“Welcome Home,” they said, as my two rideshares and I pulled up to the Black Rock City gates.
For them, it was their third and fourth times attending Burning Man. It was my first, and so I rang the newbie bell with gusto. Each time the bell rings, a Burner is born..
Over the course of the next five days, I kept coming back to the Greeter’s welcoming words; I had never been before, so how could it be my home? It might become my home, but it wasn’t already. The truth is, it didn’t take long. Less than a day.
Burning Man, and the city that encompasses the event, Black Rock City, cannot be simply described. Before I went, people would ask me what it was and why I was going. I knew even then that it wasn’t just some week-long party, or some arts festival in the middle of the desert. However, having been, I think I can now try to explain it, not in terms of a definition, but in terms of similarities. It is part Arabian Bazaar. It is part Rainbow Gathering (from what it’s been described to me as). It’s part amusement park, arts festival, and Las Vegas strip. It is a place free of social dogmas. It is a place where people learn from each other, and where everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the collective environment. It is both a sea of people (over 30,000 this year), and it is a barren land that offers complete isolation. It is a city, with streets and cars, and it is a flat unobstructed plain, both of which go on for miles. It is light and sound. It is fire. It is dust and sandstorms. There are fire performers (hundreds of them!) and paragliders. It is a place that has death, and quite probably the beginnings of birth. It is a cauldron of emotions; joy, happiness, sadness, lonliness, togetherness, awe, solemn, amazement, peacefulness, claustrophobia, tiring, energizing, bewilderment, anger, disappointment, elation, pride, and many, many others. It is a place where you can pick up the phone and talk to God. It is a place where you can read a story about a Princess. It is a place where you can see a giant illuminated head driving around. It is a place where you can stumble across a swimming pool in the middle of the desert. Simply put, it is Burning Man.
I’ve got more to say, but now I must go spend some time with my much-missed family.