“HOW WAS BURNING MAN?”

So for the last two weeks, I’ve been asked the same question one trillion times: “HOW WAS BURNING MAN?” Fair enough. And by now though I should have my answer, it still takes me awhile to collect my thoughts about this.* *the lag might also be due to the three nights AT Burning Man but more on that later.  The truth is, is that it IS hard to explain. It is like going to Mars. It is like having a baby. Before Matt and I went to Burning Man, a friend sent us this video and now after returning it is totally right on the money. It was EVERYTHING. (but it was also HOT!) (I’ve just watched this video again and it makes me want Pancakes…. anyone else?)

It has be said that Matt nor I would have ended up at Burning Man without some dear friends who made it all happen. We received an email from said friends in March asking if we would want to join them at Burning Man. I immediately responded to the email saying “IS THIS SPAM?” The couple who initiated the trip are not the couple that one would immediately think as burners and yet the fact that they were going (and that we would be adventuring into the playa with dear friends) made it all the more palatable. We were first timers all together and in the spirit of YOLO, Matt and I decided why not? (And we are glad we did).

After doing a bit of social media research (thank goodness for pinterest!), a few weeks prior to Burning Man, I headed to Cosmo and Natalia on Melrose (the costume mecca) to buy our Burning Man gear. From what I could glean from my googles of Burning Man, it really was all about the costumes. RIGHT? (wrong. but still sort of right). After a couple of hours, I got all the essential non-essentials (Swarovkski Miliary hat, Beyonce sparkle aviators, body jewellery, and hip belt for essential eyedrops, lip balm, and headlight) and also got VERY excited about the unknown of what was to come.

SO much of my life is planned out – I appreciate the structure of my daily life but equally the prospect of going off the grid for a few days, in Beyonce sparkle aviators, is quite appealing.

Matt and I packed up our costumes (too many to count but of course, once I was there I could have had several more), lots of LED glowlights (for night riding of bikes across the sand), goggles (for the dust storms), lots of lotion (for dry cracked skin – the air is extremely dry), and also our sense of spirit and adventure.

We flew into Reno and drove a couple hours into the desert to Black Rock City. As we neared closer the entrance, I had those butterflies in my stomach of excitement and nervousness. Burning Man has SUCH a build up – what if it didn’t live up to our expectations? What if I hated it and wanted to get out right away? How was I going to cope of 3 nights away and really mostly out of touch (we ended up having spotty wifi and luckily my Mother was staying with the children, but still I always have anxiety when I leave the kids).

We drove into the dusty entrance (see below) where we showed the welcome crew (all wearing Tutus as we arrived on Tutu Tuesday – yes, this is a THING) and then we were asked to get out of the car. The welcoming committee then explained a little about Burning Man, what we should expect, what we could get out of the experience, and then asked us to get down in the dust. Yes, literally we were asked to sit in the dust and do dust angels. The truth is, is that I found this all a little much, but actually, the whole point of this experience, which I learned, is to go for it. Dive in. Soak it up. Leave your judgements at the gate and just try it all and embrace it.

Our arrival – the Tutus were welcoming us on Tutu Tuesday (and then asking us to lay down IN the dust and submit to Burning Man.

We had a lovely ‘camp’ with friends – a few RVs with A/C and showers (thank goodness!) and a couple yurts and all the Trader Joe snacks we could eat (JOY!). We spent the next few days biking across the playa dust, meeting friends at other camps, checking out the sculptures and artwork in the early morning (when the French Cafe was giving out coffee and fresh baguettes at 8AM IN.THE. MIDDLE. OF. THE. DESERT), and late at night, when all the lights were creating the most magical city atmosphere.

Our camp’s “Possible Plan” – wouldn’t be nice if every day only had a ‘possible plan’? As a day NEVER seems to go as planned anyway!

Burning Man isn’t a festival at all – it really is like a city that pops up for a week – filled with every type of person you can imagine, wearing every type of outfit (and wearing none at all).  Our camp made a sort of schedule (see above) when friends were having parties at their camps but we found that the best way to experience Burning Man is to let the days or nights unfold as they might. Our favourite evening was when we were heading back to camp and then one of my friends heard amazing Donna Summer singing – so we redirected our tribe of bikes down a dusty bath to this incredible Donna disco diva dance party – where we boogied for an hour with new friends… before again heading home.

Matt and I on the first night – we had arrived an hour before and were en route to our first party at ZOO camp (look how CLEAN we were! look my gold boots still had a bit of gold peeking through the dust!)

During the days, we rode our bikes around, discovering little camps along the way that were making and giving away everything from bracelets to fresh vegetable juices to chai teas (they were delicious, even in the heat) to hosting group meditation classes. We didn’t join the orgy camps (but there is always next year, HA!) but we DID see a lot of wonderful incredible sights – it really just struck me the beauty and creation that is possible if you give people the opportunity.

This little house on the prairie was amazing – it rolled around on wheels (there was a blue grass band playing on the other side) and on the side you can see in the picture, they were baking fresh cookies from the little kitchen.) It was incredible!

