"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." - T. S. Eliot
And so ends this tale. This journey to a new Mecca. The dust slowly settling in those mountains and in our minds. We return with new eyes, tinted by our experiences and full of spark.
We bring the playa back with us…in the way we see, the way we interact; our world view has shifted dramatically and irreversibly. If you were paying attention, little one, you would have noticed somewhere along the way everything flipped. Existence was taken and turned on its side. The rules have changed. What you do with that knowledge is now up to you.
You have been given a chance to see that we do not simply ‘live’ in this world. No. We make this world. We have the power to shape our own reality into whatever it is we wish. Life is not a spectator sport. It belongs to those who dive forwards, headlong into the unknown.
Life is possibility. Potential. Infinite. It is bursting with promise and joy, laughter, heartache, beauty and pain. It is full.
YOU are full.
Bubbling, simmering, aching to break free and spread your wings. To soar.
So we reach the end. But really, ends are simply the faint call of new beginnings. If you look past the dark, open your eyes and dry your tears, you can just barely hear it…echoes across time and space. There are wondrous things out there, just beyond the horizon.
It’s time to explore. To be free. To begin.
"The Ouroboros represents the perpetual cyclic renewal of life, and infinity, the eternal return, and represents the cycle of life, death and rebirth, leading to immortality, as in the phoenix.
It can also represent the idea of primordial unity related to something existing in or persisting before any beginning with such force or qualities it cannot be extinguished”
The burn was spectacular. There is an ultimate moment of camaraderie and cohesion during this cacophony of flame. When the perimeter guards drop back and allow the crowd to surge forward as if to touch the very primal gods that called them to this place, and you find yourself awash in an electrified sea of humanity. The release of energy in that moment is palpable. All of the tension and arguments and difficulties up to this point are blown out of you like a punch straight to the heart, throat and gut.
Smoke fills your vision as you join the masses in a slowly rotating vortex around the effigy. A few of the crazy-brave break off to run laps impossibly close to the fire. It’s the closest thing you can get to experiencing a world-sized oven. You shuffle, lost in shining eyes and waves of dust and smoke. This becomes your reality for a brief time. Sweat, skin, laughter, hugs, and an immense glow over your shoulder as if the universe itself was melting around you.
It is surreal. Beautiful. Awesome in a sense of the word you never quite considered humanly possible. Awesome in a sense that you are awed. That this is something special and wholly alien to the world you have journeyed from.
You’ve made it. We all have. And now we are here together, as one in spirit and strength. We have made this happen that will never happen again. At least not quite like this. And in the making we learn to love and let go. To understand that the beauty is in the process and the shared experience, not the end result. That in order to love freely we must let go freely as well.
And so we burn.
One of the most beautiful sights I witnessed that week was the view from deep playa back towards the Temple of Transition. It’s difficult to judge the distance one has traveled without some sort of visual reference, so when I turned and looked back the way I’d come it struck me just how vast the city really is. That was the first realization I had. The enormity of my journey come to fruition here, in this place, after many many years of chance, circumstance, and opportunity aligning perfectly to produce this moment.
As I reflected on this I noticed the tracks crisscrossing the dust in every direction. Tens of thousands of them, as far as the eye could see. Out away from the city proper the ground is dry and cracked, showing traces of every footprint and bicycle tire. There is no loose dust to cover the marks and everyone’s path is laid out before you like a map of their time in this place. Choices, decisions, one goes this way, one goes that. Each path no worse or better than another. Simply different. All of these paths intersecting in space, but not in time. Reminds me of the Book we just visited. A crossroads to leave your mark on the world. Say something to those you will never cross paths with at the same moment in time.
"Your choices are half chance, but so are everybody else’s."
All you can really do is choose, and accept your choices. But you do have to make choices. That part’s not optional. Be mindful of them, because every choice makes ripples in life. Listen to your heart and the waves you make will always ring true.
