My Experience at Burning Man

I love spending time wandering around Burning Man, and didn’t have my camera on me for most of it. I’m glad I was able to enjoy the moment without worrying about remembering to take pictures or worrying that the all-encompassing dust was going to break my camera, but now looking back it is harder to remember what I did each day or night that I enjoyed without the pictures to remind me. Maybe I have gotten too reliant on storing my memories externally.

In general my daily rhythm was to wake up when the sun was too hot and too bright to possible sleep in a tent any longer, eat breakfast, and go to some sort of workshop or demonstration. These ranged all sorts of topics and were cataloged in the What Where When, which is a book given to everyone at the gates. After that I would head back to camp to make lunch and then either brave the heat again with friends to find something interesting (either looking for something from the book, or just exploring the fun things and art happening everywhere), or hide in the shade.

It was difficult to resist the feeling that I had to DO EVERYTHING, or at least as much as humanly possible. There are so many camps, and all within easy walking or biking distance, that you are constantly missing out on many things. Not just feeling like you are missing out, but actually missing out. Last year I succumbed to this feeling more frequently and spent a lot of time stressed out and dehydrated/exhausted from over-exerting myself. This year I did a better job of accepting that I was going to end up doing only a tiny fraction of possible things, and not trying to increase that fraction marginally at the expense of my piece of mind.

No matter what happened during the day, my camp had a communal dinner every night around sunset where we would eat together in our dining area or on the playatech furniture in our front “yard” and watch the sunset. I loved this communal time to reconnect with everyone, and it naturally flowed into the night of grilled cheese shifts (that I mentioned in my previous post), and for those of us not working it meant eating sandwiches and rocking out to Crossroads, which I thought was one of the best spots on the playa.

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Grillin some serious Moon Cheese.

Crossroads wrapped up around midnight and then it was around this time that friends or strangers would gather to head out onto the playa to begin our nights. Possible activities included: staying in the populated part of the city to find bars, dance floors, food stands (like us), domes or teahouses to hang out in, or to wander into the deep playa to see the art at night or ride art cars. I loved how different the same art pieces and parts of the playa were during the day than at night. It is easy to navigate Black Rock City on a macro level because no matter where you are, you can see the man and know how to get home, but on a smaller level it is really difficult to know where specific art pieces are. That and the sheer number of pieces means that it is exciting to wander around and truly find things. I would wander an entire night and then talk to someone the next day who’d done the same and we hadn’t seen any of the same things, especially on the deep playa.

Some of my favorite things I found were a 200′ diameter area filled with “stepping stones” of plastic that lit up different colors when stepped on, and a balloon garden where all the balloons had lights in them which fluctuated and changed color to mirror the voice of a woman singing as she walked through them with a microphone. There were also 12′ flowers that opened and closed and lit up when you would stand under them, swing sets that had bells in them, an “alien sanctuary” near the point of the trash fence, and the Hug Deli.

One night I took my camera with me when I knew I would have a short walk, and took the pictures above at Moon Cheese and then took some while wandering across the Promenade from 9:00 to 3:00.

These pictures I took at the 9:00 Plaza at B, which was one of my favorite fire sculptures, and was also en route to the closest bathrooms (yay lucky meeee!).

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Yessssss, play with the fire!

This is the only picture I got of myself (+George) at Burning Man, which I think is sad because I had some great outfits this year.

DSC_0314 (1)This was another art piece I really enjoyed where as you walked through this structure each of those globes would light up when bumped and make a different sound. It was surprisingly eerie.

DSC_0319And of course, The Man!

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This year, surrounded by the Souk art installation.

This was the first year that the Man didn’t have a pedestal. I really liked how large it was and the artistry that went into the woodworking on it. These pictures don’t come close to capturing how large and looming it was.

DSC_0337I wish I had more pictures of the rest of the nights I was out, the sunrise over the deep playa and The Man burning. And then I’m also glad that I don’t. I think one of the big parts of Burning Man for me was parting with technology for a week. The biggest drawback (aside from the lack of pictures) was how hard it was to get in touch with anyone without phones. For my campmates I had a chance if it was at dinnertime, but outside of that it was nearly impossible to meet up with anyone. I take for granted how intensely connected I am with people day-to-day. It is wonderful and also… being at Burning Man gave me an intense feeling of freedom in exchange for lack of accountability. I don’t think I would change my current circumstances (if I could) but also am glad to recognize the trade-offs.

If you can go to Burning Man I’d definitely consider it, even just to have a totally new (albeit ridiculous) experience. Everyone I’ve talked to has had different stories, and whether they enjoyed it or not, had an extremely memorable time and learned something about themselves in the process.