Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What is Burning Man about? I'll tell you.

Yes, I have been to Burning Man. And the number one question I hear is, "What is Burning Man about?"

I'll tell you.

No, Burning Man isn't a giant rave in the desert. Despite what you've heard, it isn't really about music. It isn't about sex or drugs or nudity either.

Burning Man 2009 - Open Playa
It is about people. It is about community. It's about coming together and creating a city void of social status, void of judgement, void of consumerism and greed.
A 3-Story woman made from cables.

It is about pushing ourselves to the limits just to see what we can do. It is about respecting our peers and giving them the space to be and do what makes them happiest. It is about realizing your own personal abundance and gifting the excess to everyone and anyone who happens by. It is the realization that everything we do - a hug, a shared story, a smile, a gin and tonic for a friend - is an experience, a gift of its own right. It's about Art. Or the idea that creativity doesn't live within the boundaries of success and failure.
Yes I made this costume myself.

It is about always striving to be a participant and never just a spectator.

And this year I am staying home. I stayed home last year, too, seven months pregnant and no way in hell was I interested in the physical toll that is living in a tent in a dried up dusty desert-hot lake bed. But my Handsome Mandude wasn't going, either, and I was content in taking a year off.

This year I am not pregnant. I am a Mama. And my Handsome Mandude is venturing down into the desert without me. And he is bringing two of my closest friends.

Yours truly, FireHooping before we lit up The Man
It's true that I could probably go. Other Mamas with babies as young as mine (or younger) find a solid babysitter and make the trip. I'm, personally, not ready to be away from Squeaky D for that long. And I'm breastfeeding and that relationship is more important to me.

And maybe it is possible to bring a baby to Burning Man. But I wouldn't, and I would advise anyone thinking about it not to do it. I'm just not sure it is fair to bring a little person into a world so dusty, hot, overstimulating, borderline dangerous, and overwhelming with no real means of escape. At least not until they can communicate to you about it.

I guess I'm just feeling nostalgic about the whole thing. About the freedom of it all, to be myself and to be fearless about it.  Nostalgic about the people that I've met there, the friendships I have made. The incredible art that people work so hard to drag into the desert for me to climb on, experience, and enjoy.
This Cape used to be a tablecloth.

The ability to wear whatever I want; a tutu, a fur bikini, a bad-ass road warrior leather ensemble, or a giant red cape made from my friend's old silk tablecloth. I'm remembering the cool desert evenings filled with rushing to eat, clean, dress, be ready for the chill and excitement of the dark dark night. The laughter and spontaneity of riding our blinky glowing art bikes through dunes of playa dust, veering from structure to structure, covering miles of rock hard earth just to seek out a little bit of adventure and exhilaration. I'm wistful over that feeling at the end of the week, covered in a dust so fine that no amount of washing seems to take it off, bursting with desire to create, create, PARTICIPATE, climbing the highest art piece and shouting my poetry into the dust storms. Seeing The Man explode with fire, the culmination of all our excitement and experience, until he dwindles down to nothing but embers, ashes, nuts, and bolts.

I'm feeling nostalgic about The Temple, the most quiet and sacred space at Burning Man, built carefully with intricate details, then flooded with emotion literally stapled, written on, and pinned to its wooden walls. Then on the last day, fifty thousand people gather silently - absolutely silently - and solomnly watch it burn down. Let me just say, there is something beyond magical about being one of fifty thousand quietly contemplating all that it means to see the week end and the temple burn to the ground.

Temple in Daylight

Temple at Night
I was going to write a post about how experiencing Burning Man - how being a Burner - has made me into a better parent. But instead I was feeling nostalgic and wrote this. So, in the spirit of art and community and sharing, I will leave you with a poem that I wrote after my first year at Burning Man, a poem that will be pinned up to this year's Temple which, eventually, will burn down to the ground. Simply because it must. And I'll talk about parenting another day.

Handsome Mandude and I

there were good things and magnificent things 
and bad things and horrific things and i saw them all, 
i experienced them all, and they made me different. 

i blocked the sun and i made it shine, 
i helped and hindered time 
and allowed this mass to hurtle onwards. 

i rolled my eyes and rolled my tires 
over dunes of pure dust, through walls of it, 
rolled in it, slept in it, basked in it. 

i climbed on creation and filled my eyes 
and my hands, my mouth. 
my heart. 

i was part of an awe-filled silent crowd 
and i joined gangs of animals 
surging out loud. 

it seethed and was frigid, 
it was comforting, chilling. 
i swung and was flung, 
and we laughed, we wove stories, 
we shimmied, we shared, and we cried. 

we created community and we burned it all to the fucking ground
just to see if we can do it again next year.

Farren Square


  1. I need to add this to my list of adventurous things to do. You make me want to experience it every time I talk to about it! I love and admire your choice to be home with BabyD, my motto of "family first - always" has never let me down.

  2. Thank you Farren.

  3. Thank you for sharing this piece of Burning Man with me. I can grasp a bit of the edges of the experience and long to go when my littles are biggees.

    Beautiful poem and photographs, as well.

    Safe travels to your ManDude, too.

  4. I love this. and you. thank you for sharing.

  5. Wow, thank you for sharing this Farren, it was as beautiful as you and your wonderful family!! <3