“If you’ve never been there, no words can adequately describe it. If you have been there, no words are needed.”
BURNING MAN — BLACK ROCK CITY, NEVADA
We descended into Black Rock City and I watched my vodka cranberry shake with mild turbulence. It was my fifth time making the trip to Burning Man, but the excitement hadn’t faded. Maybe the lure of Burning Man comes from that anticipation of the unknown and the unfamiliar. Maybe that’s what draws 60,000 people from around the world to the desert once a year. At the end of August, they build a city for a week. They celebrate self-expression, self- reliance and love. They bring friends and family and make new friends and family. They create art cars and camps, monstrous sculptures and homages to loved ones passed. They dance and party and ride bikes and some run naked but they also let go of burdens and past transgressions and instead manifest their hopes and dreams. They connect or reconnect with the community. They form a family in this judgement free society, creating lasting memories for one glorious week before watching it all go up in flames. Literally.
When Burning Man comes to an end, everything fades like a mirage. Where this beautiful, bright city once existed, nothing is left. Not even a trace.
Burning Man was founded on ten principles. Yes, everyone comes to create this incredibly unique space, but the point of Burning Man is to live in a society based on values that matter. It can be an escape from our own worlds, but many bring the principles back home with them. They form a new way of life.
- Radical inclusion — everyone is welcome.
- Gifting — gifts are invaluable and they should be given with out expecting anything in return.
- Decommodification — commercial sponsorship’s, transactions and advertising not welcome here.
- Radical self-reliance — rely on you and your inner resources, discover what you can accomplish.
- Radical self-expression — embrace your individual and allow your gifts to shine through to others.
- Communal effort — it’s all about creative cooperation and collaboration, promoting and respecting and helping one another.
- Civic responsibility — everyone is responsible for the public welfare and for following the law.
- Leaving no trace — the environment is valued and should not be left damaged in any way.
- Participation — everyone is invited to work, create and play because through this selfless collaboration the community thrives.
- Immediacy — possibly the most important principle, the immediacy valued at Burning Man reflects a seize the day mentality.
My boyfriend, Bob, hosted 185 people at our camp this year — some of our closest friends and my mom included. Now, these camps hosting hundreds of people cannot be built in a week. Although Burning Man is about the immediacy of the week, planning goes on all year round. We worked with others to create plans and build a sound camp. This year we also had a great production crew that helped make the camp so special. Big thanks to Isaiah Martin, Dede Loftus, Chef Kevin Lee, Luke Przybylski, and Jeff Shelton to name a few. Located at 10:00 and C on the playa, camp Dragonfly Den became our beautiful, temporary home — where we slept, ate, laughed and, where we threw a massive Pink Party on Thursday night.
The name of our camp is incredibly special to us. Dragonfly Den has been two years in existence, but the name’s origin began three years ago. We were all dancing at Robot Heart, one of the best-known camps where huge artists often play, when a dragonfly landed on one of our friends. No one had ever seen a dragonfly at Burning Man, and we had definitely never seen one land on someone before. We danced for an hour and that dragonfly did not move! It was insane! Just as the sun rose, the dragonfly let go and flew off. We followed it’s lead, taking in the sky before heading to our art car. After a brief ride, our art car broke down about thirty minutes away from camp. The sun was beating and the night’s chill had almost completely worn off. We were climbing out of the car, preparing for the long walk, when we noticed something fluttering next to us. The dragonfly. It circled us before taking off towards the Temple. We knew we were where we were supposed to be.
Our personal art car
The goals of self-expression, self-reliance and gifting are manifested through works of art. Camps are sectioned off by enormous sculptures and industrial-chic signs. Some camps are massive, some are small, some are for living and others for partying. Distrikt is one of the best day parties I’ve ever been to.
Art cars or better called mutant vehicles are man-made year round and are the only vehicles allowed on the grounds. People go all out. They use golf carts, dune buggies, trucks, anything really, but they create works of art. I saw a yacht on wheels, a giant black dragon and an octopus with flames coming out of its tentacles!!
Aside from structures and mechanics, art is also moving and milling around Burning Man on the backs of its participants. The costumes! You wear whatever you imagine. I spend two months making costumes for the week. LED costumes, fur costumes, feather costumes or no costumes or clothes at all — anything goes and it is an eclectic, magical sight to see!
THE DAY AND THE NIGHT
Burning Man is two separate worlds. The day is hot, filled with dirt bike races and horrible dust storms, leaving participants covered in layers of white powder.
The night is a freezing, electronic world with DJs and LED lights. You have to dance to keep warm. And it’s almost impossible to sleep. You never want to miss a thing, especially the breath-taking sunrise.
Two main structures are burned down at the end of the week. The Man on Saturday and the Temple on Sunday. Each ceremony has its own unique feel.
The Man is a celebration. Everyone writes what they want to let go of in life, filling up the giant wood structure with scrawling letters. Art cars gather around, blasting music as fireworks explode and ash and fire and smoke billow across the desert. Everyone feels the ease of the release. We let go and enjoyed the night and the moment in one massive party.
Photo by Nicholas James
The Temple is a spiritual ceremony. Homages are made to loved ones who have died and are placed inside the Temple. Everyone is quiet, grieving and respectful. The burn is a moment of reflection and an expression of love. This year I made a poster for one of my close friends who died a few months before. He loved Burning Man and I wanted to honor him. I placed it alongside all the other photographs of more loved ones from more people from all around the world. I breathed in the sacred place of remembrance and renewal.
Photo by Shaun Guckian
As we all watched the Temple burn in silence on the last day, one girl yelled, “I love you Burners!” About 20 people around her returned her call. You really can feel the community at Burning Man. It takes on its own persona and it is truly formed out of love.
Have you ever been to Burning Man or plan to do so? Leave comments below!