It's no secret that we went to the Burning Man festival recently. Allen was lucky enough to get a load coming out of Burning Man to take back to a warehouse. The point of contact at Burning Man was able to get us in the day before the scheduled pick up, which let us enjoy a full day and night at the festival. Have I mentioned I love this life on the road?
It's one of those bucket list events that I've always wanted to see, even if I didn't know much about it. Honestly, the only reason I even knew of it was because of my time as a gamer inside a virtual reality game of Second Life. Along with many other real world happenings, Second Life sponsored a week-long burning festival of their own, Burn 2, to coincide with the real-life Burning Man that takes place every August in the desert of Nevada.
Walking around Burning Man out in the temporary city of Black Rock was honestly like exploring the virtual burning man festival inside Second Life. There were people with neon colored hair, strange outfits, or no outfits as clothing is optional at Burning Man. There were people in costumes from animals to steampunk. Even the bicycles used out on the Playa to get around the large circular city were decorated with fuzzy boas, glowsticks, LED lights, or even made up to look like dragons and other creatures of whimsy. These are all the strange things you will also see in Virtual Reality games.
Burning Man is a place to let go and explore your creativity. It's a place to meet and share life with other burners, to be for a moment in time anything you ever wanted to be and everything you cannot be in “polite society”. It is a dichotomy of anarchy and civility. Only the basic rules of society apply. Do no harm. Do not judge. Share. Work together. Be free. And leave no trace. No foot prints, no ashes, no trash, not even dirty water is dumped or left behind. It is an experience in respect for yourself, for each other, and for Mother Earth.
Sounds hippy-ish? I suppose you could call it that. What ever label you want to use is fine. Just know that even in our short time at the festival I could feel the difference. The energy there was intense and relaxed all at the same time. Perhaps akin to spiritual. For someone who has anxiety and difficulty with loud noises, strangers, and chaos, I felt completely at ease and at home out on the Playa with tens of thousands of fellow burners. Kindness and love washed over me from everyone. Hugging was the only acceptable way to greet people or to say goodbye. Forget personal space. Forget prim and proper. Forget politically correct. It was total acceptance of who you are inside and out by everyone around.
I can honestly say I felt completely at home and in my element. I was enthralled by the incredible creativity of each build. I was put at ease by the laid-back energy of the crowd. That night we were walking around a path that encircled the wooden temple set to burn once it was completely dark. All the “cars”, which were lighted and many fire-spewing floats like you'd see in a parade, and different art builds were parked around the outer edge of the circle. People walked between the displays and the temple in a large circle, while others hung out in teapots, giant octopi, huge replica VW cars and buses, and every one laughed, talked, danced, and hugged.
It was an evening celebration full of laughter, music, singing, and joy. That is until the first flames of fire took hold on the Temple. The fire was an unspoken request, an offering to the night full of prayers, wishes, memories, and letting go. The entire camp, thousands of revelrous people simultaneously and spontaneously became quite. All that could be heard was the crackling and roar of the fire. All movement stopped, There were no more bikes being pedaled. No one was walking. No laughter, no music. Just silent appreciation for the moment.
And the fire burned.
The temple, a huge wooden structure raised upon a bed of crushed granite, burned into the night. David Bowie's ashes, a musical icon for many generations, were released and consumed in the fire. The ashes blowing into the darkened sky like fireflies. We all stood, or sat, and watched. Many hugged or kissed, others meditated or prayed. But all were still, lending their respect, love, and energy to the dancing flames. We all waited and watched as the fire burned, as the temple collapsed, and eventually the gigantic pyre burned down to a simple bed of coals. Symbolic.
Into the night, to the stars, to the heavens, wolf-like howls echoed off the distance mountain walls. It was a sound of freedom. Of understanding. Of connection. I got chills. Not the scared kind, but the kind when you know you are part of something significant, something special. And for me it was.
After the last howl drifted into the night, with the fire now a low burn barely visible above the heads of those around it, the celebration resumed. Music restarted, people cheered, and the giant steampunk octopus made music by releasing timed bursts of fire from each of it's eight tentacles.
From the expressive costumes to the silent revelry, and everything in between before, and after, this is a night and event I will forever remember.
This was a lighted tent at Burning Man 2016. There was a man playing a Cello. The lights were sync'd with his music. The way the lights were set up, if you lay down on the desert floor under the tent and looked up, it gave a 3d effect.