Smiling in the dust

I’ve got Burning Man on the brain on account of the course I just took called Burning Man:  Then and Now.

I already knew this, but after taking the class it is clear that Burning Man is more than just an art and music festival in the desert.

Burning Man may be a temporary community that pops up in the Northern Nevada Black Rock desert once a year but it’s also an experimental community that operates YEAR ROUND.

As a participant, I may think that Burning Man culminates in the burning of the man on Saturday night before Labor Day, but as an educated historian I know it’s much more than that.

There are groups operating year round to offer art not just as something to be observed, but also to be EXPERIENCED and INTERACTED WITH.

Sonic Runway in San Jose’s Playa to Paseo art exhibition is a good example of art moving from the playa to an urban area.

There are also groups which offer humanitarian support to communities in need, because we’ve learned a thing or two which can benefit others when it comes to creating intentional communities.

And surviving inhospitable environments.

A great example of this is Burners Without Borders helping out after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

The 10 principles (Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Decommodification, Gifting, Immediacy, Leave No Trace, Participation, Radical Self-Reliance, Radical Self-Expression, and Radical Inclusion) are the overarching elements which guide our trajectory.

Whether we’re helping a community to rebuild after a disaster, whether we’re installing solar panels on the local Paiute Indian school, or even if we are raising money to fund art installations around the world, one thing is sure.

Burning Man is more than a party in the desert.

It’s an ethos that captivates people all around the world to live more consciously and authentically in community with one another.

And I for one am proud to be a part of that.

micro burn

This past weekend I had a socially distant burn at a nudist resort in the Santa Cruz Mountains and I had a blast!

The better part of the weekend was spent laying out by the pool in the sun watching naked people frolic in the water.

Of particular interest to me was a beautiful African American woman who brought her pet snakes with her and was often seen with a large albino boa wrapped around her body.

Things you just don’t see in the default world.

That’s why I love Burning Man.

Mentally, I’m always having to check myself and see if I’m in reality or a dream.

The wildlife was out and about during my stay and I saw (among other things) wild turkeys, deer, raptors, jay birds, finches and raccoons.

Of course, at the real burn there would be no wildlife, other than the burners who attend.

Burning Man is held on a dry, flat, alkaline lake bed and as such is really incompatible with life.

No, it wasn’t the same as the 80,000 person burn in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, but it still held the mysticism of the Burn for me.

Because Burning Man is more than just an event in the desert.

It’s more than the Ten Principles used to guide it.

Burning Man lives in the hearts of the people it has touched and whenever two or more burners get together, there’s magic that happens.

Hugs are abundant as is authenticity and connection.

And I’d say my Micro Burn had that in spades.

Happiness is. . .

Here’s what frustration and angst look like:

What you’re looking at here is the landing page for the Burning Man Main Sale.

Please note the unusual “Enter access code” with semi-invisible button, something none of us were told about in any communications prior to the sale.

Also, the drop down menus for $425 Ticket and $100 Vehicle Pass have no other option but ‘0’.

I kept reloading the page, because I’m not about to stop shopping until the Org has announced that tickets have sold out.

A few times I was even told that the tickets were “Sold Out” but there was no official announcement on Twitter so I kept trying.

Finally, I was able to select ‘2’ for tickets and ‘1’ for vehicle pass and progress to the next screen, which also had invisible buttons and multiple page reloads but finally, I got my ticket confirmation.

This, my friends, is what happiness looks like:

It wasn’t the most robust system and it certainly wasn’t the most intuitive system, what with all the invisible buttons and page reloads, but I persevered and now I have tickets for Burning Man.

Mind you, I logged in to buy tickets at 12:03 pm after my attempts to login via the webmail button I was sent failed and I had to go through the link in my Burner Profile.

My sale was completed at 2:27 pm.

I’m pretty sure I scrambled for some of the last tickets being sold.

But I’m happy.

And I wish all the other burners out there looking for tickets a speedy and successful search.

Enlightenment or a snow cone?

michelle beachAs I prepare to go to the playa for a second time, I can’t help but reflect on my experiences during my first trip there.

What worked? What didn’t?

I’ve made up my mind already to be very inclusive of my campmates.

Being excluded during last year’s Burning Man was a painful experience and one I don’t want to repeat for anyone else.

Yes, it’s my burn and I can do what I want but I feel like I need to take the 10 principles to heart and really look out for and care for my fellow burners.

Big heart = Big burn

My motto will be “Leave love everywhere you go.”

Last year I had a magical moment when I handed out my gift – chapstick – to a group of burners out in deep playa who were desperately in need of chapstick.

I hope to have a similar experience this year.

A moment when the universe unfolds exactly as it should and the divine plan is revealed.

Either that, or a snow cone.

I’ll take a snow cone, too.

I’m flexible like that.

Holes in my education

Growing up, we never took camping trips.

Our “version” of a camping trip was a monthly stay at the Blue Dolphin Inn in Carmel where we’d go beaching and antiquing with my parents. Or another monthly trip to the St. Francis Hotel in Union Square in San Francisco where we’d go shopping and dining out.

I wasn’t aware of my lack of helpful camping skills* until I met my birth family who are all about camping, dirt bike riding, and four-wheeling.

I have no idea how to strap down a motorcycle. I over pack for camping trips ALL THE TIME. My menu choices are advanced culinary achievements.

I’m realizing, as I get ready to going to Burning Man, that I am missing vital parts of my education for things like packing a trailer.

Heavier items in front. Got it.

Lighter items in back Got it.

Strap your load down. What?

I have no idea how to use a ratchet strap. In fact, I’m so bad with ratchet straps I had to CUT ONE OFF MY TENT TRAILER that my ex-boyfriend had put on it.

Just because I couldn’t figure out how to get it off.

Not that I have a general problem figuring out how to get things off. 😉

And come to think of it, after wielding a hammer this weekend making some funhouse mirrors for the camp, I realized how shoddy my hammering skills were.

And I have serious doubts as to whether I can wield a sledgehammer and swing it with any sort of skill such that it lands on target and pounds my rebar stake into the ground. All 18 inches of it.

Not that I have a general problem with poundings. 😉

So there you have it. Serious gaps in my education leading me to worry about my ability to be self-reliant on the playa.

I may need a little help.


Burning Man, your 10 principles are challenging me.

*FYI, I can change my own oil, skin an abalone in under a minute, and change a flat tire, so I’m not totally helpless.  Also?  I own a sawzall.  ‘Nuff said.