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 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.)
After 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.)
When 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.
After a while of dancing and gifting we were dry and ready to get dressed again, so we put our clothes back on and went through to the post-shower area, where there was more lotion and a bar serving cold Yerba Mate (yum!). The way out turned out to be through an art piece that I’ve seen (and loved) several times now at Burning Man, the True Reflections Palace, where you get to see yourself in a variety of “backwards” mirrors so that you can experience seeing yourself as others see you. It was a good metaphorical close to the naked shower dance experience, and reminded me that whatever my own body-image worries or grieving, others see me as who I really am and that who I am is a twinkly bright happy powerful Supernova.
Our Pink Heart group met up again afterwards but then decided all to go our separate ways back. Josh and I decided to ride through the city to get back to Pink Heart (since this was probably going to be the only time we were over there). We were happily biking along when someone called out to us “hey, whatever you’re doing right now is not as important as coming over here and getting a snowcone”, and we looked at him and at each other and without hesitation said “yup, you’re right!” and made that detour. Again, playa magic—because as I’ve said before, pretty much one of my favorite things at Burning Man is being gifted with improbable cold treats in a crazy hot desert. There was a sign at the camp giving away the snowcones that encouraged people to cut to the front of the line by showing their tits or their junk, but having just had a naked ritual experience and its accompanying release, I decided I didn’t need to do it again that soon (and frankly, the line wasn’t that long so it didn’t seem worth it).
We eventually made it back out to open playa and detoured to see a few art pieces, including the fabulous big metal letters that have been there the last few years (this year they said XOXO), and a piece called “Maya’s Mind” which was a giant concrete bust that was a gorgeous tribute to Maya Angelou by the same artist (Mischell Phoenix Riley) who last year made “Inside the Mind of Da Vinci”. We actually saw a praying mantis perched on the backside of Maya’s Mind...I’m not sure what the message was there but it was kind of cool to see an actual big live insect out there in the mostly barren desert.
When we finally got back to Pink Heart, I transitioned to yet another water bar shift from 4-6pm. During that shift I also started giving away more wooden necklaces and encouraging people to go do the radical love ritual we’d created with them. I told people the same thing over and over: I’d ask them if they wanted to participate in a radical ritual with me, and if they said yes (which 99% of them did...I love that about burners) I’d hold up a necklace or two and show them that it said “Pink Heart” and say “okay, so we’re Pink Heart, and we love you.” (Then I’d look each person in the eyes and try to really mean it.) “We want you to feel the same joy in giving and receiving love that we do, so we made this ritual for you so you can feel some of the love we get to feel all the time. Here’s what we’re going to do. Each of you gets one of these...” (at which point I’d hand each person in earshot a necklace) “...and there are some pink sharpies up at the bar for you to use. We’re going to each write on the back of this heart a word or two of love, encouragement, compliment, positive affirmation, or whatever kind and loving thing you feel you can say to a stranger. Then you take your necklace aaaaaalllll the way over to the other side of camp, around the bike parking and down 8:00, and you’ll see there’s a wall of these necklaces hanging there. You put the necklace you made on the wall and leave it for someone else to feel the love you give them, and then you take a necklace from the wall that someone else made for you and feel the love that someone else is giving you. So you make some love and take some love. It’s like Pink Heart training wheels.” Almost every time I got to the part of the explanation where I encouraged them to take a necklace that someone else had made for them, people lit up and went “ohhh” in a pleased tone of voice or said “Great idea, I love it!” or something similar. Then after I’d explained to enough people and given away enough necklaces I’d go back behind the bar and serve water and fill water coolers. I did this for several hours at least but eventually my replacements came and I quit to go have dinner and chill out, though I left a bunch of heart necklaces there and encouraged other people to keep explaining the ritual (which they did!)
Towards evening there was some “meats-and-cheeses” PHamily hangout in the shade of our shared patio area (where everyone brings meats and cheeses and other snacks to share). I don’t remember what else I did on Friday evening but I’m guessing it probably also involved hanging out in the Pink Lounge with PHamily and random passers-through, which was something I did a lot this burn, so much so that all the time I spent there kind of blurs together.