My two friends and I were waiting in the hotel registration line at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, waiting to get our room key. It's a long drive, specially for my one friend who had driven his truck and camper up from southern California to pick me up on our way to Burning Man. We had decided to stay over one night in Reno, then get up before dawn and head out to the playa, after a last night of a good dinner, drinks, and a real shower. As we waited in the shiny, loud, blinky, mirrored casino-slash-hotel lobby, we would have looked out of place except for the Burners who surrounded us. I had on a midriff-revealing tank top and desert pants, and the multiple bracelets, necklaces, and medallions that signify my Burner persona, and one of my companions had a shock of bright pink hair. As we waited, a young-looking, scruffy man with a long, unkempt beard walked by and said "Welcome Home."
But at my fourth Burning Man, I finally got it, and finally felt it. This was home. Not the flat, dusty moonscape with the surreal art sprouting from it like Dali-esque flowers, but the community of creative, inspired, lunatic people who spend months, if not the entire preceding year, getting ready for what is, in essence, a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage to the place where we
can fully be ourselves, from the professional men who gather flamboyant outfits to wear in the dust, parading like wonderful peacocks, finally comfortable in their own skin, to the women in the short-shorts and tall dusty boots who can finally give up worrying about makeup and body hair, or who can go all out with makeup, body paint, and jewelry in a way that would label them freaks in the real world. Burning Man is a place to let go of all expectations, all plans, all judgment, a place to be inspired, to experiment, to stay up all night marveling at the show that spreads out before us on 5 square miles of alkali plain. It's a place to create art, to have deep conversations with strangers as the stars, lasers, and LED-lit mile-long strings of balloons wheel and dance above us in the black sky. A place to dance, to wonder, to travel deep into the psyche or to fly high above it, in whatever fashion you choose to do so. It's the only place like it in the world. And because Burning Man is about coming back to oneself, it's home.
Welcome Home, fellow Burners, let's meet again soon.