 2nd, 2009  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

Changes

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.

temple zone copy2For a lot of people, Burning Man is a transformational experience.

Your outlook changes. Your experience of the world changes. The way you relate to other people, and the place they hold in your life, changes.

Stories of transformations are everywhere.

There is the business executive who, after attending his first Burn, decided that the life he was leading really wasn’t the right one for him, so he chucked his job and his status and went on the road for a year and a half, trying to decide what to do next with his life. (This story is not apocryphal; ; I am not making it up. True, I can’t use the names, but you can probably understand the reasons why.)

There is the young woman who went to Burning Man after graduating from college and decided, “Oh yes, this is for me, this is how I want to develop my life, these are the areas where I want to grow.” So she moved to San Francisco, to be in  position to volunteer for the organization. She’s still here.

And then there are the smaller, maybe less dramatic things that happen to you during the event, the ones that you try to take back from the playa with you. The experiences you didn’t know you needed to have until you actually had them. Somehow, you met and had a truly significant and helpful conversation with a person who was going through something a lot like what you’re going through. You found new words to describe your situation, and in the process, discovered more clearly how you were feeling about it. And how exactly did it happen that this was the person you were stranded with in a sandstorm? How exactly did that awesome conversation start?

It’s lost in the haze, but the aftereffects have lingered.

Tell us about how you’ve changed since the time in the desert, and how you got to where you are now.

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September 14th, 2009  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

Once upon a moment

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.

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No matter how much time you are able to spend in Black Rock — a day, a week, a month — there always seems to be a moment or two or three if you are lucky that define the experience, ones that linger in your mind’s eye for weeks and months and years.

On Sunday, on the evening of the Temple burn, the moon rose beautifully over the playa, and it illuminated the Bone Tree that was parked near the entrance to Center Camp.

Other people were struck by the sight, too, and they came running to tell us about it.  So the moment was doubly significant — the sheer exquisite beauty of what was happening, as well as the instinct to share the experience.

(If you are unfamiliar with the Bone Tree, here’s some background from Dana Albany, the artist who created it in 1999:

“I’d been thinking about a bone sculpture for several years … Working  in the desert where cattle grazed nearby, I had access to all the bones I needed. I wanted to use an artifact of death to create a tree, as a way of paying homage to the existence of all life.

“…  I designed and constructed a mobile, interactive sculpture I named The Bone Tree, which consisted of a 27-ft steel frame tower mounted on five wheels like the base of an office chair, allowing it to be freely pushed around the Wheel of Time. The tower was completely covered with thousands of cattle bones. … It looked very eerie sitting on the playa, biding its time, knowing that sooner or later all living creatures turn to bone and that metaphorically all the bones would come to it.

“… The Bone Tree came to a very fitting end in the desert that year. After a ferocious wind storm, one of my friends walked up to me and said, “Did you hear about the Bone Tree?” She told me that the wind storm blew the Bone Tree across the playa, pushing it so far out that it was at least a mile from camp. What is especially interesting is that all of the extra bones stored under the Bone Tree’s frame had been shaken loose, leaving a trail of bones behind it the whole length of its journey.

“I thought this was amazing because I had always envisioned the Bone Tree out on the playa and felt it was meant to return to the desert, and it did.”)

So that’s the story of the Bone Tree, and one of the times that will stand out the most for me.

Tell us about one of your defining moments on the playa this year …

September 5th, 2009  |  Filed under Playa Tips

Who are you camping with?

I chose this photo because it is multiple images of the theme camps that surrounded us in 2003, those are our stars, Bollywood was across the street, Eye of Gawd next door, etc., etc., etc

I chose this photo because it is multiple images of the theme camps that surrounded us in 2003, those are our stars, Bollywood was across the street, Eye of Gawd next door, etc., etc., etc

I am home in San Francisco this afternoon, because for my 10th year I did “Burning Man Light”.  Three days, four nights, but as always eye opening, hot, dusty, joyful, difficult, ya’know.  But in just these few days I once again found my campmates facinating.  We camped for several years with beings who bring peace as well as art to the Playa, and then a couple of years with the Bunnies, one year a staff camp and last year a bar camp filled with long time Burners, but where we were far and away the oldest people in the group.

I always find the “Who ARE my campmates?” interesting!  This year we had a gaggle of newbies some of them software celebrities, crew from the the explOratorium, a rising international artist, a former art curator, a Playa luminary who is also a cartoon director and producer, our camp leader is a mechanical engineer and we have Gate and Artica staff as well as our own DPW Manager, and bringing up the rear, Moze and me, your bloggers.

So how does it come to be that there is this symbiosis of geeks, writers, artists, and engineers?  Some of whom never stop working on the camp and some of whom barely contribute unless there is a request.   I am sure that your camp also has some breadth and depth of engagement with [BM].  Is there a type of person you can categorize as a Burner or those that you know would hate Burning Man and yet they end up coming to the Event and loving it?

So when you arrive home and are dreaming of Burning Man tell me a story of a campmate that in some way surprised you, or you did not expect to like and now adore, or about that “thing” that seems to happen, that camps get to a certain size and morph into some other entity, or how you could not imagine camping with anyone else.  The camping with other people can be a huge part of Burning Man and I would love to hear more about it from you!

photo: Pete Slingland

August 20th, 2009  |  Filed under Playa Tips

Zzzzzz: The Science Of Sleep

A burner sleeps at Dr. Deb's "Collective Dreams" installation, 2005. Photo by Scott London.

A burner sleeps at Dr. Deb's "Collective Dreams" installation, 2005. Photo by Scott London.

Man oh man is it crucial to get sleep on the playa. It’s not always the easiest thing to do but a little planning will help you get some beauty rest in the desert. Here are some tips.

1. Pillow
Bring your pillow from home. There is something about being able to fall asleep on your own pillow. It’s comforting. Sleeping bags without pillows are a quick way to strain your back in my experience. I’ve seen people in RVs who bring all their bedding from home, fancy duvets and throw pillows and such.

2. Eye Mask
You will probably be partaking in some nightlife in Black Rock City. Regardless of what time you go to bed, the sun’s going to come screaming through your tent or trailer window. Eye masks are great for afternoon catch-up naps as well.
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