Robin's Adventures at Burning Man, Part XII

(This is the twelfth part of a multi-part series about the Burning Man Festival. To read this series from the beginning, please go here. To read the final part in the series, please go here.)

by Robin Forman


The Man has burned.
Seven hours until the Temple burns.

I awoke from addled sleep every hour on the hour until about three in the afternoon, after the long stretch of time I had celebrated the burning of the Man. I kept thinking I was going to be sick. That seemed to be a theme shared by my experiences with various intoxicants…you would think I would have learned. But the lessons of Burning Man don’t really set in until afterward. Or at least not the ones involving intoxicants.

I needed to pack. I collapsed my tent, shoved dusty clothes into suitcases, and waved goodbye to my fellow Gypsies. I wasn’t leaving quite yet, but I was going to camp with the Voodoo Space Patrol for the last night, because we had planned to leave at the crack of dawn.

There was one last burn.

There’s a calm and quiet that sets over the Playa on the Sunday after the Man burns. A great number of people have left because the main event is over and there's a sense that only the true burners, those who can’t let go just yet, remain. The city begins to unravel as tents are collapsed and packed into dust-coated cars.

Exhaustion was finally winning the battle and I had to give up on the Burning Man dress code. I arbitrarily threw on gauche pants, leg warmers, a long sleeved shirt, sweatshirt and a vest. It was about warmth now. It’s a lot harder to feel warm when you’re burned out and sober.

Sarah, D, and I were going to watch the Temple of Forgiveness burn.

The Temple is traditionally a more quiet and solemn burn. It doesn’t pack quite the same heat as the Man, not to say the fire’s any less, but people generally don’t scream and party like rock stars after the Temple burn.

All week long people go to the Temple to write memories, messages of love, and feelings of longing for people they’d lost or who needed healing. Some people even left behind possessions that belonged to those people or pictures of them. The boys from the Voodoo Space Patrol had lost a member of their camp from previous years and so they had left his picture and his bowling shoes. There are very few places in this world where lyrics from Mr. Mister are somber and not funny. But the lyrics to "Broken Wings" written across one of the wooden structures in the middle of the Temple actually caused tears to well in my eyes.

I had a friend who needed healing. She’s always needed healing and positive energy. Part of me knows she always will. In fact, it is the very same friend, who three years ago told me she was headed off to Burning Man. The week before I left for the festival, she told me that the day she had moved into her new apartment in a developing area of a city, (a city that shall remain unnamed to protect her anonymity), a young man had insisted upon helping her carry a tearing bag up to her new place. Once in her apartment he proceeded to strangle her and promise her that if she just let him have his way – his way being rape – he would let her live. Thankfully, she fought like the tiger she has always been and escaped down the fire escape with nothing but surface wounds.

When she called me afterward, I was sitting in my car outside a pharmacy where I was going to buy my last minute cosmetics for Burning Man. I sat in my car with tears streaming down my face and it was then that I decided that not only would I dedicate all of my yoga practices to her, but that I would dedicate my Temple burn experience too.

I didn’t write anything in the Temple and I didn’t actually get to see it ignited or it’s fall, but I found myself standing in front of the fallen structure watching the smoke cascade into the sky.

“I think that’s where all the prayers go,” D said, noting my upward gaze.

Now, I don’t believe in god, and I don’t believe in prayer. But I do believe in positive energies and healing powers sent through intention. And with what little energy I had remaining from such a positive week I sent it all up in the smoke and to my friend.

(To read the preceding part, please go here. To read the final part in the series, please go here. )

(The Temple burn photo is from Smoobs via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license. To see a video of of the 2007 Temple burn, please check below.)

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Anonymous said...

This needs a final part!! Don't forget about it

Rick Rockwell said...

Thanks for catching our editing error! I know many other people have read this series so I wonder why it has taken ten months for someone to notice this?

Nevertheless, the new links have been posted, or you can go to the final part here.

Thanks again.

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