This has got to go down as the weirdest mixtape I’ve ever made, but seriously, this is the aural expression of my next couple of days at Burning Man this year. Here we go.
I woke up on Monday morning after building camp the night before and had one of many absurdly gourmet, meaty, Italian loved up breakfasts made by my Italian Queen Bunnerz. We finished up some bocce building and I got outfitted up in a space dress and got on my bike and went out into the big wide world of Burning Man for the first time ever. I drove straight to Center Camp to volunteer for an Arctica cashier shift.
This summer, I found out an old Austin friend who has been burning for years is one of the leaders of the Wondrous Ice People and she encouraged me to volunteer there, because it’s shady, fun, and everyone is super nice and man, she was not wrong. Thank you Ms. Jen Bobcat Queen of Ice! It was one of my favorite experiences at Burning Man and I will always go back to Arctica to work. The only things that are actually sold for money at Burning Man are ice and fancy barista drinks in Center Camp.
Everything else is gifted.
And I don’t mean traded or bartered. I mean gifted. Giant Party, Everything Is Free. No one ever expects you to give them something in return, and it is one of the most wondrous parts of the festival. People take care of each other out of love. And most of the best gifts are not things, they are hugs when you need one and when you don’t know you need one (ALL THE HUGS FOREVER!), directions when you’re lost, a seat under a cool shade space on a fluffy couch, a dance partner, some hands on your curvy bits, some lips on your lips, a cup of something delicious, a piece of food, advice, a generous ear, an invitation, a compliment, a lesson on how to do something, a conversation, encouragement, their weird, imperfect, perfect beauty inside and out, and hope. Imagine a world where every day is made up of fascinating, unique strangers exchanging honest, tear soaked joy and pain and excitement and awe, touching, loving, and walking around being the best parts of themselves and really, really meaning it.
That is Burning Man. I don’t have as many pictures from the first few days because I turned my phone off for four days.
Volunteering your first year can be scary, because the entire experience is so, so foreign and overwhelming and just HUGE, like going to do some work at a specified time when you’re trying to orient yourself to being on a different planet can feel tough, but you must! Volunteering is and will always be a huge part of my life experience as a human on this earth and I’m so glad I did it at Burning Man. You are not a spectator, You are a participant, a builder, an architect, a worker, a savior, a lover, and a citizen that makes Black Rock City work. You have to participate and just go all in (we all know I’m really good at that.) So there I was, glittered up to the nines in a space dress, adorable, nervous, by myself, having just ridden through the most amazing, weirdest, actually functioning paradise city I’d ever seen. I was totally in shock. Like, WHAT THE FUCK, HOW IS THIS REAL?
I walked through Center Camp and got bombarded with amazingness and finally found the Arctica ice igloo and was ready to work. Four hours later, I was like, I’M A REAL LIVE FUCKING BURNER! YES!
I got countless hugs, help, instructions, there are “fluffers” bringing you water and drinks and taking care of you, boss babes with walkie talkies who will fix it when you fuck shit up with money, people are SO HAPPY to see you because it’s hot as fuck and they need ice. They are all so weird and beautiful and generous and having the best day ever. The only negative thing that happened was that some creeper took my picture without asking, and I didn’t realize it, but my ice slingers were like “Next time, make him delete it and scold his ass for not getting consent. Dick.”
Consent is everything at Burning Man (as it should be everywhere). Lesson learned. Thank you to Biscuit, Bone Finder, Terry from sober camp, Wonderful Pacific Northwest Guy who’s name is slipping my mind, Galactic (you sexy Kiwi!), everyone who camps at Arctica, and all the lovely people on my shift with me that day who I learned about over those few hours and never saw again. And even to Eric, my stingy cash register that I used wrong for an hour before realizing why it wasn’t working. User error, obvs. We’re cool, Eric. We’re cool.
When I got back to camp, I was exhausted and ended up getting my mind blown apart by Nico and his Goa Psytrance mixtapes trying to compete with our lovely neighbors playing Eddie Money and Johnny Cash and Lynyrd Skynyrd followed by deep house and then like crazy dub step who knows what. These people had some eclectic jams going on. We handled it though. Which is why I am now totally enamored with psytrance forever and you guys are fucked with these playlists for a while. #sorrynotsorry
I got super sad Monday night because I was already dehydrated and tired and it was like MONDAY and I needed to go to sleep and I was having the FOMO and I was crying because I was so wiped out and drinking isn’t a thing I do all that much but it felt okay, but also I was like be careful because desert trying to kill you… it’s a lot. Burning Man is about doing things, choosing not to do things, and all of that being okay all the time. Listen to your body. Listen and respond. That’s all you have to do. Take care of your heart and your bod and your mind and let the playa teach you. You don’t have to drink or take more things constantly to change the way you feel. Sometimes you have to stop. Sometimes you have to sleep. Sometimes it doesn’t feel good. Sometimes you cry. You cry a lot. You get over it. You feel bad. You feel good. You feel better than you ever have ever and you are stone cold sober. Sometimes you are very much not and you feel exalted. Be sweet to yourself, and you can make it and not get injured, sick, or dead.
