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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.

On the way to deep playaSaturday 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 the Temple of Gravity, which was wayyyyy out in deep playa), and cajoled Josh into going with me to ride over there before it got too hot. We eventually got dressed and geared up with water and chill neckcloths and scarves and hats and made it out by around 10am, and headed out the 9:00 side towards the deep playa (which is everything that is past the Temple and the circle of the inner playa). We started going from art piece to art piece, following the time-honored adventure ritual of “hey what’s that? Let’s go look.”

Temple of GravityWe did see some amazing art, including the incredibly impressive Temple of Gravity, which was a giant curved metal frame from which were suspended five huge multi-ton slabs of granite on metal chains—they were so perfectly balanced that you could push on one of the suspended slabs and it would move and sway. It was a trippy feeling of contrast to be a puny little soft monkey yet able to make a giant heavy slab of rock dance.

Flower TowerAnother favorite of mine was the Flower Tower, a humongous central rocket-shaped tower with multiple smaller rocket towers around it, each made of steel and covered with hundreds of individually shaped and colorfully painted metal flowers. This was made by Reared in Steel, who are local artists just up the highway from us in Petaluma. When I was at the Rivertown Revival festival back in July they’d set up one of the small rocket towers and next to it a booth where you could make a flower or two for the towers—I had a lot of fun making one and of course I looked for the one I made when I saw the whole thing in the desert, but there were far too many so I didn’t find it. It was super impressive and possibly my favorite piece of art at the burn. Did I mention it also shot fire out from the top, and lit up in beautiful rainbow colors at night? Amazing.

Supernova playing handpan at the ManBecause 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 handpan and go play with the gongs at the Man base and see what serendipitous interactions came my way. I had a lovely couple of hours there people-watching, playing handpan and talking to people (and letting people try my handpan). It was fun and a bit frustrating trying to listen to and play along with the gongs (which were apparently programmed but in a fairly chaotic, random pattern that went from soft to loud and back again). In yet another example of playa magic, I was sitting there thinking “gosh I wish I had a picture of me doing this so I’d remember it later” when someone came by with a Polaroid camera and gifted me with a photo. A little later on another lovely soul named Jason wandered by and stopped to check out the handpan and talk to me, and he turned out to be a photographer with lots of equipment so he took some photos and video of me playing (though I was feeling kind of nervous and on the spot so I don’t know how well they came out, but I don’t care.)

Pinkies biking across the playaAfter a couple of hours I had to leave and head back to camp because there was a group of campmates planning to bike across the playa to TransFOAMnation (this was the Dr. Bronner’s foam shower camp that I’d had such a good experience at last year, when it was called ReFOAMation—they change the theme every year) and hand out cookies. I also brought a couple hundred Pink Heart wooden necklaces to gift (we had so many, and it was clear that we would not go through them all just by passively leaving them on the Gifting Wall). I definitely didn’t want to miss the trip to TransFOAMnation, both because it’s such an awesome experience in and of itself to be dancing around with friends and strangers all clean and naked, and because it represented a kind of personal radical ritual to me to try appearing naked in public in all my modified, scarred-up glory. (This year I was determined to go through the whole experience naked, unlike the year before, when my reconstruction surgery scars were still quite fresh and I was feeling kind of shy about being naked in front of friends and strangers so I wore a two piece bathing suit.)

Supernova in the True Reflections PalaceWhen we got there we once again got to skip the very long line and go straight in in a Pink Heart clump, and I took a deep breath and stripped down and climbed up the steps and got foamy with my PHamily. And you know what? It was great. Even possibly greater than last year. I really reveled in the feeling of being clean and naked and dancing around with a bunch of other clean, naked, happy people. I had fun connecting with people and giving out necklaces and love (I let other people give out the cookies). I didn’t feel self-conscious or have any negative body-image moments at all. I sort of expected that I might get comments (from PHamily if not from strangers) about my scars but no one said anything, and although in some small way that was weird (because this big important thing had happened to me was not acknowledged), it mostly felt great to have an experience where I felt “normalized” in my body again.

MucaroI squeezed in a few hours of sleep on Thursday morning, and then blearily got up and changed into my pink outfit and tried to get myself together to go on the pink ride. Josh was anxious and bugging me about being ready on time and I felt rushed and cranky from the heat and the lack of sleep so we wound up fighting with each other in one of those classic playa breakdown moments. Unfortunately the Pink Ride wound up leaving without us and Josh didn’t want to go try to catch up to it so we stayed at camp and argued some more until we worked it out, and then decided to go out to the Temple. On the way there we stopped to see Mucaro, which was a big wooden owl sculpture that on the inside was an unexpectedly sweet tribute to teachers and education. Earlier in the week you could climb all the way up and look through the owl’s eyes out at the playa, but by the time we got there on Thursday the upper part of it was closed off, apparently because someone had fallen and hurt themselves. (There are a lot of potentially dangerous ways to hurt yourself out there at Burning Man if you’re not careful, and many people are, shall we say, not their most sober and careful selves while they’re there. It’s always a bummer when someone hurts themselves, but it’s also a bummer for those of us who then lose access because of someone else’s carelessness or disregard.) Still, it was pretty cool, and beautifully built.

What I wrote on the TempleOnce we got to the Temple, Josh and I split up. He had some heavy processing to do about his Dad’s illness and decline, so I gave him some space and went wandering around feeling my own feels (not to mention those of the hundreds of other burners that were there feeling their own feels or the thousands who had already been there and left their emotional residue hanging about). I had a box of forgiveness letters that my friend Eileen (who leads beautiful workshops and retreats focusing on Forgiveness) had given me to place at the Temple to be burned, so I did that first and then I came upon a guy doing some sound healing with crystal bowls and hanging chimes, so I stood there for a little while listening to that. During and after that I let myself do some quiet reflecting about the time I’d spent at the Temple last burn trying to process my Year of Living Cancerously, and how far I’d come and how much better I felt since then—although I also had to reflect on how much was still hanging around messing with me, and how much more complicated and time-consuming both healing and grieving were turning out to be. I still wasn’t feeling totally comfortable with my new, “modified” body, and struggling with the ways in which parts of me still felt “broken” or shifted away from how I once was, and with how I wasn’t “done” with the cancer experience, even though I was supposedly physically healed. I wrote a couple more things on the Temple walls (“Fuck off cancer and never come back” and “Hey boobies, I still miss you”) and then I sat for a bit and just let the feels wash through me.

Temple 2017While I was sitting there I was noticing a lovely older woman with a massage chair not far away from me giving out massages to people, and I started thinking about how I would love to have a massage (which is one of the regular tools I use for self-care at home) and maybe if I went closer she would notice me and offer me one. Then I thought to myself “hey, if you want to take care of yourself, be proactive. Don’t wait for others to see you want or need help, ask for what you need.” So I went over to her and asked her if I could be next. And she said “sure!” I felt pretty good about that (and it was a lovely massage). Josh came by and found me just as I was about to sit down on the chair, and he patiently waited for me to be done. After it was over I thanked the masseuse (whose name I am forgetting) and we left the Temple in a solemn, quiet mood.

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