Burning man 2012

Burning Man was for me like a hundred tiny joined dreams: dreams of color, dreams of explosions and flame, dreams of sound and light, dreams of darkness, dreams of humbling heat. Cycles of hours where time seemed to slow and stop, to breath prayers of quiet grace and celebration in honor of life shared. Dreamlike sunrises and sunsets that punctuated the endless roaming of friends through our separating, joining, dancing, crying, laughing, sleeping, talking, dreaming, cuddling, dancing some more, kissing, loving, praying, and opening wide to the creations from human mind and heart.

I have found a peaceful home in the desert- how light-and happy I feel to be welcome inside of those words- Sukkat Shalom.

My body feels like a blooming flower- arching back, opening, and vibrating in celebration of being alive. In this grace everything sparkles. I feel aware of such beauty in myself, others and the world… Today each moment is, for me, more noticeably pregnant with the full realm of sacred possibility – the same realm of possibility that Burning Man holds, as the mountains hold, and as every person, place, and moment holds, whether seemingly sacred or mundane.

In my heart I’m joyful, and there is sadness too. I find myself looking forward to next year, and wondering what this new year will hold… this past year has traveled the heights and the depths- who will I be next year?

In the meantime I’m in love with the dust.

I’m in love with the dust that saturates every thing I own, every inch of my scorched skin, every strand of my hair. I’m in love with the dust that forces our surrender and demands loving care for ourselves and for each other. I’m in love with the dusty visions that fill the quiet moments now… a strange kind of beauty that signifies belonging, a shared experience, an emblem of fierceness and wild desire to live and be free…

Driving back through the night and early morning each dusty vehicle sparks a deep joy and excitement in me- a resonant and satisfying feeling that the home and community my soul sunk into last week is not disappearing, but traveling back with me.

Leaving Black Rock City there is a line of headlights that snakes back miles. The seamless line stretches from the camps of the Playa through coned lanes and on to the pavements and freeways. Looking through the back window at the day’s last light the stream of cars and RVs feels to me like an arterie of blood – a pulse of fresh energy out into the world. Liquid light life force seeping steadily out…

Around midnight I reach the crest of the Sierras and pull over. Here in the mountains is another home to me- the memories of every trip I’ve taken and the echoes of laughter and good conversations linger on these roads like a lover in the sensual awareness, the arch of a back and a memory that grabs your breath. I smell the pines and notice their evening silhoettes against the sky. With the moon there are fewer stars, it is quiet for the first time in a week. My heart swells soaking in the moon. Climbing into my dusty sleeping bag in my dusty clothes next to these strange dusty possessions I feel happy to not be home.

Everything that was with me out there doesn’t seem to belong in this clean car, including me. My car feels foreign. Home feels foreign. Paying for things with money feels foreign. Not cuddling up to sleep near warm sweet skin feels foreign. I’m unready to be home, and unready to wash off the dust. Sleeping dusty I feel connected back to that pulsing line of cars, back to the camp I spent the last week in, back to the community of people I find myself feeling love, pride, gratitude, and humility to call myself one of.

As I arrive back in this other world I receive news from my mother that Cory, my neighbor at my parents house in San Diego, decided to end his life last week. Fierce anger, sadness, loss and betrayal enter the space I’m inhabiting, even though death is always inhabiting the same world as beauty, joy and celebration…the other side of the same coin, the bringer of rebirth and renewal…

But before I actually feel any peace with death’s presence in life I feel confusion and other emotions too transitory to name. Perhaps because I’ve experienced deaths just as surprising I no longer feel surprise as though it couldn’t happen; I know it can happen to anyone, and there doesn’t need to be sense or logic to it. But the math is still turning my stomach and causing my head to shake. I can’t quite focus on it. Next to the last week of my life, such a beautiful high of new friendship and life explored, this other experience is not feeling compatible- a part of me is checking out from it because my heart just doesn’t have it to understand right now. Understand isn’t the right word…

I’m packing out for a trip and I know that a deeper grief will come soon- I worry that it will come while I’m guiding, that it will affect my presence for others. I make a prayer to be able to do what I need to do to take care of everything in the right way at the right time, and to receive the assistance I need to be able to lovingly do my work.

A man who has been building a life with his wife, 3 year old son, and baby girl- how could he have committed such violence? Why? Why, why, why. His wife Jenna tells my mother she is so angry she can’t even feel love for him right now. I feel that from her even through my mother through the phone over hundreds of miles, the heat of such betrayal. Her anger for how their life has been destroyed tears around inside of her. These violent eviscerations are unforgettable, leave deep wounds, are hard to heal, and even more so in a world like this where we are culturally so inept at grieving. His possessions are already being sold, the house will be on the market soon, you can almost hear the ripping sound in the fabric of their lives.

