Tuesday morning of my first Burn, I pedaled out to the Temple. Everyone I had ever spoken with about Burning Man always spoke with reverence about this, so I was curious. I am not a new age religious kind of guy, but my fiancé had lost her Mom recently and I thought that would be an appropriate way for me to express my personal loss. I also thought of it as a way to honor my relationship since I was there solo.
I parked my bike and entered the Temple. I was close behind a young woman who was topless wearing a tutu and furry boots. I am comfortable with nudity but really had not been around this type of openness recently. As we approached the magnificent sculpture in the center we both stopped. All of a sudden the woman’s shoulders started to quake, she fell to her knees and started to wail. I am talking about the “I just lost my son or daughter” type of open wound wailing. I was immediately ready to comfort her but held back, I am 63, she was scantily clad, I did not want to be that creep. Fortunately another young woman came and held her. It was huge jolt that brought me right into the moment. As I looked around I saw people hugging or weeping. I saw the shrines and felt the depth of quiet that happens in the Temple. I put up the picture I brought and wrote my words, tears streaming down my face. I wondered around reading about the common loss we all share, my emotions ebbing and flowing. It was a powerful experience and completely unexpected.
After I left I met up with my friend Dave, who had come out with me. I told him I wanted to ride out into the Playa as I needed a little time to pull myself together. We rode and looked at the art and were almost to the fence when I spied a gallows with a dummy hanging from it. I am not a fan of ironic art so I approached this piece with skepticism. Oh no, no irony here. On the upright was a small plaque with a can of pens. The plaque said something like “most of us have lost someone to suicide and probably wished we had said something, here is your chance”. I was completely blown away. I had lost someone to suicide and I did wish I had said more, so pen in hand I did.
I rode slowly back to camp thinking about how deep the water is here on the playa.