Burning Man or Bust
Burning Man is coming up. We leave in a week and a half. Yipes! For those who have never been to this festival in the desert, it's pretty hard to describe. Burning Man is like a combination of camping trip, class reunion, art festival, music concert, spiritual retreat, gynormous bar crawl, and hippie love-fest all rolled into one - with costumes and 50,000 of your closest friends. Set in the high Black Rock desert north of Reno, it's usually described as an experiment in intentional community. For most of the year, the desert is as nature intended, a moonscape; for one week out of the year, it's transformed into a working city, complete with its own economy (no money is exchanged) street signs, a police force, medical personnel, its own rules of conduct, a schedule of events, several radio stations, a coffee shop, and even a beauty pageant. One Christian gentleman described it as "Satan's Birthday Party." It's more than an art or music festival, more than a retreat, more than a camping trip in a beautiful natural setting, more than a ritual, more than a gathering of hippies and freaks, more than a big party. You have to experience it to understand.
The experience of Burning Man begins when you get in the car and start the trip. You drive further and further from your life, and your entire new life is packed as tightly and efficiently as possible in your car, RV, or van. Civilization passes behind you. As the hours roll by, you pass green trees and lakes, and then you get further into the desert, and things get more sparse. The weather gets hot and dusty. You start to see other Burners on the road - vehicles piled high with bikes wrapped in pink fur, hula hoops,tents, rugs, and other assorted items, the vehicles often painted with slogans or crude depictions of the Burning Man logo. The highway, your fellow travelers, and the barren, hot landscape are all you see.
Then you hit Reno and it's like someone dropped a huge pot of gold paint onto the desert floor. It's so surreal to have this gigantic mass of lights and glittering buildings rear out of the desert that it seems like a mirage. In Reno, you finish buying supplies, the way the old timers did - stocking up on the essentials before heading out into the brush.
As you leave Reno at 4 am, you know you're heading into the wilderness. You hope you didn't forget anything. The air is quiet and cool, the stars sparkle. Others are on the move, too; the string of red lights ahead of you on the road tells you that. You're all heading to the same place. The further you go, the more Burners you run into, until they are the only people on the road - Burners and the people who serve them.
A week from this Saturday, I'll be on the playa trail. I hope for myself and everyone else who attends, that it's a vibrant, transformative, creative, challenging, fun, laughter-filled, connecting time. I hope for new friends and for old connections to be strengthened, for joy in the sun- and moonrises, for the time to sit in the shadow of the great, wrinkled mountains and absorb their calm presence. Have fun, y'all!