Writing this was not an easy task. I don’t know if it’s because I’m still pulsating with energy and emotion, having only been back less than 2 weeks, or if it’s because I am attempting to summarize such a powerful experience in only words, but here goes..
In 2011 I decided to make my way to Burning Man. I knew very little, but felt it was the right time to go. It’s the type of thing that one can’t always explain to another – why feel the urge to do something that is outside our comfort zone? Why do we challenge ourselves in such physical, emotional or spiritual ways? In a way, I remember it felt like the familiar itch to travel, to get up, pack the bag and go!
With the right company on hand and an open mind, that one week in the desert left a remarkably strong impression which ultimately became a transformative point in my life.
With that said, I am not writing this as an attempt to describe what Burning Man is for someone who has never been, because no words, photos or videos give justice to the full magical experience that is Black Rock City. I am writing this because although 2015 was my fifth burn, more importantly it was my parents’ first.
WE’RE ALL MADE OF STORIES
For five years I’ve been coming home, to Black Rock City. When this whole thing started however, referring to the Black Rock desert as my “home” was something I thought I’d never do. Regardless, I kept coming back and each year provided me with new insights, challenges and aspirations.
At the end of my first burn I was ecstatic, I wanted to tell the whole world. I didn’t know how or what I would say, but I wanted to bring everyone to the playa so they could also experience the magic themselves. Re-entry into default world (a term burners use to describe life outside the playa) was the hardest on me that first year, but I knew I had to come back.
In 2015 however, I returned for a large part because of my parents. That’s right, my 60 year old Soviet Union background parents decided they were going to see what the fuss is all about. If you’re reading this and thinking, “there’s no way my parents would ever go to Burning Man”, I can assure you that I had the exact same thought after my first burn.
Each burn I’d come back in flames, glowing. I would tell stories and show photos. To my surprise, my parents listened and asked questions, which was everything I could ask for at the time. I learned to appreciate their open mindedness in this process, and found myself opening up a lot more. At a certain point another couple in the same age bracket became equally as curious and they decided to join forces with my parents for this voyage to Black Rock City. There was always a large cloud of doubt in my head whether this would ever happen, so I continued to help them along the process in anyway I could. A few weeks prior to the Burn everything came together – my parents and their friends rented an RV, booked their flights, secured tickets and signed up for a camp. This had become a reality.
I knew we were off to a good start at the beginning of the week, when my parents joined my friends and I for some day cruising around the playa. We went to centre camp to get a cold drink, checked out some amazing art cars in the DMV registration line (Department of Mutant Vehicles) and roamed the streets while getting day drunk. It was perfect. My mom and I even stopped to jump around on some trampolines at one of the camps along the way, not to mention the endless amount of hugs and delicious treats that came our way.
The rest of the week was a mix of my own solo adventures, while occasionally checking up on them to see if everything is okay. Despite the harsh conditions this year, being the dustiest and coldest year on the playa that I’ve yet to experience, they did not seem to mind and made the most of the situation. My dad even tells the story of getting caught in a dust storm in deep playa, and enjoying the unique perspective of having almost no visibility around him. Another time I stopped by for a visit and found my mom playing classical music on an electric violin (she brought one from home in hopes of finding the right moment) in front of her new campmates.
Before the week was over, I wanted to ensure that my parents and I also got a chance to explore some of the art at night. In particular I wanted to bring them to two of my favourite art installations on the playa this year: Firmament and R-Evolution. Firmament is an amazing LED light canopy that is controlled by a “light DJ” on an iPad and is accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack of classical music – something I knew my parents would appreciate. We spent a good chunk of time laying down on the playa and enjoying this spectacle above us.
R-Evolution is the third and final piece in The Bliss Project by Marco Cochrane, and is truly one of the most amazing art installations I’ve ever seen. As I mentioned earlier, words really cannot fully describe the magic, so I’ll leave an image and just say that she is a magnificent living sculpture that actually moves – she breathes! My dad, who is a mechanical engineer, had to see this.The rest of the night was just what it needed to be – meeting beautiful generous and kind people who loved hearing our story and finding out that I brought my parents to Burning Man, coming across surprising night snacks like The Popcorn Palace, getting on an art car (my parents’ first) and stumbling upon an incredible performance by the Lucent Dossier Experience. But most importantly it was a night of appreciating and loving family. For me, it was a moment of transition from having parents to having friends. I walked them back to their camp and we talked about art, love and the magic that is life all around us. I told them how proud I am, we hugged and they thanked me. It was a good night.
NEXT YEAR WAS BETTER
The great thing about having cool parents is that you are often the last one to notice it. Personally, I knew my parents were “cool” way before they decided to come to Burning Man. My parents inspired me to see the world, to connect with nature and to step outside my comfort zone. It becomes so easy to settle down for what you have and convince yourself that in comparison to the neighbour down the street, life is pretty good. So many of us lose touch with that which is really important, we settle down and forget what it means to be young at heart, to play, to laugh, to dream big.
Burning Man is incredible! It is a serendipitous collection of ultra talented and beautiful people participating in the greatest social experiment of our times. It’s the human experience without the constraints of a society dedicated to consumerism and a powerful reminder to look around right now and be present. I see the guiding principles of Burning Man in effect not only on the playa but also in our respective default worlds, wherever we are, as much as we possibly can.
Being able to share the playa with my parents this year was the greatest gift I could ever receive, and it will stay with me forever.
Thank you, Black Rock City.
[aesop_quote type=”block” background=”#282828″ text=”#ffffff” align=”central” size=”3″ quote=”Yesterday’s history, tomorrow’s a mystery, today is a gift that’s why it’s called – the present” cite=”Somebody” parallax=”off” direction=”left”]