My new cartwheeling companion and I set off for deep playa. Now, when someone gives you directions to some spectacle outside of the city proper it’s usually in reference to one of the main roads leading to the man at 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock. Anything past that the best you can get is ‘walk to the edge of civilization, and keep going.’ It’s an odd sensation going from a ‘place’ in the middle of nothing, to the *actual* middle of nothing. These are the Outlands. Limbo. Occasional landmarks dot the emptiness, like a series of bizarre mirages. The only difference is that movie theater advertising spaghetti westerns at 2am? Very much there. I hear they even serve Red Vines.
Red and I stumble across a set of gates surrounding a podium. On the podium there is a large book full of blank pages, and a handful of pens and markers. ‘The Book of Missed Connections’. The pages are full of drawings, sentiments, gibberish, notes, replies, inspiration and observations. We spend a few minutes leafing through these fragments of people’s experiences in this place. Some sad, some celebratory, all heartfelt. There is something about the act of putting your emotions down in such an artifact, like you’re leaving a sticky note on the fridge of the universe. It has meaning. Significance.
I gather myself and say my piece, calling out to the companions who were unable to make this wondrous journey with me. In doing so I feel I’ve done their spirits justice. Brought a little of them here and sent a little of the dust back to them. It’s a small thing, but small things have more power than we know.
Time is an illusion here. A myth. The guidebook is full of scheduled events and workshops, but it’s almost like a tongue-in-cheek joke at the city’s own chaotic nature. There is night, and there is day. One city exists while the sun burns high in the sky. The other, the wildness, exists only under cover of the dark. You are forced to exist solely in your own space, in the present. Everything else is just a distant promise. Bouncing lights and thunder surround you as far as the eye can see. You are adrift in a glowing ocean of the strangest sort.
If you are smart, little one, if you know the dance then go and lose yourself.
It’ll be here in the morning when you get back.
The alkali hits your senses like a freight train. It is sharp and clean. Pure. As if the Earth is gently reminding you, ‘you have entered a sacred space.’
The dust seeps into your pores. You can feel it sucking every ounce of moisture from your body. Taking over, consuming you, making you one of its children. The sensation is at once comforting and entirely alien.
The sun sets. The wind whips up a dust storm. I rush into the blinding expanse of desert. The world falls away into muffled swirls and wisps of images, people, objects. The dust has come out to play and I welcome the embrace.
We have been successfully transported to another world. The desert surrounds us, swallows us whole. Its rough winds promise a slow and painful end to the unprepared adventurer.
It stretches on, and on, for what seems like an eternity. Surely our destination must be near…right? The commitment it takes to make it all the way out here is staggering. People carve their lives out here, in the barren rock of this place.
Eventually we are waved off the road, and onto the playa itself. Flags and arrows herd us into an emptiness that is all-consuming. The Playa. Are we really here? After all this?
The cars and RVs line up around us, inching forward every few minutes. I roll down the window and get my first whiff of that alkaline powder.
It’s beautiful. The air practically pulses with energy.
We are here.
The police arrive on the scene, take our insurance and license information, and wander off to talk to the victims of our debris.
At this point we scramble. I’m certain we’re going to get searched and hauled off to some middle-of-nowhere jail cell. Trip’s over, this is the *real* end of the line.
Then, we have our first golden beam of playa sunshine turn its loving gaze on our weary band: We’re free to go. It’s an accident, the police decide, road debris. These things happen, apparently.
They give us the number for a wrecking service to come take care of the bus and bid us goodnight.
Morning comes, and with it a renewed sense of vigor. The bus might not be going to Burning Man, but by all that is holy and unholy WE shall. We arrange for the wrecker to tow the bus to his family’s service yard for the time being, while a few of us catch a cab into Albuquerque to rent some vans.
A few hours later we are on the road again. Upgraded. Invigorated. Nothing can stop us now.
Black Rock, we are coming for you.