Sunday is always a tough day at the burn because we have to strike camp—it’s 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 together all year and so enjoyed all week comes apart so rapidly and irrevocably, and then is just gone, poof, like it was never there. (Yes, yes, we carry it in our hearts and in our memories, but at least for me, that dismantling always carries a shot of grief in it.)
So we woke up and put on our work clothes and reported for strike at 7am, and everyone started pulling things apart. I started by taking down the Gifting Wall and all the necklaces that had been left there with words of love. I distributed the ones that had been written on to as many Pinkies as I could find who didn’t get one yet, and then put the ones that were left with the blank ones that were left back on their sticks and in a box to give to Karpo (along with the sign explaining the ritual) to take with him to Youtopia (the San Diego regional that is happening in October), where they will hopefully be distributed. After that I helped with a wide variety of schlepping and disassembling and mooping, until it got to be the hottest part of the day and I had to rest for a bit. Some people were hardcore and kept working through the heat but if there’s one thing I think this burn was about it was self-care tests, so I decided this was not the time to be hardcore. Cookie was amazing and kept feeding us all, and that was a huge help. At one point we had to figure out what to do with the lost and found that had accumulated in frontage over the week, and there was the opportunity for a few playa scores (Kat was nice enough to cede a cool furry vest that we both wanted to me, which I’m pretty stoked about...and we didn’t even have to take it to the Thunderdome to resolve).
I also remember at some point that day having a conversation with our campmate Lionessa and a few other Pinkies about the news we’d heard that someone had committed suicide the night before by jumping into the flames of the Man burn. Lionessa had been on the perimeter and close by. She watched the whole thing happen, including the heroic efforts of the firefighters who tried to get the guy out of the fire but were unable to save him, and she was pretty upset and traumatized. I don’t want to speculate on why someone would do such a thing or pass any sort of judgment except to say that his decision to do something so spectacularly and selfishly rash traumatized a whole lot of other people, and that is a bummer with a huge ripple effect which is still playing out in the burner community. (And once we got home, that tragic death was all anyone wanted to ask us about once they heard we’d been at Burning Man.)
Eventually we had all done as much as we were going to do for the day (which was most of the strike, it’s very true that many hands make lighter work), and we changed clothes and got ready to go out to the Temple burn. Kathy and Steve and some other campmates had hatched a plan to pull Mom (who still couldn’t walk much on her wrenched ankle) out to the burn with us on a wagon, which was super sweet and such a wonderful example of how our PHamily takes care of each other. So Josh and I and a big bunch of other Pinkies and Mom on her wagon walked out until we got pretty close to the perimeter of the Temple burn and settled down to watch it together. (As a side note, we saw the amazing giant marionette on the way there and back...I didn’t catch the name of this art piece but it was gorgeous: a big woman with words and images written all over her body, suspended from a crane on a truck, and apparently people could take turns moving her arms and legs and head. She was kneeling on one knee for the Temple burn, which was cool.)
It was a really beautiful and gentle burn, with a gorgeous contrast between the white hot flames and the patterned structure of the building on the lower level and a graceful slow slumping of the highest pieces into the lower ones as they burned up. The mood of this burn is always much more solemn and thoughtful (and often tearful). It was really great to spend this burn with such a large bunch of our PHamily, and there was a lot of emotion rocketing around. Every once in a while, someone in the greater crowd would start a wolf howl, and it was neat to hear it travel around the perimeter. Other than that though people were mostly silent and there was a lot of hugging (and occasional tears). It felt like a fitting ending to the burn.
After the burn some of us stayed and some of us (including Josh and I and Mom and Steve) went back to what was left of Pink Heart. It was hard to navigate since the Man was burned and the Heart Swing was packed away, but luckily the big Pink Flamingo was still there at 9:00 so we were able to find our way back pretty easily. There was some final encore meats-and-cheeses hangout in our shared patio area, but I didn’t stay up too long with that because I was all wrung out.