Robin's Further Adventures at Burning Man, Part V

(Editor's Note: This is the fifth 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

Burning Man has become my New Year's. That night in August when the man burns, not January, is when I make resolutions, say goodbye to the last year, and try to look only forward.

I think January's New Year's is a stupid holiday. I think people use it as an excuse to drink till drunk and I think Bono* said it best when he sang, "Nothing changes on New Year's Day."

But we all need something to help us start again, let go, and move on. And we need to make resolutions because resolve means we believe that there's something in this world worth fighting for, worth changing, worth helping, worth trying.

For me the burn will remain my New Year and this year my resolutions are: find a new job, move to California, and open my heart no matter how much it hurts.

Counselor and I set out for a yoga class in the early part of Burn Day. The class was packed to the brim and when we tried to set up our mats near the entrance a Burner uncharacteristically like a curmudgeon told us not to be there. So we were no longer digging the vibe of that particular dome. We headed out to do our own practice.

After a peaceful hour and a half of one-on-one yoga complete with each of us taking turns to help the other and gently coax vinyasas further, we parted for lunch.

The rest of that Saturday was shrouded in dust.

A little after 1:00 pm the wind kicked up the dust and whipped it around until about 8:00 at night. Rumors swirled about postponing the burning of the man.

After a failed attempt at finding Counselor at Hippocampus (a theme camp) and my nap outside in the dust storm, Elana found me and told me she and Counselor had washed her hair and were seeking refuge from the dust in the Nap Dome at Hippocampus.

In the Nap Dome, there's a collection of people getting acupuncture and a handful of people taking turns strumming the guitar quietly and soothingly.

We drink warm Tecate beer with limes and eventually the whole of the Hippocampus theme camp is gathered in the Nap Dome for a meeting. Elana and I are extended an invitation to stay and in accepting we witness a spectacular performance of "I love you but I can't" as performed by Baby Burner, Fireball, who's about 6 years old.

The vibe in the dome is overwhelmingly gracious and joyful. The camp leader, Harley, thanks everyone for their community here on the Playa and the extension out into the default world. We join in a healing chant for members of the camp who couldn't be on the Playa this year for health reasons. We improvise a song to which everyone contributes a rhythm or melody all of which go together miraculously well.

The dust has cleared and I am left with the sense that a fog has been lifted from my brain and another little crack opened in my heart as well.

This has been going on all week… these little cracks in the hardened shell around my heart. I put that shell on it. I've worked very hard to maintain it. But it's time now for it to start breaking apart.

I am in the port-a-potty changing when I hear fireworks and cheering. The rumors weren't true! The man is burning and I'm in a port-a-potty!

I head back to my camp to find Elana and Counselor standing on the roof of the school bus. They shout to me to hurry.

I climb up the ladder and am greeted with hugs and "happy burns." My heart is wiggling and trying to break free of the shell.

Elana makes it an early night and Counselor and I nap in the Image Node's chill space so we can join the Hippocampus group for the sunrise.

We find the group as the sky turns pale blue streaked with orange and yellow. The group invites me to join in their huddle as they sit on the ground. I turn them down and stand a few feet away.



Already I can feel myself receding into my default world self.

*For those who don't track music or human rights causes — and why would you be reading this blog if you don't — Bono is the lead singer of U2, only one of the biggest rock bands in the world.

(To read this series from the beginning, please go here. To read the final part in this year's series, please go here.)

(The photo is © copyright Jay Heffernan and is used with permission. To see a short video of the burning of the man at this year's festival, please check below.)

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Rick Rockwell said...

Robin, I hope you and your crew will resolve to bring better Mexican beer to Burning Man next year. Tecate, Sol, and Corona are all popular but not really good beers. Bring some Dos X (XX) or Bohemia. I'd even be willing to donate a six.

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