Monday, September 9, 2013

Burning Woman

I'm back from Burning Man and have been wishing I were back on the playa all week long. It was one of the most special experiences I've ever been a part of and am at a loss for words to properly describe this magical event, this DIY Disney Land on Drugs. After A. returned from his first burn last year I gave him crap for barely taking any pictures for me to see. Now I understand.

While there, I felt this happy calm and quickly forgot about whatever could be going on beyond Black Rock City, Nevada. I didn't know what time it was, I couldn't be bothered to pull out my phone to check, and without any service or Internet connection, I was truly able to let go of all those obsessive habits. But it went deeper than just disconnecting from Gmail and social media because I also found myself letting go of the negative parts of my personality like worries, stubbornness, and judgments. I was in this amazing space that nurtured creativity, community, sharing, and joy. I wanted to experience it completely. It was liberating to roam around in whatever attire I wanted (or even none at all) and do whatever simply because it made me happy and seeing others do the same for themselves kept feeding into that pot.

The place is big. If you ever attend, this will be the understatement of the year as "big" cannot begin to describe this. I wasn't prepared to have my mind blown after biking out for more than a mile into the middle of the desert and still seeings lights from our city of 70,000 twinkling in the distance, pulsating 'til the dawn. I found myself amused by a constant stream of whimsy: hula hoops that radiated with streams of light, makeshift slides from construction tubing, howling at the setting sun, screaming in the deep playa, quiet pockets right in the middle of the mayhem, so much music, fire!, night skydivers who'd leave a streak of sparks across the inky sky.

"And to think we're in just one one one country…on Earth," I marveled one night. "I feel so small."

But it was powerful to know that somehow I helped create this. We all did. The people of Black Rock City are the ones who make it the Wonderland I found it to be. We're kind to each other, we care for our shared spaces. Artists share openly without receiving any compensation in return save for the delight felt by those who gather around their work. I felt like Alice stumbling upon one random curiosity after another. Instead of ever satiating my craving, it made me want more. For nights we'd walk though dust storms and a parade of LED-lit wanderers, searching and searching for everything. I wanted it all, I wanted to devour the place. All my life I'd kept my soul from playing without my own judgement, from being whatever the hell it wanted to be and now here I stood completely famished before this beautiful feast for the heart. I wanted to explode. I cried instead.

I had finally found a place so nurturing to how carefree I wish I were in the real world that I didn't want to leave. I needed to run around, inhabit all this space. My usually socially-anxious self had no qualms about saying hello to the strangers walking alongside me and asking them how their burn was going. After going in for a shower at a nearby camp, I immediately grabbed the soap and hose to help wash up the other dusty playamates lined up behind me. Feeling rejuvenated after such a refreshing break from the heat, we all danced in the nude.

"What do you want to leave in the temple," A. asked the night before this year's space was to be set on fire.

"I want to burn everything. I want to start over."

We'd been taking such good care of each other, being gentle, loving, and kind that I wanted so much to bring it back home with us and didn't want my hang-ups to screw it all up in the real world. I felt such joy and peace just by breathing that I wanted to stay huddled in this bubble of unconditional acceptance. It would be hard to return without my insides feeling so different.

We never did watch the temple burn. The threat of an impending storm had most of us packing up early to avoid the city's shutdown Monday afternoon. But as I stood on the roof of the car trying to catch a glimpse of the flames from the road miles away, I told myself that I didn't have to leave the principles learned out on the playa behind nor did I have to wash off the person I became along with the dust. I was her there and so I still am her everywhere.


  1. Goodness - what a mind blowing experience!

    And yes, the photos were "hard to take" has the glare/light and dust/background was horrid!

    I love that shot of you mimicking the beautiful lady - you could have been its model - such grace and form!

    1. Thanks! It was incredible. As for the photos, imagine having to lug around a big camera secured in a Ziploc bag (to protect it from the dust, which is eeeeeverywhere), biking around with it, and when you take photos you can't even see if they're coming out alright or not because of the sun and dust storms coming and going. I was just shooting away hoping I was getting something passable.

      But mostly you just don't feel like taking a snapshot of everything because you just want to experience it all firsthand. The people back home would just have to trust us that it was a spectacular time. I was living this one for me.

    2. Oh and the dancer sculpture was one of my favorite out there. At night, she would glow with color.

  2. I cried when I read this post because I understood what you were feeling. To encounter this space that allows you to be your best self and to want for that to be for always. God you said it so well everything I feel all the time. :)

    1. Aww, I'm happy to hear you were so touched by the post. I just try to write how I think, speak, feel so I'm glad that it's resonated with someone else. Thank you so much for gifting me with your sweet comment and I hope you've also found a space like this.


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