Here in this default world a man can go into his home alone, as though no one else in the world existed, away from the helping hands, hearts and eyes of his community, and choose to end his life. What would drive a loving man to do it- I simply don’t understand… More confusion, disbelief, anger and fresh grief for this world… only questions in me, no answers. I wonder if he felt trapped? I wonder what the world looked like or felt like to him that even with so much he loved it still seemed like a good solution to end his life…

In my mind and heart I hold these two truths: 1. Every year a city is built and then destroyed to make way for the community’s  renewal. This is done lovingly by a community of people who are seeking to create a space where all is welcome 2. A man spends every day of his life for years building a family and helping to build a lasting neighborhood community and chooses to destroy it in a day. All of this exists in the same world. The spectrum is far wider than these two vignettes indicate, but I find myself holding these two realities next to each other and wondering what to learn, what to see, what it means or if there are directions hidden somewhere in all of it…

I feel this other world crumbling, communities and families being destroyed inside out and outside in. Then I think of this growing temporary city that is built to give people a lived experience of a deeper community, a life of connection and interconnection. I find myself between these different worlds feeling both realities as separate and as one.

In my heart there is further confusion as to what it means for him to be gone- I’m a little shaken. I’ve never known someone choose to leave life before… I’ve known so many to pass away, but not because they wanted or chose to. There is something so disturbing about suicide. As I live each day of my life more deeply committed to living and all the wildness that offers I can’t fathom choosing to walk away… Perhaps it is a failure of my imagination…

On the last morning of Burning Man I walked from the ashes of wall street to the temple; it was just after dawn. Josh and I arrived arm in arm just minutes before the temple was closed off to be readied for burning. Exhausted and open-eyed we made our way in sacred morning air  through the temple walls to simply behold what this gathering had created over the last week. It had been the whole week since I first saw it and from a pristine intricately carved temple with wood like lace rising to the heavens it had become a space achingly full with love and mourning.

The whole temple in the middle of the desert at dawn was covered in images of passed loved ones, scrawled goodbyes, poems, trinckets, songs, stories of deaths that came too soon, stories of lives well lived, stories of forgiveness, stories of anger and loss, stories of life tattered- pure and impure- unfair and inglorious- without reason- humbling- heartbreaking. Everywhere people were consumed in this moment before the temple’s demise- before the loss of access to that sacred space of contact- this moment that is a stand in for the goodbyes we’ve missed, the goodbyes we never had opportunites to say. Collapsed in tears at the altar of all that is. All that mystery, all that is unknown, all…

Outside already people stood around the edges, disallowed from entering. The rangers began to move around the space, comforting people and asking them to make their way out. Leave the tears, to leave the scrawled messages inside, and to move out so the sacred place could be prepared for going up in flames along with all the mixed feelings of everyone who made that place sacred through their openly shared losses, through their hearts suffering- sanctified by grief, purified by love and fames. There was something so profound about the request to each of us to let go… “let go and leave your mourning and your tears here where we will take care of it. Where we will send it to the sky to help you release.” Community mourning, there is nothing more necessary or human.

When the ranger came to me he hugged me- his embrace broke me open and tears came again, but not just for my own losses- but for the love offered in this place, for the pain and joy of living that emerges when we love deeply and truly, for the humanity of this stranger’s embrace, and his tears that came so easily with my own. My body’s shaking elicited his, his tears came and when we separated our eyes were both red. There is nothing to hold onto- we are inside the same heart.

As I walked out of the temple my eyes came to rest on my dear friend who I had looked for all week to no avail. Seeing her there felt as magical and perfect as having lost someone for 20 years and finding yourself in their presence on top of a mountain-top in a foreign country. Equally wild, we were dressed for ceremony together- white clothes, white neck scarves and forest green jackets…  She was there to close a ceremony that I had helped her begin a year earlier. Unplanned, orchestrated by the divine, we sat and held each other and closed the ceremony, dressed like sisters, made from the same stars.

We left the final temple walls holding hands, and once again parted ways. Words of meeting again, but it wasn’t to be.

Is it possible to leave this place? I have a feeling a part of me will stay residing in these perfect moments of love and being found… and that they will be just as precious to me when it is my time to leave this world. And yet, there is nothing to hold onto- we are inside the same heart…

“All boundaries melt in the warmth of love and we know that we are part of an indivisible whole- an expression of the eternal divine.” -Deepak Chopra, M.D.


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