That day, I realized very quickly that acceptance is the only way to make it through Burning Man. Acceptance of the playa dust EVERYWHERE, the heat, the cold, your nasal passages burning and your throat being on fire, and losing track of time and what day it is and schedules and calendars and time not mattering because it never closes and there is nothing you can’t do at any time, the joy of biking everywhere, the toilet process I developed to deal with portas for a week (latex gloves, antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer, butt cream, toilet wipes), forgetting the toilet bag when you have to poop, the never being able to drink enough water, the constant losing of all the things, the finding of all the things later, that sometimes you do dumb things like the day drinking alcohol and smoking weed and feeling shitty, and the having to listen to your body and rest when you need rest, and the constant series of problems that need solutions, because the work never actually ends, you just get breaks and then you have a new problem and you solve that and go have more fun. You solve other people’s problems. They solve yours. You help. You learn. And you live there.
Rinse and repeat. Let go. Let it in. You are dirty. You are shedding the ideas of beauty and cultural taboos and you realize how many of the things you think are necessities in your default world life are nothing but masks we wear to separate ourselves. You stop caring about your underwear and your makeup and your outfits that start to get smaller because your confidence gets bigger, and your insane Robert Smithest playa hair ever, and your smells, and your arid, delicious body being “clean” because you are a queen the moment you awaken each day.
The faster you get there, the faster you are really relaxed and self reliant and solve your own uncomfortable physical shit, the faster you realize what you’re made of, what you can and can’t do (this changes constantly) and the faster you see your own beautiful body and skills and talents and start to let go and let the playa teach you, the faster you really become one with your new home. You take your fucking clothes off because your tits are MAGIC. Your body is a temple. You are the most gorgeous goddess to ever live on this earth. You are one of the hot people. Everyone is one of the hot people. EVERYONE IS PERFECT IN THEIR IMPERFECTION.
Tuesday night though… HOLY. FUCKING. SPACEBALLZ. Tuesday night I left camp for the first time at night. When the sun goes down at Burning Man, the howling commences, the heartbeat starts to pulse and that’s the first time you really get your heart and mind and soul wrapped around Burning Man. When we biked into the playa that first night, I lost my fucking mind. I could not believe that it was real. It blew my mind, my heart, my body, my brain, my limbs off, and it rearranged me like finding a puzzle piece I had been missing for 38 years. It ripped my ego apart and put me back together in synch with infinity.
People think Burning Man is all about sparkle parties with everyone being high as fuck on all the drugs ever dancing until sunrise like pagan ancients connecting with Gaia and the universe and the creative power of human connection. And it is that. It totally is. But it’s so much bigger than that. That part is a series of twinkling stars and the whole experience of being at Burning Man is a supernova. It is a wormhole into another galaxy where anything is possible.
I am a person of routine and order and calendars and planning. A person who loves HVOB. Who knew HVOB was playing at 4am at Robot Heart that night. And as we rode out into the deep playa feeling very, very good, I was losing my entire sense of who I even was in this other world. I stopped caring about my agenda. I stopped caring about my calendar. I stopped caring about seeing these hyped up acts at Robot Heart or wherever. I started caring about being with my KWANE on a bike looking up at the stars and looking in every direction and seeing an infinite possibility of timelines and experiences and people and love.
And dancing. And more dancing. And kissing. A lot of kissing. A lot of everything forever.
We got stuck in a sandy patch and just laid the fuck down in it and got real dirty and held hands I was like “Fuck FOMO. Fuck searching for Robot Heart. Fuck missions and lists and trying to find some ultimate goal. Fuck the agenda. Fuck everything but us and what the playa gives us together, tonight and every night. I am here with you and that is all that ever will matter to me. You brought me to paradise. LET’S GO FIND SOME BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE.”
I never went to Robot Heart once at Burning Man.
We got back on our bikes, and ended up at Pink Heart, walked in, and standing before me was the beautiful, magnificent, inspiring pink lovebug John Halcyon Styn. I had been watching his videos for weeks before in tears feeling so welcome and included and just loving this man for being so open to everyone and inspiring me that I was part of this community. He was standing right in front of me, opened his arms, hugged me real tight and said “Welcome Home, we’ve been waiting for you.”
Headed to Burning Man this year? Or ever thought about going? This message is for you.Does this speak to your heart?-Follow me on FB.-Join my mailing list http://eepurl.com/bnUQPn-And join the snark-free Pink Hearted at Burning Man and Beyond Group!
Posted by John Halcyon Styn on Monday, August 15, 2016
Halcyon, you are my first playa night gift forever. Thank you. You are love.
We met up with some awesome Vegas peeps and snuggled and kissed and talked and chair danced on pink couches and had more wandering adventures with beautiful strangers until meandering home sometime before dawn. I didn’t care that I missed HVOB. I didn’t care about anything but that I now understood the magic that is Burning Man and that I love my friends and being with beautiful, warm, open hearted people who saw ME. That I was really present in the moment and that was all that mattered. That I am love. And that night, I got bigger and better as a human being on this planet. I grew. I was home and I got it.
Part 3: GIANT AWESOME AMAZING MURDEROUS ART DANCE PARTY FOREVER. Stay tuned.