A week of radical self-reliance and self discovery
My first burning man experience was an adventurous journey into a dry lake bed in north Nevada that is populated only once a year. Over 40,000 people gather in this hostile environment to discover different things about themselves, I am sure each of us has a unique discovery of themselves but this is my story.
I start my journey as an escape from the everyday routines of city life and the stress that comes with that. So I plug-in directions to Gerlach, NV and see that I have 500 exact miles from my driveway before I near my destination. I first heard of burning man a little over a year ago, and see friends actually prepare all year for this one week. I pretty much wanted to experience the event before I went crazy with my art project. So I only prepare for self-reliance, however I do intend on displaying one art form of display that I will do and discuss later. Me being the outdoor person I am, preparing for a week of self-reliance was easy for me. But for some that can come as a challenge, a good friend told me before I left “that no matter how much you prepare you will forget something.” And is true in most cases, but anything that I may have forgotten was just a material item that I may want but not need. I have researched this event and love the ethics of “Leave No Trace” the art displays was another point of interest that draws my attention.
After 10 hours of driving we stop to get some final supplies of extra water, the one thing you can not really have too much of. Drive just a few miles further and gain access to Black Rock City which is located on a dry lake bed. There was a dust storm that we was driving into as we arrived and I am told these are called “white outs” basically because it whites everything out, sand gusting in winds up to 50 mph we are waiting at the gate for our tickets. We somehow start waiting in the vehicle with a/c running, I very quickly realized this is not what I come here for, lets turn this fuel consuming beast off and get out in the weather. Now that’s what I am talking about, experience nature at its finest. Good thing I packed goggles and dust mask otherwise it would be ludicrous to put ones self in this environment. Barely able to see the sun beams through the clouds of sand we are standing I dare not take the camera out, knowing the device would be destroyed. What an experience to have upon arrival, I could not have asked for a better one.
We have two separate camping locations, being that I am volunteering work here I need a campsite near work location(center camp), just where I can store my equipment. So we ask where to place our tent, and was told anywhere on the other side of the carrot house structure. While going to sleep someone comes by asking us to move our tent. So the first thing the next morning we break down and set up in a different location, this time with re-bar, then proceed to our second camp site (Comfort and Joy) at 7:00 and Detroit. Setting up here was a challenge for me, we bring along a “yurt” which I was not familiar with in setting up, so I was getting frustrated with the setup of this structure, miscommunications on procedures, etc. so I end up leaving and going back to the tent and just sleeping that frustration off, coming back to see the yurt set up. Thanks to my partner who is joining me in this adventure. Finally campsites are set and we are off to look at the art and see what this city has for us to discover. As you reach the Esplanade the first thing you notice is the man (which is the focal art point of the event). As we walk toward the man into open playa art cars drive by, these are some wild crazy creations, each one has its own theme and passenger carrying capacity. For instance one art car from animal control camp goes around and captures anyone dressed as an animal, for example if you have bunny ears on, they will collect a bunny, some of you will be classified as varmints but you get the idea. While another art car is designed to look as if it was a ship sailing across the desert, each one can be used as a taxi to get from point a to point b along with some party cars where there are 75+ people on board.
The next thing that grabbed my attention was this lady dancing in the distance, so we proceed to walk toward this magnificent sculpture dancing in the desert. But wait there is a steel forest along the way we have to check out. Now most of the art here is designed to be seen at night, just about every art piece out in the playa lights up and looks different with it lit up. The steel forest for example will flame at night, powered by propane. Six artist on the forest, some plants blow smoke rings, some are jungle gyms, each plant has its own character. But a great pit stop as we proceed toward the lady, then noticing the temple not too much further away, we reach this striking beauty up close and marvel in the design and creation, two thumbs up!
Then it was off to the temple, where we unload anything that weighs on our conscious. All the things that are stressing me out in life I release into the temple. For at the end of the event the temple will be burned and all the stress will then be up in smoke. For some reason I never got a photo of just the temple though I did use it as a back drop for other photos.
So we get back to camp for the night and prepare for the next day, my routine starts this way pretty much all week. I wake up bike or hike all over the city come back at lunch time to work till dinner then out in the city till sleep. But this particular next day, when getting to work we discover that we need to move the tent again, this time I see a white out coming along with what may be rain, but we decide to go ahead and move the tent, winds gusting stronger, sand blasting away, one of the poles break during the move, pulling up the rebar damaged my partner’s hand. We get the tent moved, go to lunch come back to work. But for some reason I felt a need to go to the other campsite, the weather still has not improved, actually gusting with small amounts of rain from time to time. I bike over to find that the roof has collapsed on the yurt. Well I bike back to center camp to relay the message, bike back to camp and start packing the truck up, the wind, sand, and rain is not stopping, well maybe for a brief moment before it starts back up again. I totally pack the truck back up and wrap the whole truck in a tarp to avoid getting all of our clothes and bedding wet and or sandy (muddy) while my partner takes the center ring of the yurt back to center camp and rebuilt. The center ring, which held the support of the roof separated under the pressure of the wind gusts. So we then start to rebuild the structure after a couple of hours when the storm mellowed out. This time I have a lot more of an understanding of how this building operates so I am a lot more of help during the reconstruction of this yurt, which I am assuming is an art project within itself. With the center ring rebuilt this time with screws instead of staples, I feel more comfortable with the design. But in the first three days of this 11 day adventure, moving one campsite 3 times and the second campsite did not get moved but rebuilt. This barren land is showing us how unforgiving mother nature really is, testing and pushing your boundaries, only the strong will survive.
Well lets just say the rest of the week was amazing and now I find myself preparing for next year months in advance.