Memoirs From a Burn
8.28.2019 (Wednesday: The man burns in four days)
I’m laying in a hammock on my perch high above the spectacle that is Burning Man.
Today was the third day of this reality. I’m adapting and also heavily long for the life I have left behind for this experience.
Mutant vehicles role by below me blasting fire 30 feet into the air, I observe them through protective goggles as the third dust storm of the day intensifies. I am barely aware of the house music pumping through them, thanks to these glorious noise canceling headphones my partner Kaeti loaned me before my departure. I have been very resistant to labels in recent relationships. I have seen labels as prisons. My own concept of the label “partnership” brings up painful feelings. We agreed upon it as a term before my departure, when I changed my metaphors. After all: the map isn’t the territory.
Perhaps instead of a label, partnership can be a container. Containers come in all shapes and sizes and occasionally air will need to get out of the container and we may even have to swap the container for another but if we respect the contents of the container they will never spoil. They may even be housed in different containers, and while this isn’t desirable in this moment it feels affirming. I rarely throw away the contents of containers, but labels are scribbled over and discarded all the time.
My current reality plays Debussy: Suite Bergamasque and reminds me of my last morning at home in the comfort of my shell, a cup of coffee steaming in front of me and a lovers eyes to gaze into. I find simple pleasures are the most pleasurable.
I look to my immediate right, my camp which hours ago was in the lull of twilight is now picking up as the surrounding clubs/camps are overflowing into our own. People try their skills on the toys/tools I use to train during the early morning and the aforementioned quieter hours when happenings are less likely.
Everyone is joyous.
These are the hours I feel most lonely.
My friend and traveling companion has decided to try the contraption that frightens him, hours after we have been presented with further complications to our camping situation and travel arrangements out of Black Rock City. These are issues that must be resolved rapidly as the heat of tomorrow will only further complicate things.
I’m terrified we will get stuck here longer than our planned departure on Monday.
Last night I biked deep into the Playa and saw ways this is a special place:
The sunset is among the most beautiful I have seen. I have a new understanding for the mountain emoji my partner Kaeti sends me to express her feelings. As I made my way to the temple I would meander toward the artwork that called my spirit. I was reminded of the “self” from previous lives in this body. Identities so strongly held, to release them would be the falling of the tower upon which I built my ego. How I’ve crumbled so many external towers of identity and how few personal one’s. I would feel my eyes welling long before I reached the temple that held the goodbyes from everyone in this temporary city.
As I walked through and around the temple I read the names, stories and messages that adorned their walls. I love truly sacred places. I feel love and gratitude for this haven between the living and the departed.
I would think of significant people who need remain nameless for their privacy. Loved one’s who heal the world, not to be seen, but rather because it is the right thing to do. Individuals who balance softness and strength with such ease and fluidity that you can’t tell which of the twain they pull the most power from. The lovers, parents, partners and friends that have healed me and continue to. People who often laugh at the idea that they hold that kind of power and perhaps because of that, they are able to be the most effective at healing.
Most of all I would think of all the loved one’s with whom I have transitioned this year. How the container has changed and continues to change. The fear of spoilage if the contents of containers are not attended to in due time. How one substance may need to breathe while another may need containment and the elusive ways relationships that seem stable in this moment are becoming more fluid as the people that entered their previous containers are changed.
I think of the ways I have been so resistant to change throughout life, the times I would choose a known personal hell over the chance that the change could be worse.
I would notice how hot the days are here and cold the nights. I would recall how dust from the Playa seems caked on my body and then hours later my sweat has washed much of it away. I would recognize how adaptable I have become, loving how this temple reminds me that change is coming while also noting how much I hate the constant reminders Burning Man gives me of the unquestionable reliability of “change”.
I am looking forward to watching this place burn.
During the day today I held space with strangers that was significant. Perhaps this only can happen in this place? More likely I think it is a combination of dehydration and extreme loneliness in a crowd. Nothing is quite as palpable as the loneliness that comes when thousands of people are around you and none of them has the understanding of what you need.
Some would offer water, and in the moments of need I felt a kinship with my fellow humans that we often miss in the western world. It reminds me of the homeless we pass daily without much thought of their true need.
I would think of Mr Thomas and Rick (I’ve changed there names for their privacy), the year we spent together so many nights at my Yoga studio sharing our collective but individual lows. One was teetering on the edge of a divide between homelessness and suicide. Which ever caught him first. It was the former that eventually took him.
