Being There – A Cardboard Trek

My wife found out we were (okay, she was) pregnant in December of 2000, just before our 10th anniversary. Having been woken up with a pee-strip and this good news, I quickly calculated the due date as August 25 or so, and my first words to her at 5:30 a.m. were, “So, I guess we’re not going to Burning Man.”

We are city folk and Burning Man has been a great escape to what reality should/could be. We discovered Burning Man in 1999 when our friends invited us for the umpteenth time. As is true with many, our first burn was a life-changing event. There we were on the playa, in the most surreal place on earth with thousands of like-minded persons. As all burners eventually find out, there is something pure and honest about Black Rock City. The gifting, the sharing, the simple oneness with each other. It is, as the greeters tell you, “Home.”

We were not going to make a burn trip with an infant of 2 weeks or less. Though the thought occurred to us throughout the year, it wasn’t happening. But we couldn’t face the fact that we’d miss the burn. As the day all our friends were leaving approached, we came up with the fabulous idea! We got six-foot pieces of cardboard and drew our outlines (eight months pregnant and all). Then out came the markers and paints. For our faces we pasted photos blown up to life size. We used the markers, paints, and paper to make our costumes, boots, makeup, jewelry, etc. We cut out the doppelgangers and shipped them up to Black Rock City with our friends.

On the night of the Burn, other friends came to visit us – so the stories go – and on Sunday, we were pitched into the flames so we could be a part of the burn.

Our daughter held on for two weeks. Everyone came back to the Bay Area and, expecting to meet our new child, still got to experience the surprise of “It’s a girl!” We’ve since left the Bay and now live in New Mexico. Our daughter made her first trip to the playa this year and had a blast. She was a gift magnet and often talks about the “little boy on fire.” Her EL Wire antenna still comes out for special events and we will all be back next year again, where we belong.

L:Gringo and Dandelion and the little Fire Faerie.

by James Kitzmiller

About the author: Tales From the Playa

Tales From the Playa

Tales From the Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by participants. Submit your story here.