Silence

I am so glad we stayed to see the temple burn. It was the perfect ending to a crazy week at Burning Man. We dressed up with our remaining clothes and rode out bikes over the playa.

Well, I don’t really care to dress up anymore. I just made sure I had glow sticks on my bike and me, in order to be visible at night.

I did and want to risk getting under an art car, like an unfortunate woman who died a couple of days earlier when she fell off the car she was dancing on.

However, as the Temple burn is supposed to be a ‘formal’ event, Tom gave me a bow tie to dress up. But then, what does formal mean, here at Burning Man? So I decided to wear it backwards, around my neck.

The weather was perfect. No wind this time, no dust, no white-out, like yesterday. We were sitting pretty close to the perimeter, not front row but with a good view on the Temple of Grace.

I have visited the temple once, a couple of days ago. It is a beautiful construct made out of thin wood, and inside filled by now with messages, flowers and objects from Burners who want to remember loved ones, let go of something, say good-bye.

It is a very solemn atmosphere inside, and when we gathered here around it, I could also feel that atmosphere.

Without much ado, without fire artists, without music, fireworks or fanfare, they simply set the temple in flames.

The most impressive silence fell over the desert, only interrupted by one art car playing some mid-west twangy country music, until they, too, got the point and went silent.

We only sat there and watched as the fine wooden structure slowly was consumed by the fire, feeling the heat on our faces. Everyone was silent, as silent as I haven’t experienced Burning Man in those past days. A silence that fits the desert.

It was a moving moment. Many people wept silently, saying their farewells to loved ones, past lovers, family members or friends.

I was split in half, on the one side of my brain trying to take in as much as possible of this unique atmosphere, watching the temple and the faces of the people around me, the smell of the burning wood, the smoke, the playa dust.

The other side of my brain tried to shut off, and think about a few things myself, asking what I was burning at that moment, and what I wanted to let go of.

 

It lasted maybe for 20 minutes, but who can say? Time is impossible to trace. As my camp mate Craig expressed it once: the ‘weird, warped perception on non-time on the playa‘.

Finally, and in an amazingly graceful swirl, the beams gave in to the fire and the temple dome collapsed in on itself, turning around its axis and vanishing in the flames. It was an amazing sight.

Still, the silence remained for a while, interrupted by a couple of people shouting their good-byes out into the desert night, then we were allowed to approach the fire.

Again, I did not go to close to it. It didn’t make any difference if I saw it up close or not.

This time I didn’t lose my camp right away, but by the time I got to the bikes I had lost and found them, and lost them again.

This is the last night out on the playa, so I cherished it especially and walked around a little bit, and visited the remaining fire of the Man, still surrounded by people.

The massive metal contraction that held him in place was still in the fire, and the big beams of his legs were still burning. People stood around and gazed into the fire – or roasted some marshmallows.

 

I drove home to the Camp that once was the Tropical Treehouse, and Mel, Matt, Warren and I went for a final drink at a nearby bar that was still open, Endorphin Orphan. They were trying to get rid of the remaining booze, so we helped out a bit.

With Tom we also visited our neighbors from the GenderBlender Camp one more time, who also manned their bar and the kissing booth, until it was time to go.

Alarm clocks set for 3 a.m. We only had very little time left here in Black Rock City.

All my pictures are on my flickr.