Winding Down, Ramping Up

After living in the desert for 14 days, we’re beginning to feels as if Burning Man is winding down.  But for many of the 70,000 attendees, the party is barely underway.  The burns of individual art pieces have already begun (Thursday night included the burn of a Dune-themed Worm Watchtower exhibit and Friday night was the burn of one of the larger art installations – The Great Train Wreck).  The Man burns tonight (Saturday) around 10 p.m. and the Temple burns on Sunday at 8.

The Temple at night

I finally had a chance to explore the Temple without interruption. Although its openness makes it seem light and airy, Temple Galaxia feels consequential throughout.  The repetitive arms make the structure seem endless and allow visitors to lose themselves in its solemnity.  The center reaches upward 20 meters and seems to embrace the sky (or the heavens if you’re in a more spiritual frame of mind).  You can feel the sense of reverence as you enter and see hundreds of Burners quietly contemplating lost friends and family.

Because it was Friday night, the Sabbath in Judaism, we attended a uniquely Burning Man style Sabbath service held by the camp Milk and Honey, at the end of which was an untypical Friday night meal (vegan and gluten free) for the thousand-plus people who came. We couldn’t stay for the dinner but ran back to our RV to change into warmer clothes and venture out on the Playa.  As the weekend approaches, more and more art pops up in the desert, and a larger array of art cars roam the sandy surface.  We were bowled over by a huge art car in the shape of an elaborate Renaissance-style church.  There were also snails, elephants, giraffes and other creatures ferrying people across the Playa, and one large, neon-lit version of The Man that had moveable arms that could reach out to Burners.

Mythical creature roams the Playa

We could see the giant color wheels (shown in the August 27 posting) from a distance and it looked like they were rearranging themselves in a new way.  But as we approached the piece of art we realized that the wheels were coming apart and moving individually across the Playa (possibly to a new location).  Despite their disconnected state, they still shone brightly and, although we knew they were being towed, they appeared to roll along of their own volition.  We never figured out where the wheels had been re-settled, but it was enough to see the massive undertaking to move them.)

Our night ended with a bike ride through a quarter mile long lighted “tunnel” that left riders feeling as if they were being sucked into a vortex.  After that, we headed home only to suffer a broken bike chain that meant walking one of our bikes home from deep Playa.

Neon man is mobile and boasts moveable arms to touch people

On the way back to the RV, we tried to make a final visit to The Man only to discover that the area was already closed off in preparation for the Saturday night burn.  We’re going to try to catch an art car ride to that burn this evening (in fact, we hope to be on the dragon art car pictured at the top of this blog).  We’ll try to get a little rest after the burn so we can be ready for our 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. Temple Guardian shift.  We signed up for that time because it’s the final shift before the Temple closes in preparation for its Sunday night burn.  We’ll be sharing that shift with Mary, our new daughter-in-law and unicorn mate to our own unicorn son.  Meanwhile, he will be quite busy preparing for the Temple burn during which he’s responsible for the burn perimeter – critical to the safety of Burners and the smooth operation of the entire event.

It’s almost clean up time for our camp, which is a rigorous undertaking.  We need to be all green on the Moop Map (moop is Matter Out Of Place) in order to ensure that we can keep our placement for next year.  We’ll comb every inch of our area, picking out even the smallest bits of trash and digging up any grease or other materials that pollute the desert surface.  Leave No Trace is one of Burning Man’s 10 Principles, and we’re devoted to playing our role in returning the Black Rock Desert to its pristine, natural condition.

Time is tight for us for the next couple of days, but I’ll try to get in a post about the Man Burn tomorrow.