It’s been so long and time took me far from you here.
Burning man is finally done, or at least the playa part is. The cleaning up and recovery and putting away is underway. And it wasn’t anything like what I’d expected.
I’d read a million blogs and spend a million hours pouring over preparations and debating the benefits and detractions of a million tiny choices, and then finally, after months of work getting it together and work on a theme camp and work on a meditation chapel, our gift to the playa, we were there.
To say we worked hard is hilariously inadequate. This was not a vacation.
Traveler and I worked 18 hour days on average in the dust and sun and heat. We limped wearily to our camp and often ate and went straight to bed, exhausted and dirty and tired. We didn’t stink because the desert won’t let anything grow, but it was so harsh our wounds didn’t heal either. That splinter got infected and that bruise just kept surfacing day after weary day. Muscles I could not name pulled and snapped and ached. My temper wore thin and I reacted poorly. Traveler had his own emotional toil. Quinky Girl too.
Both of them will come to it and to you when they are ready and not a second sooner and I tried to just love them and let them come to me in their own time, respecting the process, but it’s not my strong suit and I wanted to wrap them up with every hurt and cradle them, protecting them from everything. It was harsh.
The dust is a desiccant and it steals your moisture from your eyes and nose and mouth and skin. My hands cracked. My heels bled a little and I wasn’t even wearing sandals. It was just the blisters. Nothing survives. Well, almost nothing.
Storms and dust and wind and bone aching tired I haven’t known except since my Army days.
And it was all so eerily beautiful.
It was frighteningly beautiful and majestic. The white dust powdered us all and blurred our rough edges. And the sun blazed in a deep blue cloudless sky or a sky strewn with high wide clouds. The sand was a shadow dancing on everything, claiming everything. Traveler was a silver fox with his deep blue eyes set into his dusted white hair and dusted alabaster skin. I revealed him slowly with baby wipes and kisses. I liked his chiseled good looks and the way the desert styled his hair.
And creativity exploded everywhere. It was obvious in all the art pieces but it dotted everything else too. There were sketches and limericks and people dancing while lost in the music. There were explosions of sounds and unintentional mash-ups. Famous dj’s and people’s iPod lists woke me and lulled me to bass-driven sleep. People walked on stilts and platforms and hung from rafters and climbed the art. People were in crowds and alone and in trajectories of neon light with no direction. Art cars blared music and looked like porches. Someone smuggled in a cat. Poor kitty.
And I was a part of it. I built the city too. We built it. Quinky Girl built home and hearth and Traveler and I made a chapel. I drove heavy machinery and soldered on a tall ladder in the desert and the wind with the sun in my eyes. I troubleshot. I felt like a bad-ass. I planned and installed and fixed and ordered and supported. I burst with pride every time someone congratulated Traveler for our lights. They were beautiful.
I helped a friend make a dream and then we burned it down. This somehow made it more perfect. All those months of work. All that effort and worry and planning. All that lost sleep. All those hurts. All that time working so hard. Touching every single piece of wood in that thing. And it was a moment and then gone forever. And we made it. We witnessed it. We even witnessed some other guy telling people he built it. And it’s more perfect that it existed like this, glittering and temporary. We wrote our names in the walls and had our secret moments in the walls… so… very… quietly.
And the fear came. It surprised me. It whispered like it does sometimes…
What.. are you doing here? Why are you even here? What do you even hope will happen? You are pouring everything you are into something that isn’t wise, girl. You are going to get hurt. Don’t you know… don’t you know how this will end. Everyone. Everyone leaves. You.. you are a puff of insignificant smoke and you will be gone. You love him with your very marrow, and honey… listen.. really.. what do you think you could ever be to him? You are a big dumb slobbering dog. You fool.
He already has… better.
You fucking fool.
And I was using all my reserves to breathe in and out and to haul all the things. I had nothing left to ward off the fear. I felt stupid for feeling it, but I could not stop crying. I cried in the porta john and the desert. I cried in my bed for what a foolish stupid crappy thing I was. I cried for fear and cried for crying for fear. I walked and walked and paced the streets. And I could not stop thinking that I didn’t matter at all. I told myself I couldn’t do this. I told myself I’d come home and just move somewhere and chuck everything and start over. I told myself it wouldn’t matter because you lift right out.
the little something on the side.
the little puff of spice.
just one tiny member of a family that doesn’t actually need you.
so easily forgotten.
ugh. And the shame for being afraid and lonely and begrudging.
The shame for being weak and small and afraid.
The whole time screaming “why are you doing this! Jesus. Get it together. Suck it up. Buck the fuck up. What is wrong with you!?!?! Why are you feeling this. You fucking asshole! You pathetic.. weak.. shitty.. vulnerable puddle of god-damned goo. No WONDER people run away from THIS. It’s shocking they pause here at all. You big dumb disgusting slobbery wanting scaredy cat dog.”
Around and around.
And finally just accepting it. Telling him and then her what I was feeling. And feeling embarrassed, but better. Free. A little chagrined. More than embarrassed.. but better too.
Because when I say this shit out loud it dissipates. It loses the power it gained bouncing in my skull. Alone in the dark of my mind things that aren’t real or reasonable or true become huge and scary. But they are shadows that dart off in the light.
And to be held like that. To be loved like that. To hold that out to him and have him wrap himself around me and tell me all the things. Not even admitting the stuff in my head.. just admitting the struggle and having his warm deep voice in my ear telling me he loves me and needs me and wants me and that I’m important to him and needed and loved. To have his skin and his kisses. To see so clearly in his eyes that I’ve been boxing shadows again.
To tell her too and have her hold me that way, with desperate strong certain love. To have her understand me and love me not in spite of, but including my vulnerable scaredy bits.
I can’t help that I hate needing this again. But I did. And I got it.
Even in the harsh caked desert I am loved.
When you strip away everything about me that is artifice and when I’m small and scared I’m still lovable and tenacious and powerful and a little bad-ass. I am all of these “good” things and I’m these “bad” things too and that entire ball of jumbled wax is beautiful and frustrating and interesting and powerful and lovable.
Again and again and again I hear it.
As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.
Henry David Thoreau