My last 24 hours of Burning Man, Pt. 1


Saturday, 5:30am, I wake up, magically set to my internal clock, in time to wake my cousin and head out to the Playa and watch the sun rise.  Having already seen it behind the Man the previous day, I guide us into the deep Playa, out to the Temple.  This sunrise is different - there are no clouds in the sky, it is immaculate, clear, as though there has never been a sunrise before or will be since.  All around me people are breathing in the sun, giving it salutations, praying, just sitting and enjoying.  A few, such as myself, slightly detach themselves from the beauty of the moment in order to be able to capture it on film.  Inspirational messages, deep and moving tributes to loved ones passed, self-affirmations surround me, scribbled and pasted on the walls of the beautiful wooden temple that is to burn the next night, when I am far from the Playa.  This is my first visit to the Temple since the event, first visit to the Temple in my life.

Satisfied with an overwhelming dose of beauty, we head back across the vast Playa, through the intricate tent city, back to our campground to scrounge up some breakfast.  The fuel tank is empty, so we satiate ourselves with Cliff bars and fruit.  Nathan naps, and I take the opportunity to run barefoot to the back of the city where there is open space, celebrating the beautiful desert Godess I've discovered myself to be.

We pack up camp, prepare the car for our departure later that evening.

We go our separate ways for the day.  Tired of always headed somewhere specific, of the inability to allow myself to be distracted by whatever interesting thing I happen to pass, I abandon my bike for the day and head out to the open Playa on foot, bearing my backpack filled with Polaroids and hemp twine, a toy guitar and sharpies, and a sign advertising my gift of pictures to any who desire it.  I plan to set up shop near the Man, but upon discovering its inaccessibility due to its burn later that evening, settle down between Him and the Temple.

Several people pass my way, I give them Polaroids, they sign my guitar with sharpies, they go on their merry way.  I make bracelets in the meantime.  A few people passing gift me with random things - a Burning Man necklace made of stone, a toothbrush... I sit out there for three hours in this fashion.

One man, middle-aged, sees I am giving away Polaroids and stops to talk to me.  He does not desire one, but is piqued by my interest in photography.  He had a camera shipped out here to Black Rock City, one of those big boxes you see in movies of developing countries on street corners making makeshift passport pictures, and couldn't take it home.  He tells me the coordinates of his camp, and where the camera is sitting, and requests that I take it and put good use to it.  Taking my address, he promises to send me the proper chemicals and instructions for developing pictures in this wonderful contraption.  His wife couldn't make it out here this year and was quite sad - she's a sleeker, you see - shaves all the hair off her body and runs around naked with her fellow sleekers.  A form of self-expression he cannot deny her.  But she could not make it this year.  Please take the camera.

Gusts of dust throughout all this time turn into a full dust storm - visibility shrinks to 50 ft, 30 ft, 10 ft, 3 ft.  A total white-out.  I give up my picture venture at this point and follow the trail of lamps (upon reaching one I can barely make out the outline of the next) to the Temple.  Many people are gathered there - whether through lack of will to venture out into the blinding dust storm, or taking advantage of the temple's existence before it burns the next night.  I find a couple blank, unwritten-upon floorboards and write the entire passage on Beauty from the Prophet, destroying 2 or 3 sharpies along the way (due to the incessant dust storm).

Satisfied, I begin my treck across the Playa, blind save for my lamppost-to-lamppost strategy (which still isn't always effective - i have to wait or take a few tentative steps before being assured of the next one's presence).  I find The Man by the orange fence that now surrounds him, though 10 feet beyond cannot see his looming figure.  Following the fence around to the front of The Man, I find the next trail of lampposts, these leading straight into Center Camp, and keep forward in the same fashion.  Dance music from unseen art cars fills the playa, bicyclists appear suddenly within a few feet of me, narrow misses, my head wrapped in a cocoon of my head scarf to ineffectively block the dust from getting behind my sunglasses and under my contacts.

In camp everything is closer together, yet I still have trouble seeing the street signs clearly enough to locate the cameraman's camp, 5:00 and Extinct.  His camera is exactly where he left it, though, and I remove it from his treasured tripod and begin the long treck back to 7:00 and Jurassic, where my humble little car all packed up is.  A camp of older people see my odd box and marvel at it for a bit.  I make it back to camp, secure my new treasure in the back seat, and discover a blister on my heel from the sting, though it is invisible under the layer of dust coating my legs and feet.  Removing my shoes, I head over to the Tribe of Elders, where I'd been [ineffectively, through no fault of theirs, only of myself not being open or able to channel their energies] attuned for Reiki the day before, bearing bracelets I'd made earlier on the open Playa.  Coco, a fellow attuned Burner who had a severely spiritual experience with her attunement, was there, and almost cried with joy when I offered her a bracelet.  I gave the other two to Rose, leaving one for Tower (who had done the attuneing).  I am grateful, truly, and feel guilty I was unable to experience what they had to offer.

The winds are still high and my eyes are beginning to sting, so I sit in my car with my cousin for over an hour eating rice cakes with peanut butter and listening to BMIR pirate radio, safe from the storm for the time being.  Eyes still stinging, we head out to the Man for the Burn.
I can't put my finger on what I loved so much about this piece. It's probably from the way you've found something completely original, separate from all the other things you know, that you can embrace with your distinctive passion all the same.

You're an adventure, Tasha. =]