The Man is now a smoldering pile of rubble on the open Playa, which means – unbelievably enough – that Burning Man is nearly over. The only major event ahead is the Temple Burn tonight (Sunday) at 8 p.m., after which it’s all about packing up, cleaning up, and making the two-part drive from Black Rock City to Tahoe, then on to our final destination in Lincoln, CA – a little east of Sacramento.
At this point in the process, the Burning Man principle that is top of mind is Leave No Trace. It is always our intention to leave the Black Rock Desert in its original, pristine condition. We rake through every inch of Playa surface for which we’re responsible searching for anything that is foreign to the land, removing it, and repairing any damage it may have caused. Our goal is a totally “green” site rating on the annual Moop Map. A good rating helps ensure us our same spot in the city next year.
Last night’s Man Burn was phenomenal. Because our son is part of the Burn team, he was able to snag “inner circle” seating for the two of us and his new wife. That put us as close as anyone other than staff is allowed to the burn itself, so we had our best view ever of the Man burn. The drama begins with the raising of the man’s arms, followed by performances by fire spinners who populate the burn perimeter. Once the fire spinners have doused their flames, the crowd quiets awaiting the burn itself. The team directing the show lets the anticipation build for a few minutes before the first fireworks go off. Then it’s the 4th of July plus New Year’s Eve rolled into one elaborate fireworks show. The first sparkles come off of the Man himself, followed by a series of rocket launches from the four corners of the building, a light show from just below the Man, and a series of propane bombs that set the entire structure ablaze.
During most Burns you see frequent “firenadoes”, mini smoke spouts that flow outward from the fire’s center. But because there was almost no wind on Burn night, we experienced none of these phenomena. Instead, we watched a fairly peaceful event leading to the eventual collapse of first the Man, then the building that surrounded him. It was difficult to ignore the poignancy of this moment: the first Burn without Larry Harvey, Burning Man’s founder and leading light, who died this year.
Last night from 3 to 7 a.m. we stood our final watch as Temple Guardians. These quiet, late-night hours gave us plenty of opportunity to see the Temple in all of its glory and to share in the grief expressed through thousands of personal monuments and statements lovingly placed within the structure. I was particularly struck by the number of premature deaths – young people in the 30s and 40s who had gone too early because of illness, accidents, overdoses, or bad luck. It made me appreciate the good fortune we have experienced in our lives and the lives of our children.
As we approach the end of the Burn, we realize once again why we remain enthusiastic participants. We seem to grow younger with every Burn as opposed to aging as we’re “expected” to do. Although we understand the reality of the situation, we feel more like peers with our young campers than their seniors. Given our ages, that way of seeing ourselves feels incredibly good.