I’m one of those annoying people who call Burners that have been going since 2007 newbies. I love playing playa historian when a random asks me what year my first Burn was (’95), and then proceeds to ask me awesome questions like, “What was it like without roads?” And “I heard there used to be no cell phone service!” My friends and I joke that we used to rub two sticks together to make blinky lights. Ah, the good ole days, when Gate was Boggman and a shotgun, and we sat on hay bales.
I took about seven years off in the 2000s, and I had to relearn how to Burning Man when I returned in 2010. “How many Principles? How many art cars?! Blinky lights, what?” I was a jaded newbie. So much had changed.
This year will be incredibly different for me, though I know I’m traveling a tear stained, well worn road. My boyfriend died on July 2, 2016. I was traveling in Europe and we were five days away from meeting up in Greece. We FaceTimed and texted every day and missed each other terribly during those three weeks away from each other. And then everything changed. I flew home, and I walked in to my home filled with my community, and all they wanted was to hug me. The only word I could find to describe my feelings those first weeks was lost.
I now approach my 14th burn in 21 years with a new focus: mourning Rupert. I have a few volunteer shifts to attend to, but the majority of my time will be at the Temple and at the Catacomb of Veils. I am meeting friends at the Temple at a specified time. I’ll bring the beautiful hand painted wood box with his ashes and together with my community, I will mourn his senseless, sudden death.
A close friend of ours is working on the Catacomb of Veils, and she hand painted a heartfelt note on a piece of wood in the box that makes up the top of the doorway. I’ll be up at 6 am to watch that burn with her. I’ll be moved to tears. I’m weeping just thinking about watching that burn.
I’m not new to tears at Burning Man. I’ve long said, “It isn’t Burning Man if you haven’t had a meltdown.” These tears will be different. They won’t be because I’ve blown all my serotonin dancing in iridescent pants and faux fur all night, running around the playa in giant black boots hopping on and off art cars, walking an hour to visit a friend who may not be at her camp, waiting up for Java Cow. This year’s tears? These are the tears of grief.
My usual camp is taking a year off, so I’m camping in a new camp where a few campmates knew my boyfriend better than me, and many not at all. I’m traveling with an old, dear friend, and camping solo in the van my boyfriend converted earlier this year into a lower east side studio tenement, complete with exposed brick and a signed Beastie Boys poster. He had all but the solar panel finished while I was in Europe, and while he took the van to Camp Tipsy, we never got a chance to camp in it together.
That’s okay. I’m bringing his ashes with me. I’ll mourn my love, with whom I didn’t get nearly enough time, at the Temple. It will be an almost unbearable Burn for me, but it will provide me with not what I want, but what I need. Burning Man always does.
Image: Catacomb of Veils