For reasons that defy reason I returned to the playa for another year. This year, as expected, was much different. Last year I enjoyed meeting lots of men, going to crazy dance parties, and running around naked. This year I spent most of my time with my campmates, relaxing in the shade, and keeping my clothes on (for the most part). For a lot of Burning Man I wondered why I was even there, until I would spend time staring at my beautiful campmates and remember that I was here for the community love so much. My need for community, contribution, and adventure are met at BRC, my need for quiet, comfort, and rest…not so much.
There’s no doubt about it, life on the playa is rough. It’s challenging, and I’m not being a Sparkle Pony (that’s a high maintenance Burner for those of you who are unfamiliar). The theme for this year’s BM for me seems to be needs…getting them met and also strategies for fulfilling them when they aren’t. Some of my most major needs on the playa water, bike, and ride there were constant battles. My comfort and freedom seemed unfilled. I felt held hostage many times in a place of discomfort without a way out.
That was my rite of passage…being clear of what I wanted and asking for it…unattached to whether or not it would be received. That is freedom from an outcome. Several times just as my needs were met they would disappear. I continually had to trust they would be met again soon. When I was sick that someone would have more pedilite or anti-dehydration to combat my bodies’ release of electrolytes. I had to trust I would have a ride home. I had no idea where and who my wants would come from. It didn’t matter…just that I had them, was willing to ask, and be patient. I’m a needy Burner (I cringe calling myself this) and I guess I’m okay with that.
By Saturday, after a night of illness I was ready to leave and still didn’t have a ride back. After asking a fellow campmate I was able to borrow her car (still in much gratitude). I immediately started packing up and preparing myself to leave. Then something odd happened, with the freedom I felt peace. The rush to get out of BRC left and I found myself patiently waiting for sunset to say my goodbyes before taking off, and after enjoying a homecooked meal of course. And then the panic set in again and I had to leave. I needed the comforts of a home that Burning Man just couldn’t provide. So I literally drove off into the sunset without any sort of transition or saying goodbye to many of my campmates.
Shortly after the rush of leaving ended, I felt a deep sadness about being away from my desert home and family. This experience felt so characteristic of my life. To love people dearly when I’m near and have a strong need to go back to being by myself again. My fellow Cosmicopians didn’t deplete me the way large groups of people do. With them I felt energized about being able to contribute and also the ability to be vulnerable in my sadness instead of spending so much effort trying to hide it. To utilize metaphor…I wanted to leave the nest so badly that once I left, it felt incomplete without a rite of passage to send me on my way. This is characteristic of so much in our lives without true Rites of Passage and ritual we lack the transition time necessary to step into each new phase and then end up missing what was because there was no intentionality for it to begin.
My BM this year wasn’t just a Rite of Passage, it actually showed me the necessity of having a rite at all. I say confidently that Burning Man is so much more than drugs, sex, and partying in general. That would be only a superficial view of Black Rock City. The playa teaches us what we most need to know, subtles brew under the surface at every moment that reveal our shadow to us with heat and mania, and 50,000 other people having their own awakenings — hopefully theirs didn’t include as much nausea and bikelessness as mine did.