I’ll be gone next week, off to play in the dust with about 40,000 other folks. Yep, it’s Burning Man, and yep, it’s awesome.
This will be my fourth foray into the intense, insane, trying and magical experience in the third largest city in Nevada. Why I go is a complicated question that is really best answered over cheap beers in a dark and cozy bar on the edge of nowhere. But the easy answer is that I go for authenticity- to witness the beauty of people expressing themselves in whatever way is most confronting and enticing, to be a part of the exploration of identity and personal freedom.
This self-expression takes on so many forms- some of them thrilling, some of them threatening. I think what most people who don’t go to Burning Man find problematic about it is having to deal with other people’s unedited self-expressions. It can be scary and ugly, no doubt. Sometimes it seems ungrounded and unhinged- a drug-fueled orgy of disassociation. However, having seen people move through those places and come out on the other side grateful for the space to be that ungrounded person, I believe in the power of such a method of finding oneself. And most of the time, it takes the form of conversation or intentional experience, passionate and honest and scary.
Where I’ve found my most glorious home is with Camp Beaverton. I’ve mentioned Beaverton before, as an ephemeral place of support and a unique sense of family. My second year as a Beaver, I was the mayor and organized the camp. It’s no small feat, and I bow down before the succeeding mayors (yep, literally). My hands-down, favorite experience of creating and managing that camp has been watching the women who had only heard about us, arrive at our doorstep with excitement and perhaps a little trepidation, ready and willing to let go of their facades and their judgments and allow themselves to “be” in a safe and supportive space.
Burning Man, despite many efforts to the contrary, including conscious and intentional community, is still slave to the same games we play every day in our culture. It’s still dominated by straight white men who behave as they always do, oblivious to their privilege and its affects on everyone around them. To provide a safe space on the Playa for women, queer and non-queer, to be able to speak and behave openly, without fear of male aggression or expectation is a gift, plain and simple. I am happy and content to provide such a space for the hundreds, if not thousands of women that will come through the space. We will offer a safe space to learn, to share, to communicate, to play and to grow as individuals and as a community.
So, that’s where I’ll be for the next two weeks. If you feel compelled to help us in our endeavors, check out our Kickstarter page and consider making a donation. You can also find us at our website, where you can read about all the crazy stuff we’re getting into next week.
Happy end of the summer, folks. I wish that all of you can experience a little bit of magic as the days give themselves over to night in the next couple of months. I want you to toast the sunset at least once and tell a beautiful person that you think they’re neat. Maybe you should ask them if you can kiss them. That’s always a good idea. Hold someone’s hand just for kicks, even if you’re not in love with them. Wash someone’s hair. Thank someone for cooking you food, and earn some silly bruises. That’s the burning man vibe, and it is just magical.