“The playa provides” is an axiom that is proven true again and again. You need something, and it miraculously appears, often from a stranger who seems to have an uncanny ability of knowing exactly what you need when you need it. We’ve all been there.
At other times, you don’t need anything, but the playa provides anyway. Thoughtful gifts, mementos of Burning Man culture, gestures of kindness, even homemade sourdough bread baked right at camp — there is so much bounty in the desert.
Here are some stories of gifts you gave or got on the playa.
Every year, Jonnie King (second from left) gifts a ticket to a stranger at Will Call. Here he is with this year’s lucky recipient.
A Vehicle Pass
Virgin Burner Beverly Drottar was standing in line at Will Call when a woman left the windows in front to pass back through the line, asking if anyone had not purchased their car pass yet. I said I needed to buy mine, so she handed me her extra vehicle pass and called out, “YAY! My first gift on the playa!”
One Ring to Rule Them All
Jena wears this ring as a reminder of how fate brought a beautiful human being into her life at Burning Man, if only for a moment. Here’s the story:
“This ring was given to me the year of my first Burn. I had just gotten back to my camp from the Temple of Promise, where I had sent my blessings and said my goodbyes to some very dear spirits in my life. I went to walk to the bathroom, crossing paths with a beautiful stranger. I had locked eyes with her and smiled at her. She then stopped me, gave me a big hug. She then looked down at her hands, which were full of beautiful rings, and took this one off, telling me, ‘This is my most favorite ring in the whole world. And I would like for you to have it.’ I was completely blown away. She gave me a kiss, told me she loved me, and before I knew it, she was gone.”
“The Edge of This Earth” Patch
Khoi le and four friends were on an art adventure night when they came upon a big circular object spewing patches — but just four came out. “But then we noticed that there was one lodged on the bottom of the frame and the wiring. We got the last five patches! Shortly after another group of people showed up. Had we came five minutes later we wouldn’t have gotten anything. It was PERFECT.”
Fresh Bread — A Fast Way to Make Friends
Once during a power outage at home, Valkyrie and Kieran Mclaury discovered that they could bake bread on a gas grill. So, 2016 was their year of homemade playa sourdough. “We brought our starter, lots of flour, and our grill,” Kieran writes. “Loaves of fresh bread were baked daily to the wonder and excitement of our campmates and strangers alike (many of whom became friends).” As you do when there’s freshly baked bread in the desert!
A Feeling of Belonging
“I am 58 years old, and sometimes feel like I don’t belong in the young person’s crowd,” admits Hug Slut. “At the Burns, many people have made me feel like I belong, and I am important, regardless of my age.”
A Pair of Handmade Earrings (That Later Became Charms)
Late one night, exiting Samskara by Android Jones, Robin Donoghue and a friend noticed a woman dropped one of her earrings. As they went to hand it back to her, she gave the pair to them. “We never got her name or saw her again,” recalls Donoghue. “Back at camp, my friend insisted that I keep the earrings, as it would be silly to break up the pair. I decided at home, however, to turn them into necklace charms so that she and I can each keep one.”
A Veritable Haul, Plus Polaroids
Erin McAleer shows off her loot and explains its origins:
“We spent a few days at Camp Thump Thump at the Man making drums (those are the big circles pictured in the picture that I put all our gifts on). The elephant bracelet was gifted to me by our camp neighbor, and the other trinkets on the drums were tiny gifts we picked up along the way. I also incorporated a bit of Chris’ and my costumes in the photo with the flowers and the goggles. For my gift to anyone I came across, I took a Polaroid photo of them and gifted them an instant photo.”
The Gift of Music
Courtney Kivowitz brought music — in the form of old school hip-hop DJ Michelle Pesce — to Burning Man. “She had the balls to bring her turntables and vinyl into the dust!” Kivowitz enthuses. “She set up in a dust storm, and then, in that magical way that only happens at the Burn, the weather cleared to perfection and she slayed in front of the One Eyed Monster for hours.”
Dewayne Flowers and his wife Lana Chromium are body painters — like, professionally — so if you were bestowed one of their gifts you might come away looking like this (the story behind this photo is over on Reddit):
The Best Granola Bar *Ever*
Celine Gerakin was having a long day: first a four-hour shift doing coffee at Center Camp, then a two-hour line to get washed up at Sweaty Betty, then a busted bike tube while she was waaaaay out in deep playa… and then she realized she hadn’t had anything to eat in a very long time. Pushing her bike in the throes of much hunger, she was grateful to have water but visions of food in her cooler — cold, juicy apples and pickles — danced in her head.
“I almost gave up even though this thought didn’t make any sense. What would I do? Sit down and wait for the gods of the playa to magically transport me and drop me at my camp? So I just kept on pushing,” she remembers. “This is when a guy who came out of a dust storm stopped to hand me a granola bar. The most generic granola bar, and he said, ‘I don’t know where you are going, but it looks like you need this’ and then he vanished just like he appeared, in a dust storm. I didn’t even see his face or had time to say thank you.”