On our first night, we birthed eight people. Maybe twenty. It’s hard to know. When beings are flying over you, under the night sky, supported only by your fingerprints and palms, numbers seem a strange reality to track.
We had made our way out to the deep playa by means of a few different vehicles — an island complete with palm trees, a multicolored bus with seats on its sides. We had climbed up and through a spinning metal globe, levering ourselves up through triangles of space, watching the lights of the Esplanade blur as those on the ground pushed the sphere in faster and faster circles. We had cased several strips of porta-potties, oriented ourselves to the compass points of the Man and the Temple. We lit our own path as we trekked through pockets of soft and sinking sand, each of us with battery packs stored on our persons.
Jon (later to be called Atlas) was the brightest, with a glowing green sash that could be seen from long distances away. Graham (the self-named Beating Heart) sported a bear hat and a long swinging tail with soft red lights. Tiana (Artichoke) glowed softly with twirls of orange EL wire bouncing around her face. Ryan (Puck) had looped a blue strand of lights around his neck. Jama (later to be called Presence) ambled along with pale purple wire randomly hung around his torso. Rachel (Songbird) travelled with blinking lights on the back of her person. And I (later to be christened Angel Eyes) wore my lights as a glowing green belt of stars.
When we found the birthing house, it was empty. A tall wooden structure with sloping stairs up each side, and an open wooden dome at the top. We piled into the space, jamming our bodies and lights and eyes into the space together. We tilted our faces up to the stars and craned our necks back to see the pulsing lights of the city. When people began to appear at the top of the stairs we invited them in. When the space became too full, we offered them a ride on our hands to the other side.
Picture this: you walk up a set of stairs to a small wooden platform filled with people. Instead of ignoring you to talk amongst themselves or making you stand at the edge of what is happening, they excitedly call you in. They reach their hands up, beckon you further in. “Lean forward!” they say. “Trust us! We can hold you! You are about to be born!” You reach your arms forward, lean in and… they catch you. Fingerprints and palms lift you up, jostle you (with plenty of giggling and groaning) to the other side. You catch the railings on the other side, pull your feet through and land on the opposite set of stairs. “You made it!” they cry. “You have been born!”
“Me next!” cries a large man who had come up the stairs behind you. “Ready for me?” You watch as this wide set man launches himself onto the hands of these multicolored sprites. And they hold him! Slower than you and only a little less steadily, they rally their collective strength to move him across the space. When he lands on the other side there is a bellow of cheering. “That’s our biggest baby yet!”
On the last night of the Burn, we came across the birthing house again. We were a bigger group by then, including the storytelling abilities and warm arms of Uncle Brad, the soft ears and smiling heart of the purple Aisha, the spiky hair and intense gaze of Socrates, the nimble, curious and wise Sasha, and the glittery trio of Alexa, Brad and Kenzie. We were a newly-formed family of thirteen traversing the dark of the desert together. We walked towards a bed of glowing coals, curious at what had just expired. It was Artichoke who realized where we were, that these orange pellets slowly turning into white ash were all that was left of our birthing house. We stood at the edge of the coals, feeling both its warmth and its now empty space. Then we turned and walked into the cold night, towards the next big, beautiful thing.
by Angel Eyes