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:
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.
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: