Wednesday, August 29, 2007

feeling the burn

Burning Man is under way this week. For those of you who are unfamiliar, it's a blessed out of this world festival deep in the Nevada desert. A temporary utopian community created out of sand and wind and heat. It's a difficult thing to describe if you haven't been there, but it's really something extraordinary.

Everyone is living out their fantasies, whether it's dressing up in tutus or being completely naked. The art and creativity is out of this world, the full on discos, the fire walking pits, the 24 hour lounges. I was a low-level burner, someone who showed up with a tent and a few costumes and trinkets. Others bring entire structures, giant elephants rise out of the desert, double decker buses covered in pink fur and disco balls careen through the neighborhoods. It's a non stop visual delight, groups of gorgeous women cycling naked, men on stilts, costumes, lights, energy, heat.

The cornerstone of the Man is kindness. You can purchase nothing at the festival besides ice. Everything else is barter. You trade or are given what you need and offer what you can. As you walk around the enormous festival you are assaulted with creativity and beauty everywhere you go. One night as we went exploring I ate roasted corn with some gypsies, drank absinthe with clowns, danced in the Sahara, watched a medieval play and saw the most exotic woman I have seen dancing for the world on top of an old fashioned popcorn cart. It's everywhere, this rampant over expression of divine creavity, sexuality and bliss.

One of the most memorable impressions I have from the festival (aside from vagina tents and downtempo safaris and women cavorting on trampolines) was really quite small. Two men on bikes ran head on into each other. A gigantic crash. I remember pausing and thinking oh shit, what is going to happen now but both men jumped up and hugged each other and got on their bikes and rode off in different directions. The kindnesses I witnessed should be the norm in a world where anger at strangers seems to be the common denominator. And it's combined with bawdy sexy off the charts self expression combined with intentionality. It is really an extraordinary experience.

So when I learned that this guy took it upon himself to desecrate the most sacred of events, the final burn of the festival, the one where all 25,000 beautiful people are gathered in an enormous circle with drums and lights and non stop funkadelic to welcome the burn I was angry. Angry that one dude would take it upon himself to be the anti-burner, the one who was thinking of himself and not the community and destroyed the Man too soon. But I also know it's a temporary interruption, that today thousands of folks are meeting at the center of that desert and doing what they can to repair the man using items from their camps and their general brilliant creativity. So all in all I am betting that this year's burn will be the most special of all because if there is ever a place where the community will triumph against the individual, it's at Burning Man.

And I wish I was there. And I wish all of you could be there too. Because it changes the way you look at the world, this one week in the desert living in a world where the answer to everything is yes.

53 comments:

visioner said...

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Janet said...

Somehow, I don't think that Visioner (above) ever went to the Burning Man...

It sounds amazing.

Sober Briquette said...

It's amazing. I wish I had heard of it sooner. Now, everywhere I turn (in some of the most unlikely places) it's coming up. It makes me happy that it exists.

NotSoSage said...

I'm still planning on going. Some day. Yes.

Karen said...

I saw that this morning on the news, with dismay - but I'm happy that are going forward, happy they are gathering, celebrating!

slouching mom said...

Yes, I can see why it would be even more special because of someone's attempts to desecrate.

Reminds me of the monks who felt no sadness or dismay when the little boy stepped in the sand of the sculpture they had spent weeks working on...

Orangeblossoms said...

I've always wanted to go..... to see..... to be. Somehow, this helps me know that it's not too late.

thanks.

kiki said...

I have to read more when I get home - just quickly checking in.

My sister is on the playa this week - she was frantically knitting up little trinkets to barter and has a whole bevy of tutus to bring along, she's camping with the Canandian burners.

My sister is 41 this year and her boyfriend is in his 50's. I think it really is a groovy lovefest open to any and everyone.

Not for me but I can see the appeal.

kiki again said...

ps. i love your writing sister. xo

Jennifer said...

Ah, kindness. It can move mountains.

painted maypole said...

I have always wanted to go to Burning Man - in a too intimidated to even look into it kind of way. Maybe when you are back from your world tour we can have a bloggers tent burning man? ;)

jen said...

A blogger's burning man road trip.

I swear to all things holy it would rock your world. I think we should seriously, seriously look into that.

QT said...

I second the blogger's Burning Man Road Trip!! My BF has always wanted to go, as have I. Better late than never....

I, too, can see how, in the spirit of all things Burning Man, this person and his attempt to "ruin" will be turned into something that will bring the community even closer, make it even more celebratory.

KC said...

I've never heard of this, but, am now intrigued. I'd be so intimidated to go alone but the Road Trip is an idea. If I could cling to someone when needed.

Wayfarer Scientista said...

oh thank you for reminding me! A good friend, my neighbor growing up who feels like a brother, is there this week, as he is every year with his gorgeous homemade capes.

Kyla said...

Sounds wild. I think I would stick out like a sore thumb...but with you and Sage by my side? Maybe. And how could I ever pass up a blogging road trip? I couldn't. Sounds life changing really.

ms chica said...

Selfish bastard. I could get behind a blogger' Burning Man Road Trip too! It's symbolic the attitude the world should have, but does not. But on second thought, I'm not qualified to tell the world about it's attitude.

Ally said...

Blogger burning man road trip? Count me in!

Ah, the kindness. Thanks for this post today!

Her Grace said...

I read about that today and spent a couple minutes looking up images from Burning Man. It looks like something out of a storybook. I would love to go someday...thanks for sharing your memories of it.

liv said...

