We kinda did.
What if you dreamed up the most impossibly beautiful and perfectly timed thing you could summon your heart and mind to imagine? And what if you labored all year to pull the strings and find the money and overcome the forces who would defeat you? And what if somehow, once again, you persuaded all your friends to help?
And then what if you actually watched it all taking shape, agonizingly slowly and with great effort, rising in the bright white heat of the desert?
And then what if it finally stood there, appearing and disappearing majestically between whiteouts, and in the evenings glowing with a mesmerizing tranquility against the purple of the hills?
And then what if in that moment of triumph of will and sweat, of tears and blood, what if you said, ok, that’s it. That’s enough. We are done with this. We dreamed it and we did it and now it is time to be done with it. So you lit the torch and set fire to the thing, and you watched the flames consume that which had consumed you.
That was our Saturday night, and we wish you were here.
And if you were here, thank you very much, nothing more to see here; time to move on.
Oh yes, there is still a Temple to burn tonight, but the apex of Burning Man has been reached, and just like that, it is time to get back to the present, and to the immediate future, and then maybe, some time later, to think about what will come next. But for now, strike the tent, literally pull up the stakes, sort your trash and get the hell out of Dodge. It is time to get back into the moment.
Weather reports Sunday morning were scaring the general population, and we secretly thought that this wasn’t the worst thing that could happen. People being in a hurry to leave was ok with us. We don’t mean to be harsh, and we mean this in the most loving way possible, but we are tired of your face and it’s time for you to go.
This giant Burning Man has almost come to a close, and it is going to take a long time to get everyone out of boomtown Black Rock City, and the sooner some people hit the road, the better for all concerned. So here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?
This is the day you don’t want to look at your clothes, or your hair, or the lines on your face or the circles under your eyes. Just put your head down and put one foot in front of the other. You can do this. Get going.
As we said, the weather reports are freaking everyone out. Oh my god, there is a 40 percent chance of rain for tomorrow. And the thick clouds that occasionally blot out the sun are reinforcing the message: Get out while you can.
If the rains do come, yes, the roads out of the city might close for hours, or who knows, maybe even days. Water will immediately make the playa impassible. The mud will trap you, wherever you are.
But we couldn’t help but think that the likelihood of all this happening was slim, and even if the worst were to happen, if the rain and the lighting and wind do return, we’ll cope. We’ll get through it. And you know what? It won’t be bad at all. It just won’t.
Last night, at the start of burn night, we walked out to the cauldron at the top of Rod’s Road. We watched Crimson pass the flame to the stilt walkers, who would carry it to the Man. There were Lamplighters in costume and all manner of official personage, but behind the formal procession there was a random group of strollers, accompanied by people rhythmically drumming, who were walking quietly with their friends. It was a lovely night for a walk; the temperatures were warm and there was no wind. What better thing was there to do but take a walk to the Man?
But then once you were out there, you were back in the crowd. The thousands had already begun to gather, and the art cars were blazing their light and sound, and there was great excitement and tension. The finale was coming: bring it on. Burn it down.
We found ourselves standing next to Larry his own self. So we asked him, “Do you have a favorite thing that happens during this week?” He thought for a moment, and looked to the ground, and answered somewhat hesitantly, almost quizzically. “Well, it kind of shifts from moment to moment, you know? It’s hard to say.” But is there one thing that makes you happy? Is it the desert, or the people maybe, or … “Oh yes, it’s the people,” he said.
And you picture that very small and ironically isolated group around First Camp, who’ve known each other forever and ridden this unpredictably huge phenomenon to unimagined heights, so big and so professional and more so every year, and you picture them looking at it in wonder, still small within themselves, but still amazed at the giant-ness of the thing. Does it ever astonish you that it has turned out like this?
“It’s kind of like the frog in the warm water,” Larry said. “It’s been gradual. … Oh sure, there are significant moments that I remember very vividly,” he said, but mostly it’s been a slow build to this giant burn.
In the sober and hungover light of morning, it seemed that the only way to go from here was back. You want an idea for the Man base next year? How about a giant bale of hay? How about twenty people tugging on ropes to pull the Man upright? Ok, you want something different? How about a bigger Man, then. And a theme that simply says, it is what it is. Leave the explaining and the postulating and the theorizing to others. It is what it is. No more, no less.
White fountains of fireworks streamed from all around the saucer, and then rockets shot skyward and surrounded the Man in greens and reds and whites and golds. And then BOOM, the accelerants in the Man exploded, and he was on fire, and then another BOOM and the flames spread around the saucer itself, until the whole giant thing was glowing orange-y white hot, radiating heat. It was better than any light show could ever hope to be.
And then it struck you again, but for the first time this year: We’re a strange bunch. We work and scrape and hustle for months to build the most beautiful thing we can imagine, and in 90 minutes burn it to nothing. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
And what is left?
The present, always the present.
And in this present there is nothing but ash left where the Man once stood. The fire burned hot, even if the hippies grew impatient waiting to rush around the flames. But this morning there is nothing left. And so here we are, in this moment. Formed and influenced by the past, dreaming of the future, but inextricably in the present, in the now.
Oh, and don’t forget: There’s a morning DPW meeting at 7:30. There are zero more days till Playa Restoration begins.