Robin's Further Adventures at Burning Man, Part VI

(Editor's Note: This is the final 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

It was a different kind of burn this year.

The night Counselor arrived I told him this.

"It's different this year. There's a different vibe."

"I used to think that every year I came," Counselor said. "But it's not different. You're different."

He's right.

He's so right.

When I started reflecting on this latest journey, I wrote:

"...I find myself sitting in the Denver airport en route back to my mundane life of non-neon colors, florescent lights and art you can't touch.

$215 extra for an earlier flight back.

Radiohead via iPod the only comfort.

The dust from the Playa still clings to my hands and the pain of a heart pried open ever so slightly rings in my chest."

The shell around my heart has been chipped and cracked and that forgotten and protected muscle is finally getting room to breathe.

I am hundreds of miles from where I was at this point last year.

Last year, when I left, I sat in the airport holding the headphones of my MP3 player into my ears with my head down trying to avoid all non-Burner human contact.

This year I was sad, of course. My life in D.C. lacks much of the passion, openness and excitement that the burn runs on. My job constantly feels like a Dementor from the Harry Potter series… sucking whatever happiness I have out of me. D.C. is an unfriendly and fiercely competitive city… nobody there waves to you just for walking by or offers you a cold drink just because you look hot.

Reflecting again, I flash backward.

I sit on the bus at the edge of Black Rock City while we kill time — waiting to head in for our last activity. The Temple Burn. I desperately try and capture my emotional rollercoaster on paper. I try to conceal the tears that are streaming down my face. The burn is ending.

Later, as I sit huddled under a tiny fleece blanket next to Elana, she, Paulette and I discuss our New Year's resolutions. I say mine out loud, solidifying them in the rising flames and smoke of the Temple of Forgiveness.

Maybe my resolutions won't all come to fruition. But I know I have to work towards them. One cannot remain at a job that feels like a fictional soulless and soul-eating character. And if I feel such a strong pull to the West then I need to start working towards heading that way. And maybe a wholly open heart will take years to develop, just as it took years to build the iron cast around it. But it's been cracked. The changes are in motion. They were actually put in motion last year.

I know I'm going to be okay leaving this time. Last year, I wasn't so sure.

I left last year's burn as a better version of me.

I leave this year's burn as a better version of that.

(To read this series from the beginning, please go here. To read the first Burning Man series from the beginning, please go here.)

(The photo shows the Temple of Forgiveness 2008 before it was burned; the photo is by Zaskoda of Dallas, TX via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license. To see a video of a portion of the burning of the Temple of Forgiveness in 2008, please check below.)

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