Posts in tales

March 24th, 2011  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

Burning Manifestation

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

The Playa provides. I heard that sentence countless times before I ever made it to the desert. The meaning was explained to me as the power of manifestation. I was, of course, familiar with the concept of manifestation, which as I understood was the power to create the world around you. Sometimes it is a constant flow, other times it blossoms like a flower, beautiful if only temporary. But I can’t say I had any conscious experience with it before I reached Black Rock City.

My first trip to the Playa was an odyssey in and of itself that took 9 years to complete. My dear friend Eva, a veteran Burner who encouraged and motivated me to see it through, hinted that sometimes the combination of the elements and the energy, mixed in with all the default world programming we’re saddled with, is enough to crack you open like an egg. A few days of intense heat, complete whiteouts, self-inflicted sleep deprivation and a little dehydration thrown in for good measure, and I was feeling like Humpty Dumpty himself. I didn’t realize how much baggage I was carrying with me. We all have, or will have, baggage at some point, but I normally try to travel with no more than a carry on. I realized that Burning Man was not normal given my default conditioning. The next thought slapped me in the face even harder: perhaps it wasn’t my surroundings that were abnormal; perhaps it was my programming.

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October 26th, 2010  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

On the Ground in the Dirt — Burning Man 2010

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

The Man and Fire Conclave burn night

We arrived Saturday afternoon under iron gray skies. It had been an effortless jaunt from Sparks; we had taken a lazy lunch in the parking lot where the weather alternated between chilly in the shadow of the clouds and blazing hot when the sun poked through. We had heard the reports: that though last week had hit 115°, this weekend promised rain, and the forbidding horizon did not dispel that fear. But we were not worried: we’re varsity. We’ve done this before.

Replicating the success of last year, we — my old friend and stalwart companion, Evan — packed little past essentials and stayed the night in a hotel in Sparks. Too tired (unmotivated?) to move our gear inside, plan “Let’s Leave it and Hope For the Best” was successful, and our pickup truck of dusty gear was unmolested in the morning. Refilling our ice chests from the free hotel ice machine, we headed to our usual supermarket to load up on water and last minute essentials (beer we had in spades; Irish cream, cup-o-noodles, eggs, cheese, crackers, some vegetables, more ice were procured) and we were off.

The Temple of Flux; us photographers all discussed how we didn’t really know how to capture it.

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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


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 10th, 2009  |  Filed under Preparation

Did you make it out ok?

There were flags to the front and flags to the rear on the way out of Black Rock City on Monday.

There were flags to the front and flags to the rear on the way out of Black Rock City on Monday.

So we’ve tried all sorts of strategies for making a speedy exit from Black Rock — leaving right after the Burn on Saturday night, leaving early on Sunday, leaving late on Monday — but pretty much to no avail. You’re going to be sitting in traffic for awhile. The good thing, though, is that you’re going to be sitting with other Burners, so you’ll likely be better for the experience. You’ll hear about the philosophy of Be Here Now, if you so choose, and you’ll be offered refreshing beverages, maybe a bite to eat … and some VERY thoughtful person will make sure that there’s a Porta Potty brought in when the line gets real long.

That’s what happened on the way out Monday evening. It took about two and half hours to go from the city to the highway, which wasn’t too bad, considering the entertainment going on all around. How about you? When did you leave? What was it like? Share a story about your Exodus …