Somehow in the irritation over the desecration there is also a great choice to be made: does everyone rise against an individual (not a good thing in my opinion, representing the dangers of group think) or do they all beautifully practice non-attachment and let it go?

Amy York said...

I wish I could be there too! That festival sounds fantastic! Nevada isn't *too* far from Colorado ~ maybe next year I can go. :) Hopefully no mean guys will be there to desecrate it.

nomotherearth said...

I've never heard of the Burning Man, but now I want to go. Despite the GUY, it sounds truly amazing.

Bon said...

the road trip? i'm in.

i've wanted to go for ten years...but never quite made it happen.

with you crew? better than BlogHer, says me (who, of course, has never been to BlogHer and really has no clue what she's on about, but i'm betting BlogHer was cool but not quite transcendental....)

flutter said...

I went to this back when i was in Cali, it's pretty cool and Igot everything I needed just by giving chair massage

biodtl said...

I always wanted to go to Burning Man, btu never got a chance. Way back when, I used to travel a bit to Dead shows and there was a similar atmosphere - where everyone seemed to really like each other and accept each other. I miss those days.

The Expatriate Chef said...

Happy Birthday to M. She was born on a Burning Man day, correct?

Lawyer Mama said...

I can't believe someone burned the Burning Man!

thailandchani said...

There's always someone around who wants to rain on everyone else's parade.


Peace,

~Chani

Mrs. Chicky said...

I should have known you've been to Burning Man.

I think I love you even more.

bgirl said...

as you know it was one of your comments re BM on another blog that led me to you.

my birthmom and husband are they right now. i plan to post their get-ready experience soon...and of course the return home.

2008...i tell ya...be tough to keep me away another year.

Christine said...

i always wanted to go to burning man, but in the end i never did.

how could someone have done that. so selfish and stupid

Binky said...

How about some more stories of your past Burning Man adventures, since you can't be there this year--and for the rest of us who can't be there? I want to hear more!

luckyzmom said...

Living an hour and a half away and I have never heard of it.

deb said...

Sounds like an amazing time to be had.

crazymumma said...

Thank you for posting about Burning Man. Aside from India, this is somewhere I want to be before I die.

Anyway. Yes. Horrible it happened. And beautiful that it is continuing in the spirit it was meant.

Further proof of the beauty and truth of the Burning festival.

(imagine a group of us, our children, our men, our 'real' life friends at the festival).

shit. that would be sweet.

Tabba said...

ummm, did someone say roatrip?

The Expatriate Chef said...

We can all get naked and burn something in my backyard. As long as its not dinner, and we're all hanging out, it would be a great festival.

Mad Hatter said...

Cool. I always wondered what it would be like there. BTW, I have a bottle of absinthe in my cupboard and I'm a bit of a clown. Come on over.

urban-urchin said...

i think 80% of San Francisco is in the desert this week every year. It was always fun to see the cars and catapults around the mission and just know what they were up to... I never went- but helped a bunch of people make various costumes.

That guy- what a dick!

allrileyedup said...

I first learned about Burning Man in 1997, and swore I would go, yet I have STILL never been.

Some day.

And that guy sucks.

mitzh said...

I have heard about Burning Man and I think I have also watched it, somewhere.

But reading this made it more wonderful!

Gorilla Bananas said...

Are gorillas allowed at this event? It sounds like the best human festival in the world - I'd like to represent the apes.

Hel said...

I first came across the burning man on Flicker two years ago.

The pictures filled me with an incredible longing to sell my car and head out to the desert.

One day...

mamatulip said...

One of my bestest buds from college came for a surprise visit on Tuesday night, having just dropped her girlfriend off at the airport so she could head to Burning Man. I knew of Burning Man but really had no idea what it was all about and my girlfriend and I sat on my sun porch with glasses of wine and she told me about it, about the festival and what it's based on, about how her girlfriend planned for months. I was incredulous; I wanted to hear more...I soaked it all up like a sponge. After she left I went online and looked at pictures and read about it. It fascinated me.

Then yesterday morning I woke up and read about that asshole who burned the Man prematurely. And at first I was a bit discouraged by that but then I thought pretty much the same thing you did -- it'll just make this year's festival that much better.

Hetha said...

Many of my friends (who live in San Fran) are there right now. They travel in a big bus and put on a bluegrass rave. I've always been either a school teacher or a young mother, neither a good mix for an early September road trip.

I was just sipping some Absinthe Saturday night, that stuff can really knock out a headache.

carrie said...

Wow. Just. Wow.

Your story is better than any others I've heard told about this ritual.

FENICLE said...

Oh how I wish I was there too!!!

You always have such great stories.

wordgirl said...

I've read about it before but nothing sounds as beautiful as what I've read here tonight.

heather said...

yes! yes! yes! oh my, sounds dreamy...what is a vagina tent?

ewe are here said...

Oh, I read about the early torching this year, speculating he wanted to time the burning with the eclipse...

What a jerk, going off on his own like that... I hope they're able to salvage something for the closing night.

metro mama said...

I'd love to make it to Burning Man one day.

Am loving your stories.

Rock the Cradle said...

I'd be up for a road trip. (So sayeth the Empress of Pipe Dreams).

Someday, perhaps, I will find myself there. It is something I would truly love to see.

slackermommy said...

Wow, I've never heard of Burning Man. Sounds fantastic! What an experience!