Robin's Further Adventures at Burning Man, Part IV

(Editor's Note: This is the fourth part of a six-part diary posting covering the Burning Man Festival in Nevada, which ended recently. To read the series from the beginning, please go here.)

by R. J. Forman

Suddenly I am ten again and I am running behind my brothers trying to keep up.

Only these aren't my brothers.

This is Counselor and his best friend Engineer.

Lexi and I are desperately pedaling on our beat up, but decorated, bikes to keep up with these two as they dart from side to side en route to who knows where.

We park at the Image Node (a multi-media art gallery that sometimes also hosts dance parties) and walk about 100 yards into the desert to a tree made of words plus blue, silver, and white lights.

The leaves of messages rustle in the wind.

The Counselor and the Engineer have left this world. I was supposed to go with them, but for some reason it didn't work.

So I am left to playing the kid sister role for awhile.

Lexi decides she's not feeling the music at the Image Node and heads out to find her own adventure… one that will leave her sleeping on a piece of artwork on the open Playa.

I don't care that I'm playing the kid sister role, or that I'm the only one in our little triumvirate that has both feet and my head on this planet. It's fun watching these two best boy friends and their awkward boy love.

They love each other and like drafting a truck, I draft their love for the night.

I escort the Counselor to the rest facilities more times than I can remember. Mostly because he and I are both concerned that something shiny will distract him and we will lose him.

Finally the two begin their descent back to earth.

And so we head out to look at some art.

We climb a small version of the Capitol Building decorated with a Native American motif and quotes from famous chiefs. (Artist Kate Raudenbush calls the work "Altered States.")

We see a blue EL wire whale breech and dive back into the desert.

Then we head to the Temple of Forgiveness.

The Temple houses the thoughts and memories for Burners who've lost someone, had to let someone go, or it serves whatever spiritual need each individual Burner might have. The Temple itself is a beautiful structure and then people add their own art like photo collages, journals, and writing: anything that holds sentiment. It is a place of healing.

The Temple is then burned and those memories are released and hopefully you are also freed from the pain or discomfort those things have left you with.

I left my mom's cancer there.

The Temple is quiet. Counselor leaves me and Engineer for the bathroom.

Engineer and I wander the Temple in silent understanding. I have just met Engineer but I feel like I've known him forever, partially through stories about him from Counselor and another mutual friend of ours, but mostly because that's just the kind of person Engineer is. You just feel incredibly warm and safe with Engineer, like he's always been with you.

We are on the second floor of the Temple peering up at its steeple against a velvety backdrop of night sky and stars. Engineer notices that I've been sniffling. He tells me something about how the Temple is beautiful and how these chimes and the noise of people shuffling through are all in sync and how it affects him emotionally. He says this all in a more eloquent way than I could ever do justice.

My only response is: "The Temple makes me cry."

"Me too," Engineer says.

Then without a moment of hesitation he reaches his arms around me and holds me close with no intent of letting go until I'm ready. I lose it. A year's worth of bottled up emotions streaming down my face.

I release Engineer and I release the knot of emotions.

We hear a distant "caw*" called out by Counselor from a floor below.

The moment has passed but will never be forgotten.

*Calling out "caw" like a deranged bird is the way in which Counselor and his group of friends find each other in public places. I have been privy to this practice for the past year and change.

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

(The photo of "Altered States" is © copyright Elana Remas and is used with permission. To see a short video of the wings art installation at Burning Man, please check below.)

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