In that year he would regularly visit on Wednesday evening after I’d wrapped up the 8pm community class. A common theme was to ask me to play Elliot Smith for him and speak of his plans to kill himself that evening. I would share my own morbid fantasies and we would agree that he was far more likely to follow through, so I’d call his mother in the morning if he’d drunk himself to death.
Mr Thomas was already without a home and so he looked to share my home away from my bed, less for council more just to say he had a friend: His “little brother.”
I would remember how much it meant to him when I made a real effort to learn his first name: Cornell. Everyone else called him Mr. Thomas, but only his “brothers” called him Cornell. I would recall how he would hug me and cry, I’ll never quite understand what that hug meant to him, but I believe the intensity that I remember feeling. It begged: “Don’t let go.”
During my desert wandering it was the hugs that would stay with me hours later.
One from a woman who lead a holotropic breathing class I wandered into after her partner enticed me with water, a hug of her own and some shade. At the apex of the practice I cried. Deeply. For several minutes. Not a sad cry, rather more orgasmic, where it is to much energy that has accumulated and something needs to release. She would hold me afterward and tell me I need to let “it” out more. I pondered what the “it” was that I let out. I wondered what she believed the “it” was. “It” was profound to experience this in a community and I understood the service I provide at home and yet so rarely partake in myself. I felt good and confident about the work I do in the world. Not just the intention but the technical facility, my relative humility and willingness to recognize areas of weakness. My friend and traveling companion on this journey values this about me. I love that he sees my value. When we began our relationship, I idolized him. Now he is human and as flawed as me and I love him for showing me his flaws and I love to see him confidently embody his strengths. I know he would like to see me do the same. I see him heading out for the evening to explore this fantasy world. I will lay in my hammock and think of the ways we are so similar and so completely different.
Through the later afternoon I would lie in my hammock and imagine I was a bird in a nest avoiding primates in the vicinity. I would think of how ethics and morals are not the same thing. Philosophy and principles. One is collectively held and another is individually practiced. How a map isn’t the territory and how opinions aren’t actions and actions can produce undesired results. How feeling for one person is technique to another. How structure is freedom and how prisons have boundaries.
I would make acquaintances with sweet folks during meal time. Musicians, acrobats, friends who almost shared my name, whole families. People who where also at Burning Man for the first time and others who had attended for over a decade.
It reminds me of college. I think of my sister and laugh at how her eyes will look when I tell her the less poetic version of these stories and she shares her own tales of being a stranger in a strange land.
After dinner I would find out we unexpectedly have to move to another camp tomorrow. I don’t want to move. Today was more connecting and I found space and stability for my practices. I walked around the corner to visit this neighborhood one last time in case.
I would wander into a nearby camp and exchange several words about the day with a gentleman from Brooklyn. We would speak on our individual lives, it would strike me how he was embarrassed? To tell me he worked in software engineering and I wondered why I have belittled anything I do at any time in my life. It generally seems when the love is lost or it isn’t sustaining me financially. I would assume it was the former but never ask. His own deep hug after our talk punctuated my aforementioned need for genuinely caring physical touch.
As the evening becomes night, a cuddle-puddle is forming below my hammock and off to my right, it reminds me of how uncomfortable I feel in groups when I am not teaching, how I wish I knew how to change that familiar pattern. I remember a question that has been present for as long as I have had words to articulate it.
What do I want to build community around?
I say I don’t want community. I want deep fulfilling meaningful relationships. But is that true? Yes. And why can’t one have both. I like to overcome discomfort. Why am I so resistant to overcoming this one.
I feel incredibly uncomfortable thinking about this. I’ll lay in my hammock put on Kaeti’s headphones and listen to Alan Watts talk about accepting one’s self. I’ll listen to lectures on Carl Jung. Terrence McKenna and Aldous Huxley wax poetic about psychedelics and I remember how to shift my consciousness using music like I did earlier with Debussy. Beethoven feels correct now. I will for this to be the final triumphant effort to write for the day:
The moments that have been joyous came on the heals of the gift. Receiving and giving alike. It’s one of the main principles that makes this temporary city more than a Bachanialian light show. It is the giving and the humility to receive when one truly needs the thing the giver is offering when you see into their soul in a way we often only feel with a lover or a parent (if we are even lucky enough to experience it then). In a world where everything and anything can be purchased, the gifts often aren’t as meaningful as being a 30 minute walk from home in the desert and realizing your urine was just brown or the hug from a stranger who just watched you breath and cry for an hour.
#burningman2019 #memoirsfromaburn #themanburnsinfourdays #metamorphosis
Cover ArtCar: El Pulpo Mechanico