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.
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.
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.
- Radical Inclusion
- Radical Self-Reliance
- Radical Self-Expression
- Communal Effort
- Civic Responsibility
- Leaving No Trace
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.
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.
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:
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.