Last year, I wrote and posted the blog entry below on Tribe and Myspace… I want to share it again, with some additional comments. To shift focus from some drama on Transformus discussion lists, people have been sharing their favorite memories. I haven’t been before, but I can share why I’m going.
Like a drug, I’ve become addicted to this amazing community of people called “burners”. I’ve come to realize that term is misleading, because many people belong in this group who have never heard of or attending Burning Man or any other “burn”. And so, this is the Year of the Burn for me – I have a summer packed full of PDF, Wildfire, Transformus, Burning Man, and who knows what I’ll do after that but I think I’ll always return to PDF no matter what.
Over time, I’ve been working on not keeping this part of my life segregated from my mundane life. I’ve come out of the burner/fire artist closet to people at work, to my parents – I held back on the fire spinning because I knew my mom would worry! I’m trying to realize that in this world of “muggles” (forgive the overuse of quote marks, but it’s hard to convey this in written tones sometimes) that not everyone is the close minded, judgemental, prejudicial, conservative stereotype that they can appear to be at times.
The burn community is not about events, it’s about the people. Charlotte Martin wrote a song/album titled “Stromata” – by definition, “The connective tissue framework of an organ, gland, or other structure, as distinguished from the tissues performing the special function of the organ or part”. But to her it was more a representation for the networks that connect us to each other as humans. (I want to quote her more but I can’t access my old interview with her, at work here (Shhhh) the browser crashes each time I try – you can read it though, hopefully, here. ;o) Burning Man and other burns are our stromata, our connections, woven like a spiderweb – we are always together and never alone.
And that’s what my favorite memory of any burn is – the people. Not the ticket process or bickering online. Not the bad weather or good weather.
My favorite memories include: Hugs from new friends and old, especially when I’m feeling the most fragile. Meeting amazing people that are now part of my life. Sharing the gift of fire performance – watching it, learning it, teaching it. Spontaneous performance art. Sharing camping supplies and food. The gift of music. A soft place to rest. Support to become a better person. Artwork that inspires and touches. A caring shoulder to cry on. Glitter when your world is lacking it. Fire when you feel cold or passionless. Laughter. Memories. Possibilities.
I do not yet have a favorite moment from Transformus, but I know I will. Already I look forward to meeting someone from across the country that I spoke to on Tribe, and have been welcomed to camp somewhere puffy and yellow. Most importantly, I know I’ll be at home at Transformus, because that’s what any burn is to me.
Welcome Home (Written July 2007 – after attending BM05, PDF 06 S&F, PDF 07S, Wildfire 07S, and PEX 777 party)
Forgive me for the sappiness, I may still be running on too little sleep and too much caffeine. But I have some ramblings in my head that need to get out. ;o)
As we turned around a bend in a road, for the first time we could see our destination in the distance. Rocky mountains and desert brush gave way to a wide flat area where a temporary city had been built. A black smoke ring rose from the city and floated up in the air, above the dust trails from cars and the city of tents. Inching closer, we could see the figure of a wooden man standing taller than anything else in the city.
At this moment, I remember thinking, what have I gotten myself into.
I am in the middle of the desert in Nevada, traveling with someone I only met in person two days ago. I’m usually a pretty self reliant traveller, but she is providing my transportation and lodging, and there’s no escape route if I need to run away to civilization, a shower or air conditioning. Oh, and I’m not that much of a camper either.
Luckily, my hostess and I hit it off better than I could have ever hoped for. We know each other from an online community, and while I had met some wonderful friends from that source it was a risk to spend so much time with someone I never met. While shopping for supplies and driving from Reno, we felt an immediate kinship.
So as I feel sudden dread at the sight of our home for the next week, she asked me what I was thinking. I said something along the lines of feeling like I was going down the rabbit hole and not knowing where it would lead me. Excitement overcame the nervousness and we were greeted at the entrance to Black Rock City with a hearty “Welcome Home” by a guy wearing a hat and a messenger bag, and…. nothing else. He dared me to roll on the playa (the dry lakebed that hosts the city, an alkali dust that WILL get everywhere) and not one to turn down a dare, I made a playa angel.
As it was my first time, I was able to ring the virgin bell and proclaim my arrival to my new home. Did it ever feel like home? It felt like a wonderful magical world, which I knew would never last — thankfully, somewhat, because I am not nomadic enough to live without modern conveniences. It was like running away and joining a circus, as I sat in Center Camp watching performers just having fun. It was better than Cirque du Soleil!
I entered another world for a week, another planet, or galaxy. When we left it was with mixed feelings of sadness and anxiousness to get back to real world comforts. It took a long time to get used to going back to work, and not seeing crazy unexpected things at every corner. Like waking from a dream that you try to go back to, and never quite can succeed.
I started looking into regional events closer to home. Playa del Fuego (PDF) was a regional burn closest to me, held twice a year in Delaware. I went the spring after my first Burning Man, not knowing a soul, but after a week stuck in the middle of the desert, how scary can a weekend 15 minutes from a Dunkin Donuts be? I volunteered as a greeter, camped with Camp Jersey (a loosely organized group of people from New Jersey), and got to know some camp neighbors.
Greeters at PDF also say “Welcome Home” when you arrive. But it was still all so new. I thought I “got it”, but I realize I still felt like I only had a traveler’s visa to this strange country.
I made new local friends, and started doing more things with them. From parties in the summer and at New Years, to the fall and next spring PDF, the mermaid parade in Coney Island, any excuse to dress up and have fun. I started to be interested in poi, or fire spinning (although if you asked me a year ago I would have said I’ll NEVER do fire, just the glow toys!) and drove to Philly to take poi classes. This spring, I took the plunge and spun fire for the first time, and went to a weekend of fire arts classes and fun called Wildfire.
It used to be really hard for me to go out and meet large groups of people I didn’t know, but I started to get used to expecting the unexpected, and knew at these events that there were no strangers, only friends who haven’t met yet. It started feeling comfortable, less like this was a one week event in the desert, and that it could almost be a full time way of life.
Despite going to Philly for poi classes and some spin jams, I had never made it to their large parties. I’m not a raver, and oontz-oontz music was never my thing. (Although since Burning Man, that sound, like tarps in the wind, is not a nuisance but nostalgic!) So when I planned to go to their 777 “Recompression” party, I half expected that it would be fun but not really my scene, but there’s always fire performers to watch and drinks to drink!
I helped a little with set up, and was the first greeter of the night as people in costumes started showing up at the door. About every ten minutes, someone I know would arrive, and there would be hugs and kisses and spankings for those who love them, and people I didn’t even know greeted me by name. While I’m getting used to seeing the Jersey folks more often, I don’t see the Camp Sexy Rochester crew except for PDF, or Chad and the other Boston people that I just met at Wildfire. With a friend of mine that I’ve known for years (who is a burner at heart but never attended any kind of burn event) standing by me, I felt like my various worlds were colliding. (You know that feeling when people you know from work, high school, college, etc. suddenly are talking to each other at a party you throw? That kind of feeling.) And it felt good.
It makes sense now. Yes, at BM and PDF, you are welcomed home, and those events are starting to feel like a home not a vacation.
But the true meaning of the word home is the people. This “new” home is not a place, it’s not an event that you buy a ticket to get into, and leave when you pack up your car. You carry it with you where ever you go.
My home is this amazing network of friends and friends who I haven’t met yet, who delight and surprise me at every turn, who accept and support me, who are genuine and good and amazing authentic people. Whose hearts burn bright with love, not of just a wooden man in the desert, or an annual camping trip. But a love for the amazing connections between all of us, who are, and what we can be.
Welcome home. We’ve always been here, even if we didn’t realize it.