Burning Man Countdown…..

As you might guess, Burning Man preparation continues to consume my every spare moment. This Saturday, we will climb in our RV and drive to a town called Hawthorne, Nevada to spend the night, take one last normal shower, and head to the gates the next morning. We have been fortunate enough to connect with a group of campers that will give us a small community in the center of a giant city. Check them out here. 

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I got a new watch. Events at Burning Man happen at specific times, and since my phone will not be attached to my body, I needed a way to know the time.

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I also got some boots, to go with everything.

I vacillate between extreme excitement and total panic, sometimes within the same minute. When I described this to my new friend Julia (the magic person who produced a spare ticket for me), she suggested this is completely normal. And not only that, I am to expect a total meltdown at some point during this journey. Likely in the middle of the desert. I am not a stranger to total meltdowns, and know there truly is no way to prepare for emotional overload, other than to ride it out when it happens.

We have planned our snacks, beverages, sunscreen, lighting, earplugs, goggles, electrolyte replacement, water, bikes, clothing, gifts, schedules, and travel route. I have never put so much thought into one trip in my life. I typically throw my things in a bag the day I’m leaving and hope for the best. Living in the desert with no nearby CVS has me modifying my behavior.

Many people have reached out to me with a variety of concerns – all completely valid. Yes, spending a week with my parents in harsh conditions is a bit crazy. We have a system for conflict resolution, and plan to spend enough time apart that we don’t want to kill one another halfway through. Yes, there are lots of drugs passed around in every form. From what I can tell, they are not required. Oh, yes, people are often naked. I don’t recall nudity being harmful in and of itself, but I am duly warned. My moments of panic all surround these topics. What will it be like? Who will be there? What will we do for that long? What will I wear?

Already this experience has blown my mind. Last year, I watched the event unfold on the live web feed (which you can view here sometime soon – maybe Sunday?) I cannot begin to imagine what it will be like in real life. But I assure you, I will attempt to tell the stories here.

Burning Man 2015: Who, What, When, Where, Why?

 

Last year I wrote about how I wanted to go to Burning Man, but the timing was not great. Sometimes I post on Facebook about our preparations, my quest for a ticket (I got one!), and my hope that people will send money to various crowdfunding opportunities. It is only within the last couple of weeks that I realized I am going. I will be there. With my parents. Very soon. And so, for those of you who have been following the saga, here is an introduction to what we are doing.

WHO?

My dad, also known as Legend, is the instigator, the driver, the spark behind our journey. He’s a badass. He taught me at a very young age that traveling around the world and placing  yourself in uncomfortable situations is the path to personal growth.

My mom. Owl. If you ever travel somewhere questionable or difficult, you want this lady in your car. She can find anything given the most rudimentary map. She can feed thousands from what she has in her fridge. She makes friends with all the right people, and creates a party out of thin air.

Me. Hensmith. (Phoenista to you all.) I’m 43, which shocks me every time I say it. I am only happy when I am planning my next trip. I have been known to sit on a plane to Europe with my laptop and calendar, deciding where I will go when I get back to town and have enough vacation saved up.

WHAT?

My elevator speech for people who ask is this: Burning Man is an art festival in the middle of the Nevada Desert, culminating in the burning of a giant man made out of wood. Usually, this answer makes people smile, nod, and avert their eyes. The more I talk, the more it sounds like a cult based upon ten principles, started by a man named Rod on a beach in San Francisco.

So here are the Ten Principles.

  1. Radical Inclusion
  2. Gifting
  3. Decomodification
  4. Radical Self-Reliance
  5. Radical Self-Expression
  6. Communal Effort
  7. Civic Responsibility
  8. Leaving No Trace
  9. Participation
  10. Immediacy

I read these and think “Yes yes yes! I want to live in that world!” I hope to spend some time prior to our departure writing about the Ten Principles and what I think they mean.

WHEN?

The gates to Burning Man open on Sunday August 30 at 10 a.m. Sometime on Friday the 28th or Saturday the 29th we will fire up the RV and start heading that way. It is nearly 12 hours from here. We are not supposed to arrive at the venue early. The man burns on Saturday the 5th. The temple burns on Sunday the 6th. Sometime on Labor Day we will head home, exhausted, dusty and tired.

WHERE?

Black Rock City is about an hour north of Reno under normal conditions. Apparently the wait to get in can exceed five hours. So we are bringing music and a deck of cards to kill time. Oh, and Black Rock City does not exist on any map, as far as I can tell. It is a modern day Brigadoon, except it shows up once a year instead of every hundred years, thankfully.

Here is what it looks like from the air:

An aerial view of the Burning Man 2013 arts and music festival is seen in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, August 29, 2013. The federal government issued a permit for 68,000 people from all over the world to gather at the sold out festival, which is celebrating its 27th year, to spend a week in the remote desert cut off from much of the outside world to experience art, music and the unique community that develops. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. FOR USE WITH BURNING MAN RELATED REPORTING ONLY - RTX130JD

An aerial view of the Burning Man 2013 arts and music festival is seen in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, August 29, 2013. The federal government issued a permit for 68,000 people from all over the world to gather at the sold out festival, which is celebrating its 27th year, to spend a week in the remote desert cut off from much of the outside world to experience art, music and the unique community that develops. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

 

WHY?

This might be the most difficult question to answer. Why go out into the middle of the desert with 70,000 people, leaving behind nearly all the comforts of the real world, packing a bag that requires goggles, a bike, and 500 gallons of water? There is no air conditioning. You can’t buy anything. You are expected to take care of yourself, build the community, participate, leave no trace, and wear a fantastic costume. It sounds annoying in many ways. And it costs a lot of money and uses all of my vacation time. I’m still working out the why of it all, I suppose.

A subset of this question is: why now? This event has been going on for many years and has always intrigued me. I lived in the Bay Area, for crying out loud, where you can’t walk down the street without bumping in to a burner. There are times in my life this would have been easier on many levels. When I was younger, childless, able to withstand long periods without good sleep.

There are many reasons to stay home. Yet. I am drawn to the idea of people creating giant art, building an entire city, and then burning it down, sweeping up the ashes, and leaving. It’s a physical manifestation of impermanence; a spiritual ideal come to life. The creation, and the letting go of that creation.

More to come. It takes a lot of preparation to live in the desert for a week. Yesterday we bought dust masks, travel underwear, and 500 gallons of water. My mom and I need bikes, and lights for the bikes. And I need a costume. Or ten.