 

This is one of the annual sculptures – The Temple. As I understand it (comment below if I’m wrong and tell me!), the artist was building a sculpture and during the process, one of his friends was killed in a motorcycle accident, so he turned the sculpture into a temple and every year since, there has been some type of temple / memorial at Burning Man. It was very emotional inside – Burners posted pictures and notes for friends and passed loved ones and it was very spiritual inside. It has to be said, I definitely had my own moment as well – and just being there in that shared space of thought and reflection has changed a relationship in my own life and I’m grateful to have had that moment to visit the temple.

At night it was more of the same, but also totally different in the dark. The desert, which is blazing hot and dusty during the day (everyone said that this year’s Burning Man was the hottest and dustiest on record – YAY!), is FREEZING at night! I was virtually naked during the day and then needed to bundle up in faux furs and long underwear at night (while still trying to stay somewhat fabulous… thank goodness for my friends at Amethyst Daze who made the most amazing outfits for me and made me feel sexy, even in the desert, and even after three kids). The playa at night is like nothing I can explain – (again, here is where that youtube video actually resonated to me after I returned) – imagine Disneyland at night for grownups married with a bit of Ibiza and Times Square. There is music in every direction and absolutely no rhyme or reason or order to it – and yet somehow even with Art Cars driving around the desert and everyone riding their bikes in every which way, there seems to be some type of organised cohesive flow. It made me think that if everyone is just in the moment, and enjoying the journey and the experience, we can get along just fine.

One night on the playa in our friends’ Art Car. (Silly selfie face after too many vodka sodas!) x

Thank goodness for my partner in crime (and life and everything) to be able to share this experience with. This is us at a friend’s disco night party – the DJ saw us boogying with each other and gave us this glow light heart to hold.

The truth is, is that I am wearing 2x layers of spandex here – BUT I felt great and it was SO fun and liberating to dress up in crazy silly costumes. And obviously I had my Beyonce glasses which made me feel like a rockstar. (I must wear these more often!)

This won for favourite costume of the trip. When I first put it on, it was sparkly and smooth – so if anyone knows of a good feather dry cleaner, please let me know! Not sure when I will wear feather suspenders again, but I feel like they are a costume box essential, right?

A huge part of Burning Man is the artwork. This Tree of Life was amazing – the lighting changed from blues and greens and yellows to pinks and purples and reds. Burners just flocked to it – it was mesmerising at all times of day.

This is a perfect example of some of the random surprising wonderful things you will discover on the playa. This box of saltines and soup can were actual structures that once you walked inside, you were welcomed with… SALTINES and TOMATO SOUP! perfect and random and lovely.

On our night art ride one evening, we went to see The Man (every year the man is different – this year he was housed in a sort of temple … you can see the man glowing inside). At the end of Burning Man, this is burned.

The days were hot but the nights were VERY cold! Matt and I were prepared with our faux fur jackets for our evening bike rides across the playa.

Our gang riding our bikes and discovering more playa art (and some shade underneath) x

Goodbye Burning Man. (Until next year, or whenever we have the courage to do it all again).

So will Matt and I go back? I think we probably will.  Because we didn’t get our Playa names this time. And also I did buy the most amazing beaded body chain which I was too chicken to wear this year… but I should at some point before I’m 80. It does take awhile to unwind from the heat and the dust and the extremeness of it all – but it was an amazing experience and because Burning Man changes every year with the different camps, different people, different artworks, it will be new every year.  This was our reconnaissance year – we would certainly do some things the same but also a lot of things differently. But in the end, the three days of totally switching off, being carefree, and just enjoying each other and the adventure of it all was priceless. OH! AND during one of our afternoon roséfuelled chats (which is when the best ideas happen), Matt and I hatched plans for another Hermer family adventure (I can’t wait to tell you guys in a couple weeks!) because as we experienced at Burning Man and as Helen Keller said so perfectly, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

8 replies
  1. M
    M says:

    Did you have any complications with the fine silica dust? I have read a lot about how the silica exposure at Burning Man can lead to some breathing issues or have long term negative effects on the lungs. I’ve always been curious why people ignore this very obvious risk.

    Reply
  2. Julia
    Julia says:

    Hi Marissa,

    Glad you and Matt had a good time! You didn’t mention anything about the 10 principles. I’m curious as to whether you learned about those during your experience? All burners are supposed to bring something to give/share with others, and are meant to participate through sharing/giving their talents in big or small ways. It’s part of the spiritual experience of Burning Man; what makes it so different from the capitalist society we live in. We you able to share anything with your fellow burners? I do hope you go back one day. It’s a priceless experience that many would love to have. 🙂

    Julia

    Reply
  3. Libby Briguglio
    Libby Briguglio says:

    Thanks for sharing, Marissa! I have always wanted to go, but I’m chicken sh!t about the discomfort – like scratched corneas and Kentucky Fried skin.

    Reply
    • Marissa Hermer
      Marissa Hermer says:

      I just posted pictures over the course of longer days – I didn’t have service while I was there. And to be honest, not sure I could have done more than three nights! x

      Reply

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