Some five years ago, we were fortunate enough to help carry in the fire that starts the Man Burn, and it was an awesome experience. We were as close to the burn as we’ve ever been, and since then we’ve put more distance between ourselves and the fire and taken a leisurely approach to the big event. This year we sat on top of our camp container, with drinks and snacks, where we had an awesome view of the Burn and no need to locate our bikes among the mass of blinking lights.
We soaked in the image of thousands of festively lighted bikes and walkers streaming out of the city and toward the Man; observed the vista of lights across the Playa – all powered by generators and batteries; and waited for the Man’s arms to rise marking the beginning of the burn celebration.
It was an awesome sight, humbling us before human creativity and endurance that makes Burning Man such an important event in our lives. It is nearly impossible to capture the scope of it all in words or pictures. You have to be there to truly experience it.
Last night’s Burn was one of the quickest we’ve seen, probably because of the five propane bombs used to kick-start the fire versus the usual two or three. It’s possible that the Burning Man org was purposefully shortening the burn cycle to lessen the possibility of crazies running into the fire. Last year, an individual avoided all perimeter patrols and ended up losing his life after he launched himself into the flames. No such event this time around.
The shorter burn cycle seemed to make the entire evening more mellow and less raucous (although in fairness the raucousness is way closer to the burn then we were) and perhaps a little anti-climactic. Everything this year was a bit less than expected, although still amazing and inspiring. One of the top art pieces – a flaming, winged horse near the entrance to Center Camp – worked only intermittently. Several major art pieces weren’t ready until the final couple of days. And no single piece had the impact of some of Burning Man’s greatest hits, e.g. last year’s tree of lights or kaleidoscope of LED lights that shifted shape and color in time to classical music; however, the multi-hued elephant out in deep playa was a major attraction.
Also, there was a magnificent structure far out in deep playa called The Folly, a two-tower building with a windmill on one of the spires that featured a top-notch musical theater performance. The building burned with great intensity on Friday night.
However, this was definitely the year of the art car at Burning Man. There seemed to be more and a greater variety than ever roaming the Playa. But it was an oldie that seemed to draw the biggest crowds, “El Pulpo Mechanico” – a many-headed octopus that shot fire from its arms and head and whose eyes sprung out of its sockets at onlookers. El Pulpo played music that seemed to be composed just for it and spit out its fire to the beat. What a sight!
As Temple Guardians, we always keep a special place in our heart for the Temple. This year’s edition was both simple and beautiful, using a Japanese theme found in many Buddhist and Shinto shrines. Its atmosphere was calming and provided the perfect environment for introspection and contemplation of lives lost and found. It burns tonight.