Robin's Adventures at Burning Man, Part XIII

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

by Robin Forman

Back to the Default World

The Man will burn again in 333 days.

Like alkali dust through the hour glass, so were the days of Burning Man. The bus had been packed, and we had spent the morning picking up what is called MOOP (matter out of place) as per the Burning Man agreement to “leave no trace.”

One of my last images of the desert and of Burning Man was of an art car. By now, the desert city was more of a desert village still littered with art. An art car that looked like a giant magic carpet drove by me and D. They implored us to join them but we were leaving. They were dancing and smoking a hookah that sat in the middle of the carpet. They were listening to Everything but the Girls’ “Missing.” As they drove past “And I miss you, like the deserts miss the rain…” soared past us, and I thought that song was so poignant at that particular moment. It actually became the only song I could listen to for my entire 12-hour journey back to D.C. as well as for the next four days. And just like my time in Black Rock City, the magic carpet and that song disappeared into the desert.

The whole time I was at Burning Man I was caught up solely in the moment. It is a place where it is impossible to be anywhere else but right there or in any other time but right then. I actually thought that I wouldn’t really miss it when I left. I was excited to shower and not have everything coated in a layer of alkali dust. But the day we got back to the rest of the world I found myself in that moment, right there in the default world: miserable, mournful, and confused.

There were no more mountains or art cars. There weren’t 30 different kinds of music playing each time you turned a corner. There were no costumes and decorated bicycles. People didn’t wave, say "hi" and offer you a seat or a drink even if you had never met them. The beauty was gone after the Man and the Temple burned.

Believe it or not, I went into this event as somewhat of a skeptic. When I first arrived at the greeters’ gate after my particular greeter found out I was a virgin burner, she hugged me and said “Welcome home.” I later explained to a veteran burner that I thought this was a little too cult-like for me. In fact, it reminded me of a particular episode of Boy Meets World in which Shawn joins a cult called “The Center” and they constantly hug each other and say things like “Welcome home.”

But there I was sitting on Chris’ lawn in Oakland, California, as tears dropped to the pages of my journal. I was writing outside because being inside scared me and looking up at the sky was the only way I could know that Black Rock City was still out there somewhere. Going to Burning Man is like being part of the most exclusive and simultaneously inclusive, beautiful and wonderful club in the world. I am so proud to finally have become a member.

The Man burns in 333 days and I can’t wait to go home to see him again.

(To read the preceding part, please go here. To read this series from the beginning, please go here. )

(Photo of the magic carpet art car courtesy of Robin Forman. To see a CBC interview with Larry Harvey, the founder of Burning Man, please check below.)

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