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  • Radical Rituals at B ...
    This year I’m
    doing something
    different than my
    usual tradition of
    pithy punch list of
    lessons learned to
    wrap this series of
    entries up.
    I’m writing
    this last entry
    exactly two weeks
    after we got home
    from the burn, b ...
  • Radical Rituals at B ...
    Monday morning I
    woke up early and
    decided that I
    wanted to do one
    more personal ritual
    before we had to
    break down and pack
    up our yurt and load
    the truck and leave.
    So I took my handpan
    and one of our
    little chairs and
    walked ou ...
  • Radical Rituals at B ...
    Sunday is always a
    tough day at the
    burn because we have
    to strike
    tough physically of
    course but
    it’s also
    tough emotionally
    because it feels
    like the setting and
    the vibe we worked
    so hard to put toge ...
  • Radical Rituals at B ...
    Saturday was my only
    day with nothing
    pre-planned and
    nothing I had
    committed to do. The
    burn was almost over
    and I was starting
    to feel nibbles of
    FOMO (Fear Of
    Missing Out) so I
    was determined to go
    see some more art
    (especially ...
  • Radical Rituals at B ...
    Because I had
    actually gotten
    enough sleep, I woke
    up reasonably early
    on Friday morning.
    Josh was still
    asleep, but I wanted
    to take advantage of
    the relative
    coolness of the
    morning and go do
    something. So I
    decided to take my h ...


A blog in which Our Heroine records, reflects and wrestles with meaning. With lots of asides.

Rites of Passage at Burning Man: Part 2

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Tagged in: solipsistic , reflect , record , life , lessons , inspirational , identity work , freaky , Burning Man , art

Ticket for Burning Man 2011: Rites of PassageSo after much conversation and intention setting, Isis and I finally arrived at Black Rock City (which is what we call the city that springs up every year around Burning Man) early Tuesday evening, almost two days into the event. It took us about an hour or two to get ourselves to and through the gate, which was frustrating at first but then we realized why it was taking so long. Not only do you have to show your ticket and let them search your car (no big deal really), but also they have a welcoming committee that you pass through, who pull you out of the car and give you hugs and tell you “welcome home!”, make sure you know where you’re going. And if you’re new, like I was, they get you to lie down in the dust and make a “playa angel” and ring a big bell. (I turned down the playa-angel-making experience, because I was just not yet ready for the dust. They didn’t force it.) We knew where Sacred Spaces Village was (4:15 and Esplanade, which was actually right on Black Rock City’s “Main Street” and therefore a pretty awesome home base) but even after wandering around a bit, we had a really difficult time accessing it by car. You’re not supposed to drive on the Esplanade, but we finally gave up and did so, just so we could get ourselves close to where we were supposed to be. We found the Sacred Spaces Village camp, but couldn’t find the people who were supposedly in charge of checking us in, so we waited around for a while as it got dark. Isis went inside the main chill space so she could lie down, and I waited with the car. Finally a lovely soul named Aaron arrived to take care of us. He welcomed me home (I love it how that simple phrase, which I heard many times while I was there, encompasses so much about community and identity) and then helped me figure out where we might be able to put our car and where we could pitch our tent. He even stayed with me to help direct me as I drove the car (slowly, cautiously, against the night traffic) to the camping spot, and made sure we got ourselves settled.

So once we had our spot staked out, we were able to grab some food, and then we finished signing in and got our camp bracelets (which let us officially get food) and our bathroom keys (SSV had its own bank of port-o-potties and a couple of shower stall spaces, which was a huge blessing). By then it was getting close to 10pm, but we still had yet to put our tent together. Since Isis was still needing to rest and not lift anything due to her health issues, it was up to me to put our personal camp space together—and I did, after a few struggles with trying to adapt our fantasy plan of how things would be set up to the reality of the situation we found ourselves in. I pulled boxes out of the car, put up our big tent (we had brought several tents but there wasn’t room for them), filled it with air mattresses and our sleeping gear, and let Isis crash out. Me in My Fish Hat and Stripy Scarf-Burning Man 2011By then it was close to midnight, but I really couldn’t go to sleep without at least taking a brief look around. I found my costume bin and dug out a crazy yellow fish hat and bright orange shirt and stripy scarf, and put them on. Then I grabbed my Camelbak backpack and walked out the front door of our camp, which faced the open playa with the Man in the middle of it.

