In which we Burned the Man (Part III)

The second major time I took out my camera in the dusty desert was to capture one of the sunrises we went to. Next year I’m resolved to take a lot more – especially of the art! Fortunately we still have a couple of pictures of us from other friends:

Tuesday was "Tutu Tuesday" where a lot of people dress up in tutus. I made Jeff's and mine on the car ride down using lots of tulle and elastic. Here we are in front of a huge sculpture of a UFO crashed in the desert. Photo Credit: Ashley Gonzalez

Tuesday was “Tutu Tuesday” where a lot of people dress up in tutus. I made Jeff’s and mine on the car ride down using lots of tulle and elastic. Here we are in front of a huge sculpture of a UFO crashed in the desert. Photo Credit: Ashley Gonzalez

Huge block lettering spelling out exactly what most of this place was.

Huge block lettering spelling out exactly what most of this place was.

We met an Australian who built a huge coat hanger on a hydraulic scissor lift and then drove it out into the desert. We could see for miles! And we were taller than the Man even.  Photo Credit: Ashley Gonzalez

We met an Australian who built a huge coat hanger on a hydraulic scissor lift and then drove it out into the desert. We could see for miles! And we were taller than the Man even.
Photo Credit: Ashley Gonzalez

While we were out one day we met the artist who encouraged us to write down our dreams and goals and add them to this sculpture.

While we were out one day we met the artist of this piece who encouraged us to write down our dreams and goals and add them to this sculpture.

I couldn't find ours, but it was so much fun to read all the other ones left

Later when I returned to take a picture I couldn’t find ours, but it was so much fun to read all the other ones left

Ashley made us take our picture in front of a wedding chapel piece of art. Photo Credit: Asheley Gonzalez

Ashley made us take our picture in front of a wedding chapel piece of art. There was a dust storm raging, so hence the facemasks.
Photo Credit: Ashley Gonzalez

Creepy baby head

Creepy baby head

Boys on Tutu Tuesday Photo Credit: Ashley Gonzalez

Boys on Tutu Tuesday
Photo Credit: Ashley Gonzalez

On of my favorite art cars that was parked near our camp

One of my favorite art cars that was parked near our camp

These huge sculptures that seemed to glide across the morning desert. They reminded me of neurons.

These huge sculptures that seemed to glide across the morning desert. They reminded me of neurons.

Cool honey-comb looking sculptures.

Cool honey-comb looking sculptures – great for taking breaks in the shade.

Dawn

Dawn

Just coming up!

Just coming up!

The sun rising over the mountains. Each morning crowds of people gather at the Temple to watch day break. Our crowd usually brought plenty of champagne as well.

The sun rising over the mountains.
Each morning crowds of people gather at the Temple to watch day break. Our crowd usually brought plenty of champagne as well.

Friends gathered for the morning

Friends gathered for the morning

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Photo credit: Alex Can

Photo credit: Alex Cahn

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The Temple is a quiet, solemn place in stark contrast to the insanity of the rest of the playa. It’s a space to remember those lost in the last year and takes some mental and emotional fortitude to enter into its heavily weighted atmosphere. Many people write messages and leave momentos to be burned on Sunday evening after the Man. I went inside briefly, just to see it; I was too happy that week to want to stay for long.

This year it was called the Temple of Whollyness and made completely of interlocking wood panels - no nails or screws to hold it together.

This year it was called the Temple of Whollyness and made completely of interlocking wood panels – no nails, screws or glue to hold it together.

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People are encouraged to write messages all over it.

People are encouraged to write messages all over it.

Inside the space people were crying and sleeping, hugging and whispering.

Inside

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Messages and photos

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Photo credit: Alex Cahn

A group of us outside.

A group of us outside.

Sunrise over the playa and all the bikes strewn in front of the Temple

Sunrise over the playa and all the bikes strewn in front of the Temple. That dragon looking thing in the distance is an art car that played really loud Dub-Step music.

