Many years ago I came across photos of Burning Man and immediately found myself fascinated. Initially, my interest was almost solely to take crazy pictures of the spectacle, but over the years figuring out when and who to go with my interest shifted to simply experiencing it. With that, things finally came together.
I’d found out my cousin had gone a few years back. She put me in contact with a theme camp, Steep, which serves wonderful teas (hot and iced) while offering calm, shaded place to relax. Steep helped me secure a ticket (they sell out fast) and then members in Portland offered to give me a ride down to Black Rock City. Over the months leading up to the Burn, I read up and did my best to prepare for what the desert may hold. Preparation was both exciting and scary. Horror stories would pop up in addition to all the great things I’d hear – rain making it impossible to move around, powerful winds leading to day long white outs, extreme cold or heat, drama with other Burners, and so on. Would I have enough food? Would I have enough water? Would I burn out from the dust and noise? Would my bike hold up? Would my cameras be destroyed?
Immediately upon arriving, wind picked up and created the white out conditions I’d read so much about. The dust immediately found its way into the RV I was riding in, a fine powder that was oddly soft. Hours of slowly moving forward eventually got us in and to camp. The conditions being what they were, Stan and Tricia let me sleep in the RV for the night (it was about 3am) so I could setup my tent with daylight.
Waking a few hours later, I began to assemble my bike and setup my tent while slowly meeting the camp. In all, there were 25 of us, ranging in age from 20-something to over 70. After getting roughly established, helping finish up camp was next – odds and ends for serving tea, making the space comfortable, and lighting for the community space. After setup, went out with some of the guys to explore – we had a pretty handy location at 7:45 and G. Heading out to esplanade and then to center camp, it was clear that a great deal of things were still being put together. Which mirrored my mind slowly arriving at the playa – a process that would take days.
Despite being in a camp, I found my own pace that lent to solo adventures and going with opportunity as it arose. The only thing I had loosely planned was the White Party at the Opulent Temple for Wednesday, which I had packed an outfit specifically for. Other than that, I didn’t check the schedule, though a flyer revealed Octaban playing which I insistently dragged our camp leader, Rebecca, to because she’d mentioned wanting to dance. Which most certainly happened that Thursday. Though Tuesday night’s wanderings turned into a Wednesday morning sunrise, following adventures on art cars and dancing at Robot Heart entirely by accident.
If the narrative seems to jump around, it makes more sense rather than to tell everything in order. Why? Because a lot can happen in a day between meeting someone and connecting with them, or finishing your work shift and attending a wedding the next day. Playa time is weird – a day is forever and yet it is nothing. By the end of the week I felt like I’d been there for months. I will say my time there distinctly breaks down into before my shift on Thursday and enlightenment that followed serving tea for hours that day. A massive transition from being an observer to being a participant happened, a paradigm shift. And that I’ll elaborate on later but, for now, here are some photos from the first few days there.