[A brief digression here to explain to those who don’t know how Burning Man is laid out—those of you who do know can skip this part. There’s a map, but the simple explanation is that the city is laid out like a semi-circle surrounding a large open area. The radial streets of the city correspond to the hours on a clock, from 10 o’clock on the left to 2 o’clock on the right. The streets that run the circumference of the semi-circle start with the Esplanade on the inside, closest to the open playa, and then after that are alphabetical A-H. Each year the alphabetical streets are re-named to correspond to the year’s theme, so this year, for example, A was Anniversary, B was Birthday, C was Coming Out, and so on. All rites of passage, see?]

Ok, even though it’s not quite technically Fall yet, the Parentheticals summer hiatus is now officially over! (What, you didn’t know there was going to be a summer hiatus? Well, neither did I. Sometimes things come as a surprise even to the creator.) After spending a summer full of travel and family time and “filling-the-well” activities, I’m ready to get back into the rhythm of experience-reflect-share-repeat.

Nu, so what kinds of activities and epiphanies have I been blessed with over the last few months? Well, lots and lots. But let me start with the most recent and most affecting experience, because it’s gonna be a doozy of a writeup: my first trip to Burning Man. (Warning: since it’s been so long and there’s so much to share about this experience, I’m going to break this up into several blog entries. If you really only want highlights, you can look at the selected pictures throughout and/or skip to the “Top Ten Takeaways From Burning Man” section at the very end, or you can view the full set of pictures on my Flickr page .)

So: Burning Man. Maybe you’ve heard of it: that crazy amazing alternate universe of participatory radical self-expression where everything is a gift and a party, in which a temporary city of 50,000 people is built up in the empty desert for a week and then disappears literally without a trace. Well, after years of hearing about it in my peripheral friend circle, and thinking “hmm that would be cool to go check out some day, maybe when the kids are older”, I was gifted the perfect opportunity to go experience Burning Man for myself. I had always imagined that Josh and I would go together, but this opportunity was just for me: I was able to accompany my friend Isis (yep, that’s her “playa name”, I’ll get to that in a minute), a Burning Man veteran whose recent health issues had made her uncertain as to whether or not she’d be able to go, and whose original traveling partner(s) hadn’t been able to go either. She’d floated the “let’s go to Burning Man together” idea somewhere back in May or June, but given all the travel and activity that I’d already packed into my summer, and the distractions they created, I didn’t make up my mind to go until July. But there was finally a point (after a few key conversations) where I realized that this event could serve as an excellent catalyst for all the personal transformation I’ve been working towards for a couple of years now, and that the only things preventing me from going were my own fears (of the unknown, of logistical hassles, of what might happen if I really did put my own needs first, of true transformation).

Ok, I realize that I’m extremely late to the party on this one, but I feel like I have to talk a little bit about the Maker Faire, which we finally went to for the first time this year. Although I’d heard of it for years from various friends, and was told that I’d enjoy it, I apparently wasn’t listening hard enough, because we never made the effort to go before this. I have to say, I’m so glad we went—I was tremendously inspired, even despite having to wrangle several hyper and curious kids at the same time. I will definitely be going back every year now, and hopefully even figuring out how to participate next time.

I wasn’t totally sure what specifically to expect from the Maker Faire, although I knew in general that it was a place for all kinds of DIY “maker” people (engineers, scientists, tinkerers, architects, geeks, artists, gardeners, crafters, etc.) and their projects. And it was that, but I think I didn’t quite expect the sheer volume of creative/fun/interesting/intelligent/kooky people, performances and hands-on activities that we found there (and we totally did not even get the chance to see it all—maybe only half of what was there, if that). It was like the Exploratorium and Burning Man and Cirque du Soleil and the Whole Earth Festival all got together and had a polyamorous love child. I found myself most drawn to the crafty/artistic/performance stuff (as opposed to the more “hard science” or green/organic type stuff), but all of it was interesting and presented in such a way that I wanted to try everything.

What I really “got” after having been there was that for everything we saw, from the young guys who had mashed up Minecraft with Kinect to the firebreathing steampunk dragonmobile, from to the motorized giant cupcakes to the Mentos-and-Diet-Coke guys’ performance, from the life-sized poseable articulated stick people that anyone could rearrange to the enormous inflatable color-changing nylon asparagus sculptures that anyone could hug (or punch), the point and the purpose seemed to be to infect other people with a sense of curiosity or wonder or playfulness. It was like thousands of people all asked themselves “what kind of cool stuff could I make that other people would like?” and then they all got together and brought their inventions and let other people play with them and taught anyone who was interested how they worked and encouraged others to try making them too. It was a magnificent collection of cultural creatives all flying their freak flags high and proud.

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