Since I had my camera out that morning we walked over to another one of my favorite sculptures - Truth is Beauty by Marco Cochrane. He's completed a few others in the series and they're all so stunning.

Since I had my camera out that morning we walked over to another one of my favorite sculptures – Truth is Beauty by Marco Cochrane. He’s completed a few others in the series and they’re all so stunning.

To give you so idea of scale.

To give you an idea of scale.

She's put together with thousands of tiny welded points.

She’s put together with thousands of tiny welded points – many so fine they seem like a fabric skin overstretching her.

More pictures in the dawn

More pictures in the dawn

The making of this sculpture is told in the Burning Man documentary, "Spark" that Jeff and I saw at the Seattle International Film Festival this year.

The making of this sculpture is told in the Burning Man documentary, “Spark” that Jeff and I saw at the Seattle International Film Festival this year.

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You can go up inside it – and are fully encouraged to! There are hammocks on one end.

And so ends all the Burning Man pictures. Thanks to everyone in our awesome camp for embracing us newcomers with such enthusiasm. Many special congrats to Eric and Mel. Let’s plan to meet up on the playa again next year? K, deal.

Many describe Burning Man as a life changing experience (which to me always was a weird phrase – you’re malleable; every experience will change you a bit). Don’t worry mom, I’m not going to give away all my belongings and settle down in a Tibetan yurt (plus, the kind folks at SallieMae still think I own them some moneys). I was changed, but in a way that made me more me. I feel like I’m a better version of myself.

On Monday when we first arrived I rode around on my bike alone for a few hours and the whole place was just too overwhelming. Strangers wanted to hug me. There was enough nakedness to make the Fremont Fair look tame. People were constantly shouting and the ever present Dub Step music thudding through my chest was giving me an arrhythmia. I rode back to camp almost in tears and close to what I think was a panic attack. Six more days of this? Oh God.

Instead of crawling inside my sleeping bag I ran into some people who wanted to get snow cones.  On our sojourn across the playa they slowly taught me how to embrace the madness. There was so much goodness out there, lurking between the dust and tarps! I learned about all the art that was popping up everywhere. I broke my bike and someone dropped what they were doing to help me fix it. I rode on a borrowed bike while finding a new tire. I met a camp that had had their trailers of tents and supplies stolen the day before they left. Within 24 hours other Burners had replaced everything for them so that they could come and give out fried baloney sandwiches. I learned how to keep the dust out of my eyes. I embraced getting hugs. Nakedness no longer phased me. I realized my first mistake earlier in the day was trying to take this all in alone – this place was built to function on radical inclusion and community. I learned that the journey is always better than the reward. We never found the snow cones. And it was totally okay.

How am I changed? I go back to some of the 10 principles. I learned how to adventure better. Gifting: I learned it’s okay not to have anything else to give in return when you are given a special gift of a bike tire with working gears 300 miles from the nearest bike shop. Decommodification: I also learned that I could give someone what they needed in the moment and have no thoughts of what they could offer me in return. I am learning even small gifts are good enough, even if it’s just the time. I am embracing radical self reliance: I changed the toner in the big industrial copy machine at work yesterday. Past Elise would’ve found someone else to tackle that job for fear of breaking everything. Leave no trace: I try to pick up trash everywhere now, even if it’s not mine. Someone else might not do it. Immediacy: I’m trying to live in the moment. I won’t be a resident forever. It won’t just be Jeff and I in our little family forever. We may not be in Seattle forever, though we like it very much. This is a good moment in all it’s uncertainty and I will strive to go placidly amid the noise and haste.

I will remember that at last, when you’ve pushed all your limits, gathered your friends and built great things in an inhospitable desert, to be wholly content and enjoy the accomplishment. To then take a collective breath and store up the sweet memories. And then, to gracefully surrender and let it all burn:

From Reuters

From Reuters

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