“All we have are these specks in time where everything makes sense. And I will try to cherish each one.” –Everything, Everywhere, All At Once.
How was Burning Man? It was epic, inspiring, challenging, rewarding and all around bitchin’. I met wonderful people. 2022 was my 3rd burn and my 1st since becoming a mom 13 years ago. A lot changed since I last went. This was my first time being single on the playa and in many ways, it felt like my first time at the best city in the world—for one week—Black Rock City.
I had dreams about being back on the playa during all my time away, pleasant dreams of exploration and discovery—the message—that I wasn’t done with Burning Man and Burning Man wasn’t done with me. Burners are by and large problem solvers and dreamers. I often feel weird in the default world and then I am reminded so clearly on the playa: I am not that weird.
I took a car / plane / bus to get to the playa with all that I would need in tow. I arranged to pick up water through the BurnerXpress bus program with a collapsible water container and carried it to my camp slowly. It’s humbling to carry your water. Art imitates life at the BRC post office with a slow-moving line and broken air conditioning. I attended my first wedding at the Lamplighter chapel, which was incredibly beautiful and did feel otherworldly on a dusty planet. I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure Hamlet at the Burning Globe. My favorite art installation was the Fluffy Cloud.
I overslept and missed the Rufus Du Sol set and felt glad I had slept. Then I learned the Rufus Du Sol set had been a hoax. This reminded me that there is no FOMO. Everything happens perfectly as it should. My favorite memory outside of the temple burn and bartending the LL with NotRoach was sunrise after burn night, dancing on stage at Playground with Finch and my new favorite DJ, Bender. I also found my friend Sage! I had not seen her in ~16 years, she lives in Australia now!!!
Some of my favorite quotes:
“Burning Man, we are so inclusive, we even tolerate Christians.”
“The Lamplighter Lounge…is kind of grungy.”
“I hope she was an undercover cop, that honestly would be the best scenario.”
If you build things with a water feature, people will pee in it. Build it with a flat surface, people will fuck on it. Build it with height, and people will climb it (and fall from it).
This was my first time watching the temple burn (which happens on Sunday, the man burns on Saturday and it is a chaos of sound systems and art cars and fireworks). The temple is a contemplative structure, lovingly crafted, where people honor departed loved ones with messages and mementos. It is burned in silence. I didn’t leave a note in the temple, but I did read other people’s notes. One person, thanking their grandmother for raising them and being a light in their life along with a photo of said grandma, “I miss you every day.” Another person wrote “FUCK FENTANYL” and on and on. As I watched it burn, I felt proud of myself for getting myself all the way there by myself, even though I was met mostly with disbelief or misunderstanding about wanting to be there. And then I felt how I had broken my own heart that summer (side bar–I really thought I would never meet a hilarious, charming, financially stable guy ever again HAHAHA). I felt how many times I have let myself feel less than. With my family, with friends, with work, with romantic relationships. Things are hard. But they will get better. I sat with this discomfort and cried. The stranger next to me offered to hold me and I accepted. I cried harder. Then he recited the Hawaiian prayer, Ho’oponopono, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” And it was perfect.
When we were done the stranger in a sand-colored toga asked if he could smell my underarms. I declined. Oh Burning Man.
At the Reno airport dusty shoes and bags could be spotted everywhere. My connecting flight in Dallas, I saw a few dusty shoes on the shuttle through the terminals and around the airport. By the time I landed in Sarasota, nary a dusty pack in sight. Back to regular, non-mutant vehicles I went.
I was unprepared for the amount of people online who had never been to Burning Man who were shitting on it when I came home. Mainly criticizing how wasteful it is, or one former FB friend called the people who attend Burning Man to be a waste. Most of the emissions at Burning Man come from people just getting there (hi, it’s me)! So this is really just making a case against vacations and travel. It would be interesting to do a study to estimate how much energy people are actually not using in default by being at Burning Man. Unfortunately, people see people in nature with vehicles and fire and don’t want to compare actual energy numbers to the many people going regularly on vacations because these are established norms. It’s not a perfectly clean event, it didn’t start that way and it only has tried to do the best it can. EDM festivals can have just as many people and everyone is guzzling energy the entire time. Or there are football games—which last one night, host 80,000 people, support a barbaric and cannibalistic sport and leave a sea of trash behind.
As soon as you start to advertise that you are trying to do good and make ethical choices, you will be questioned and ridiculed a hundred times more often than if you never tried in the first place. People want to make Burning Man out to be that we are just terrible self-indulgent people, it’s very clickbait. Have your critiques of course, but the majority of the 80,000 people are somewhere between decent and outright good, open-minded, and caring folks. They might be ignorant sometimes but they are willing to learn and grow.
We don’t see nearly as many articles about tourism in places like the cenotes in Mexico, indigenous land where asshole, entitled Americans litter and abuse the land every day. We say nothing when a family of four flies to go on an ocean cruise, we have all decided that’s fine and not newsworthy. Oh well. Unbeknownst to me when I was dancing at sunrise with Bender, his dad was also there. Back in the default world, he reflected on how amazing it was for his dad to see him play at Burning Man, after all the years where he didn’t really understand what his son was doing. His take home message from this and for me, was that you don’t always need to understand your children, you just need to support them.
If you are thinking about going to Burning Man, may I suggest reading about the 10 principles? Also watching this video, Black Rock City, The Most Unusual Town on Earth. And here is The Complete Burning Man Guide for First Timers.
Fuck yer burn!