Wednesday morning started off pretty mellow, though I still woke up early (at least I once again scored on a clean-ish potty). I stopped off and saw a few bits of nearby art on my way to and from the potty, and then wound up sitting in the Pink Swing with Anji for a little while to talk to her about some of the things going on in her burn. While we were there we saw a really amazingly all lime-green and black costumed guy trudging by, looking like he was on his way home from a crazy night out, and called him over so we could look at his costume more closely. He told us he was “En-Ki” (a Sumerian god), and he really made me want to up my costume game!
Anji and I decided we wanted to go to the Temple, so I went back to the yurt to change and grab my stuff and see if Josh wanted to go (he didn’t). Melanie joined us though, and we biked out to the Temple together and then split up when we got there.
I spent some time thinking about Josh’s dad and his imminent physical transition, and wrote him a little note on the Temple wishing him ease and grace during it. I also took off the embroidery floss bracelet that I’d been wearing since Gaming Camp started earlier in the summer and tied it to one of the wooden hearts that Anji had had someone make (they said “YOU ARE LOVED”) and bring to the Temple for people to use for their own messages. I wrote myself a couple little encouraging messages on the heart: “you are enough/self care comes first” (which is one of the big lessons that working—and breaking down—at Gaming Camp had reinforced for me) and “thanks past me for taking care of future me...I love you!” (which has also been a kind of ongoing theme for me this year). I didn’t drop down too deep into reflection because I knew my time there was limited—I had my Handpan Jam gig at Center Camp to get to by 10:30. So I left Anji there and biked back with Mel to Pink Heart to collect Josh and my handpan.
We were running a bit late and I was a bit anxious but everything turned out fine. When I got there Judith (my handpan teacher) and her friend Arsenic were already there with their handpans, and even though I was hoping that other handpan friends would show up, it turned out to be just the two of us (Arsenic didn’t want to be on stage). So the kindly volunteer stage technicians set Judith and I up some cushions on the stage floor and gave us a couple of mikes and we took all three handpans out there with us. We had no real plan about what to do and our handpans really didn’t coordinate well, but both of us were pretty comfortable with each other and with improvising so I think it still turned out pretty well. (We called it “extreme handpan sports” because it was so hard to get the pans to work together.) We started by trying to play pans together but quickly switched to taking turns playing one pan each and playing four-hands-one-pan together on each of the pans. I was nervous about playing on stage and I think that made me a little over-enthusiastic at times but Judith was very gracious and overall we had a really fun time playing with each other in that setting. Amazingly enough, there was a fairly big crowd listening to us, and every time we stopped or talked to them they seemed interested and appreciative. I wish I’d gotten video but Josh got caught up in the coffee line and didn’t make it back in time to get my phone from me (he didn’t have his phone on him) so it will just have to live in my memory. I did get a few pics from Mom though, for which I am very grateful. At the end of our scheduled half hour, the stage manager asked if we could keep going a little longer as the person after us had not shown up yet. So we said “um, sure” and kept improvising and playing for probably another 15-20 minutes or so. The handpan jam experience in general was a good reminder that things generally work out pretty well if you just flow with it, and trust yourself.
Unfortunately I didn’t have a lot of time to stick around Center Camp after the handpan jam, because I had another Pink Heart water bar shift to get back to and we’d already run late. So I hugged Judith goodbye and biked back to Pink Heart with Josh. I had another pretty fun couple of hours interacting and slaking the thirst of dusty burners, and at some point in there Halcyon came by and I got a chance to go walk him through the Radical Love Ritual with the wooden heart necklaces on the side of camp, which he appreciated. After the shift I was pretty dang tired and it was still blazingly hot so I went to chill out and nap in our yurt.
Once I got up from my nap, it was time to go celebrate with our campmates Cat and Andrew, who were getting married at the Heart Arch in front of our camp, and then there was camp dinner. After dinner Josh and I got dressed to go out to the White Party, which was all the way across the playa at 2:00 and E so we had to bike there. It was, as usual, a big fancy fun dancy time, but we only stayed a couple hours before we got tired of it and decided to head back to camp with Anji and House via a few side adventures to see some art. Among other things, we stopped by the amazing Tree of Tenere, which was a several stories tall tree with tens of thousands of LED leaves that continuously changed color and pattern. It was breathtakingly impressive but we did not stick around to climb up into it (which I now regret). We also stopped to play with a lit up rope that stretched up into the sky for hundreds of feet and was attached to a big floating weather balloon—trust me, it was more fun than it sounds.
We also stopped by the Man base to check it out. Right outside the base there were a variety of art pieces in a circle surrounding it, which we unfortunately didn’t spend a lot of time looking at (you get very overwhelmed by art sometimes and you have to pick and choose what you have the energy to pay attention to, especially late at night when you perhaps aren’t at your most attentive.) This year the Man stood on the ground but was enclosed inside a sort of pagoda or pavilion, which had self-playing gongs and chimes on the sides (reminiscent of the Temple a few years ago that played itself) and an altar next to his feet in the middle. You could walk around the inside floor, and you could go up stairs and walk around a wide wooden balcony that was approximately at the Man’s chest level.
While we were there, standing on the balcony and looking down into the main altar area, I noticed that I had apparently lost one of the metal hearts from the strand of lights I was wearing that night—I could see it lying in the dust just in front of someone sitting cross-legged in the corner against the wall. It felt like a nudge from the playa, so I decided to go down there and pick it up and see who that person was. When I did I found that it was a young man from the band that I’d welcomed into BRC as a Greeter a couple of nights before. Playa magic! We had a nice little reconnection and I told him to keep the heart.
Eventually we wandered back to Pink Heart and Josh went to bed but I stayed up because I had a sunrise shift on Headspace from 4-8am. I brought my pink heart fleece throws and my playa coat and wore my pink Headspace hat and I was ready to go. It turned out to be a lovely experience cruising the deep playa in the wee hours, even though I was pretty tired. There were several other Pinkies hanging out on Headspace during that shift, and I have fond memories of cuddle time and conversations with Alex, Anshul, and Sup, and some fun banter with Ian at some of the stops we made. Sup especially will always be my sunrise buddy...we had some great conversations and smiles and hugs all night long.
One moment I particularly remember was cruising across the playa as the light was brightening and the DJ was playing a cool mix of “Here Comes the Sun”. The combination of beautiful light, sound, and temperature was perfect and the feeling of freedom and happiness plus the realization that there was nowhere else better to be than right here, in this moment, with these people, in this place, was one of those peak Burning Man moments.
Once the sun was up, Headspace stopped at the Temple so that many of us could meet up with Kathy and Anthony. Kathy had made a beautiful, very personal art piece (an entire outfit including a headpiece all made of paper that had images and words from a poem she’d written) that she started off wearing herself and then planned to take off and place at the Temple to be burned in her own radical ritual of freedom and expression. She wanted witnesses and had asked some of us to be there with her as she did this. So there was small group of people who formed a solemn procession with her and walked with her to find a spot to put her pieces. We watched in silence as she removed each piece and put it on a mannequin and pinned them in place and cried happy tears with her as she stood there in just a simple black dress, free of the past and ready to step into her own future. It was a very moving ritual, and I felt really honored to be able to witness and accompany her in such an important personal shift. There were lots of hugs afterwards and she clearly felt happy and lighter.
After the ritual and hugs were done we all climbed back on Headspace and headed back to Pink Heart. I was pretty wrung out at that point so I went back to our yurt and tried to catch a few hours of sleep before I had to get up and change for the Pink Ride, which was at noon.