We each have our own stories, our own connections to the Playa and Black Rock City. My connection runs deep. Maya brought me to Burning Man what feels like eons ago…1998 to be exact. When we arrived on the Wednesday before the burn, there was hardly anyone there. We set up our tent, hopped on our bikes and rode across the desert wth the wind pushing us forward and the dust swirling around us. We rode for what felt like forever before we found another soul. It was quiet. It was beautiful and I felt a freedom that I hadn’t experienced before. There were no rules, no expectations, no boundaries. Just me, my best friend and the wind and the dust.
The next year was just as beautiful but more people were there. Still the same and I felt a deep calling to go back again and again. Life changed for me dramatically the following year and I was getting divorced and going through a major life shift. I was 29 and searching for myself. In 2000 I went out to the Playa as Starfire. I had pink and purple braids and a desire to shed my skin or grow my wings or ANYTHING that would transform me from who I was into who I wanted to become. Burning Man was the perfect place to do all of that. I felt rebellious and bold and strong. I felt 6′ tall and on top of the world. I didn’t even know how epic that year was until later. Looking back and knowing that I met the man that I would marry and have children with changes your perspective a little. There I was, looking to shed my skin and let go of my past and I walked right into my future.
Matt and I went to Burning Man together the following year and as sometimes happens out there, the collective unconscious had gathered in the form of wedding chapels. I had never seen a wedding chapel out there in the years before but there were a bunch of them out there that year, 2001. I thought it would be fun to get “married” to this man that I was falling in love with and it was, fun, until he panicked a bit. He wasn’t sure if it was “real” or “fake” or who knew what. The truth was I think it was a little of both, fake and real but it brought us closer and farther away but had us really look at each other and who we were separately and together. We missed going to the burn in 2002 because we had a real wedding with our family and friends. Declaring our love in front of God and everyone else. It was a good reason to miss Burning Man.
In 2003 we went and installed a beautiful art piece. The Circle of Infinity. It was a piece the two of us built together and it was amazing. And….I was pregnant. 4 months pregnant and happy to be out there, riding my bike, taking photographs, spending time with my husband and the baby growing inside of me.
I went back once more, in 2005, leaving Matt and Mason home. I was called out there, to the desert. I brought my father’s ashes. I wasn’t sure why but I had this vision of a Phoenix being released from a flame. When Christine and I got there I met up with some of Matt’s friends who told me about a sculpture I had to see. It was made by the Flaming Lotus Girls and it was, yes, a giant Phoenix rising from the desert in flames. I immediately brought my father’s ashes to the piece, said a prayer and released him into the fire. Burning Man is a magical place for me as you can see.
Matt went back the next year with his friends and neither of us had been back until now. All of these years later Burning Man has doubled in size. There were around 35,000 people there in 2005 and this year, they estimated 70,000. To say that we had some apprehension or anxiety around going is an understatement. At least for me, maybe not so much for Matt. I wasn’t sure how it would be. There were so many memories and huge events tied to Black Rock City. It was a lot to live up to. I can honestly say that this year….Burning Man 2017….did not disappoint. It was just as beautiful and amazing and life changing as it ever has been in the past.
Matt and I spent 5 days together and fell more deeply in love than I thought possible. We celebrated our 15 year wedding anniversary this year, 16 years married if you could the Burning Man wedding and 17 years since meeting out there in the desert. We saw each other with new eyes and laughed, cried, experienced art and danced together into the wee hours of the morning. It was amazing and I’m so glad we had this opportunity. Our friend Denise was a driving force for making this happen. She actually met her husband out there on the Playa as well and the 4 of us laughed our way through the 5 days we spent together.
Here are some photographs to enjoy to give you a sense of what it’s like to be out there. But you’ll never really “get it” until you go for yourself. People say it’s life changing and for me….it definitely was and is. In the best way possible.
and two strangers who photographed us together…