by Margo Stilley
Sitting down to write what my experience at Burning Man this year is daunting… It usually takes weeks to put into perspective what happens in the desert and the rest of the year to put into practice everything that you’ve learned.
Leaving home without my factor 100 sunscreen, a litre of water, goggles and dust mask and straw hat would have been a mistake. But the addition of the neon pom poms (which I picked up amidst the craftiest desperate housewives of Los Angeles County at my local arts and craft store earning me the nickname The Polka Dot Princess) were my masterpiece. I chose to hit The Playa this year not with the friends that I arrived with, but with the dusty strangers that make up Black Rock City or ‘my new friends’ as my newly excavated inner hippy would rather call them.
There was something about enjoying the art exhibitions, talks and dance parties without the expectation of the future or revelations from the past that spoke to me this year and kept me floating from one camp to another making new faces familiar ones.
In order to really squeeze everything you can from Burning Man you really just have to follow one rule, if you see it and it looks cool then it probably is so go and look at it! Ask questions about what it means and where it’s from and enjoy yourself. This can take a while to implement but once you do, inevitably that thing that was so mesmerizing a few moments ago will be beside another thing as equally beguiling. This can mean that the original point of interest that you were heading for can take a couple of days to get to, but the journey along the way is where the essence of the week lies and inevitably leads you back into your camp dusty and exhausted with stories that start like “Did you see the guy laying in the fish tank giving out watermelon sno cones??”
Unfortunately, ‘re-entry’ into the real world after relearning to be curious and childlike can sometimes be harsh.
When we exited Black Rock City into the depths of the far West of Nevada, I found tears welling up in my eyes. I missed the free quinoa soup from our next door camp and the cyber techno that I never listen to outside of Burning Man.
After an experience that should have left me exhausted, I have the energy of a teenager at the mall without her parents for the first time. I’ve been out of the desert for three days now and already I’ve talked to my neighbors for the first time, learned the name of my local gas station attendant who I’ve been seeing for about the same amount of time and proactively cleaned out my closets and kitchen cupboards. If there is something that I see that needs to be done, I’ve done it and I’ve done it with a smile on my face.