I think it’s safe to say that I’ve lived through some pretty crazy and remarkable experiences, but few compare to Burning Man. I cannot define Burning Man. But to set the scene a bit for those unfamiliar with the event, 50,000 people meet in the desert of Nevada to camp in a creative, communal and dusty environment for one week. There are art installations and djs. Pimped out bike riding and topless teeter-totters. The only things available for sale in this city are ice and coffee. Besides that money is prohibited. Lots of love and very very very little clothing during the day and tons of fur at night. 1,500 art cars that you can hop on and off to ride through the desert sands. And on the last days they burn a huge wooden structure of a man and a temple.
Got it? Probably not. It’s just too hard to explain. I think each person has his or her own experience and I don’t feel the need to classify or reduce the experience into a conceptual heading. What I can do, however, is share my own experience of Burning Man with you.
The best way I can describe my experience of Burning Man is by comparing it to the blind man scene in the movie Amelie. I imagine myself feeling something similar to the blind man when Amelie spontaneously takes his arm and leads him through the streets of Paris describing all the things around him he can’t see. For me Burning Man was all about the random acts of kindness from strangers. And how these acts and these strangers create a new sense of clarity. And not to mention an overwhelming, breathtaking rapture of the senses. It was just a moment. A whirlwind in time. But after it was done my soul glowed new colors and I’ve spent the last week with eyes closed trying to relive it all, to somehow keep those memories, sights, sounds and tastes all present.For some people Burning Man is a giant rave, an art festival, or a hippie thing. But for me, Burning Man is simply generosity and kindness. I should now mention that it was not just kindness from strangers. It was also extreme kindness and goodwill from amazing friends of mine that wanted to make my first Burn experience comfortable and memorable. Without them I would not have been able to fly to the event from Spain in the first place. Without them I would not have had a tent or sleeping bag to take 1-2 hour power naps every evening/morning (a dj set starting at 10am keeps you from getting any more sleep than that). Without them I would not have had wheels to move freely around the playa, one of my most favorite things to do. Without them (and their spare fur coats and leg warmers) I would have frozen my ass off. Without them I would have completely forgotten to eat. Without them, I would have cried and laughed alone.
I am so grateful. I went to Burning Man with the idea to actively participate in the gifting tradition. But once there I realized it was not possible. All I could do was soak it all in. I was so overwhelmed by it all. All I could do was say thank you. Next year I plan to be much more participative and will do my best to help a virgin Burner. I want to be not just the blind man, but also Amelie.
Not only did I see shooting stars every night (real ones), but according to the stranger that now calls himself my husband, shooting stars shoot out of me in broad daylight. Although he was drunk and licked my witness post-(fake) nuptials on the 4th floor of an art structure, I think he was on to something. Internally I was glowing and glittering. And the beauty of Burning Man is that you let your insides out. I was lucky to share some of these shooting stars externally with friends.To make this particular event more significant for me, I turned thirty during Burning Man. I cannot imagine a better way to bring on this new decade than wearing a costume and dancing beneath the stars in a neon-lit desert with some of my closest friends. And not to mention watching the sunrise over the desert horizon with my best buddies sitting directly above me, their furry feet swinging from the rafter as I tried to hide out below them in the embrace of a guy that encouraged me to let go and be myself. He may actually deserve his own separate blog entry. Maybe he’ll get one. We’ll see.
Now let’s talk about sex. I live in Spain, a country where sexuality is pretty open and nudity is normal. We go to topless and sometimes nudist beaches and people make out for hours on street corners with zero shame. But Oh My God, I’ve never been in such a sexually charged environment in my life as Black Rock City, Nevada. The combo of really hot people wearing little to no clothing, mixed with the tradition of leaving all inhibitions at the door, made for a seriously hot and tempting gathering of free-spirited folk. I behaved fairly well, all things considered. But I still feel some of this energy dripping from my pores and can’t help but look around to see if someone’s ready to lap it up. I wonder when it will wear off? Until then, watch out Barcelona. This Burning (Wo)Man is on her way home!
My final anecdote about Burning Man concerns hula hooping. Burning Man has a way of making hula hoops stay up around your waist. I’ve never been able to hula hoop, no matter how hard I’ve tried over the years. But at Burning Man on my 30th birthday, I just picked one up and went for it. I remember screaming, “Holy crap! How is it staying up?” I invented the side-crab crawl, running horizontally back and forth all the while still incorporating the hoop. I almost died of laughter. Over the days I sought out hula hoops everywhere. They began to fall less and I learned to dance a bit and move my arms around more freely. There was no magic involved, but it sums up Burning Man perfectly for me. If you stop worrying about and over thinking something or trying too hard, it usually just works itself out. Being that I showed up to Burning Man with a huge bucket full of worries, I’d say this was my biggest lesson learned.
I was given the playa nickname, Hula Hoop. And I think it’s the perfect name to explain how I felt out there. Playful and sexy. Worry-free and in constant state of surprise and awe. My goal is to buy a hula hoop in Barcelona and to practice in the park. And not necessarily to learn new tricks or because I want to grow armpit hair. Just for no other reason than to remember how to be completely free and smile uncontrollably.
Thank you to my friends for making my first experience and my birthday so memorable. I am SO grateful. This is just the beginning…