(Note: This story was written and published on a previous blog on December 10, 2015)
How was Burning Man? Expansive, transformational, affirming, challenging, surprising, fun, funny, magical, divine, creative, nourishing, healing. It was many things. Many stories. Here’s one story I hope to never forget, and would love to share. It is just one thread of many which were woven over the last week, but it is one that has surely changed my life.
One afternoon after lunch I took off my boots and socks, and for the first time decided it was ok to walk around in flip flops through the dust. It felt good. I figured, I’m just walking to the port-o-potty what could possibly happen. Well, I ran into a friend on the way back, and we decided to check out a tower not too far off in the distance. We climbed up to the top so we could look out over camp. Of course, I’m in my little rubber flip flops climbing on a metal tower with no water or snacks in the high heat. We decided to hang out on the second level from the top where there are mattresses, pillows and couches. A bit of shade. I position myself to face the staircase and have running commentary on everyone’s outfits as they climb the tower. One guy looked like a pirate, and I complimented him on his garb. He corrected me, and explained that he was a captain (side note: many men dressed as captains), and he then pulled out a big box of Captain Crunch and gave it to me. I had a handful and passed it on to a guy playing a xylophone on a nearby couch. We eventually left the tower, and made our way to a hammock camp where they had karaoke and ice cream. The hammocks were small and uncomfortable, and the hangover singing was painful. I didn’t last long there. We made our way out and I realized that I was very thirsty and my throat was really sore. We started walking, and I saw a camp offering hot tea. As I started going for the tea, my companion disappeared into the dust. Of course, they were out of tea, so I headed back for my camp. Filled up my water bottles, grabbed my bag, goggles and mask. I hopped on my bike determined to find Dr. Bronner’s camp for a shower (it was closed the day before). I hadn’t showered in days and was prepared to wait five hours in line if that’s what I had to do to feel water on my hair.
I started pedaling, and pedaling, sun beating down. Rode up and down and around. Had consumed all my water. Found myself at the edges of camp and couldn’t find the shower. Feeling frustrated and lost, I tried to head home when the first big dust storm hit. The wind was strong, and I could hardly see. I ran out of energy, and was struggling to string together ideas. I didn’t have the energy to pedal or even to walk. I looked to my right and saw a camp with a big jug of water and reggae music was playing. I wanted to go there. Suddenly and gentle arm was around me, guiding me to refuge. That was Jason. He had me stand in front of the misting fan while he filled up my water bottle. He had me drink the entire bottle and then filled it again. He sat me down and tried to talk to me. He filled the bottle again, and gave me a salt tablet. He showed me the bottle first to prove it was safe. I asked where I was and what the camp was about. He said the camp was called Ganesh and their mission was to remove obstacles. My throat was killing me. He gave me a cough drop and more water. And then snacks, food, and space to catch my breath and work on putting thoughts together. We talked a bit about some of my obstacles, but I wasn’t completely coherent, not truly myself. The dehydration had gotten to me. Or maybe it was the Captain Crunch (Have you ever really looked at that character? Looks like he had some acid or shrooms, I digress). Jason and his friends nursed me back to health and I went on my way. It wasn’t until I got back to my home camp, had dinner and some time to rest when I realized how ill I really had been. My brain was not functioning. I really believe that Jason and his camp saved my life.
Next day, I wake up and put on my Ganesh t-shirt in honor and thanks to Jason and his camp. I step on to the dance floor for what would be the most profound dance of my life to date. I was dancing out some frustration (related to another thread for another story another time), feeling into my strength. A lot of painful emotions coming up on the floor around me. A woman on her hands and knees in the center of the room wailing. I kneeled down with her and pounded on the floor, goddesses encircled offering support and movement (Side note: Wailing woman came to me later in thanks for support around her grief. Her partner had recently committed suicide). I stepped up and back. Felt like I needed to be elsewhere. Holding my feet firmly on the ground, feeling into the strength of every muscle in my legs and back body. My dear friend Thomas Hartner until he gives permission for use of his nama few feet in front of me grounded into the masculine, holding the ground. The floor was packed. The energy was palpable. Behind T I could see a man slowly making his way through the crowd toward the center where we were. He looked to be native american, and carrying a small person. The crowd let them through, and he placed a small man on the floor between T and I and a few others. The man’s limbs were shriveled, and shaking. He was wearing a machine to help with breathing. A voice nearby told me to move his arms. He wants to be touched. If I ever thought I had any healing in me to give or receive, THIS was the moment. I reached out for his left hand. I bent over and placed my face in his hand so he could feel my face. I then kissed his fingers, hand, and arm. Then lifted his arm and shoulder in rhythm with the music. I guided his arm to touch others. He was smiling under his clear plastic mask. Several of us around him made contact for a while, until he was lifted and carried away. I have no idea who he was, or why he was there. I will probably never know. After dance at lunch, T and I looked deeply at each other, forever changed by this experience.
After lunch I was determined to find a shower. I didn’t care how long I had to wait. Someone gave me the address. I was sure I’d find it. Again, I got lost, and couldn’t find it. It wasn’t at the address I was given, and it was getting hot. I started thinking about Jason and camp Ganesh. How grateful I was that they saved my life. I look over to my right, and there it is, Ganesh. Pretty fucking amazing, considering I had no idea what their address was. I jumped off my bike and skipped in to thank Jason for saving my life. He was behind the bar, and said, great to see you, I’ll be with you in a few minutes, I need to make a sandwich for this young lady. I look over and there is a young woman sitting like I was the day before, haggard. He gives her the sandwich. I give Jason a big hug and tell him how grateful I am that he saved my life the day before. I really wanted him to see how I am truly a full of life kind of person, and neither of us knew how bad off I really was the day before. I tell him that I had a great morning on the dance floor, supporting many people in their healing, particularly young women, which I wouldn’t have been able to do without his support the day before. I turn to the young lady with the sandwich and tell her, I was you yesterday, you’re in good hands and you’re going to be fine. She reaches out to me and asks me to stay. Of course! I sit next to her and offer comfort and support. She explains (a lot, but I will condense it here) that she had just come from the temple where she delivered something in memory of her mother who had died. She left the temple missing her Mom, angry at her Mom, wanting a Mom. She asked me if I would be her Mom. OF COURSE, I say. I proceed to spend the rest of the day with her, making sure she’s ok and nursed back to health. All around us a big dust storm is raging and it looks like the place where we are sitting is the only place on earth. Ganesh becomes our home away from home. We got matching (henna) tattoos on our hands, we talked for hours, we were invited to stay for dinner. It was the only evening I missed dance and dinner at my home camp. It was the only time in my life that someone across the room yelled out for Mom and they were calling for me.
Notes: I camped with RhythmWave - danced about four hours a day. It was a phenomenal home. Many stories about that, which I hold close to my heart, and consider a beginning. Like any home, it was filled with mamas and papas, brothers and sisters, cousins, neighbors, friends and lovers. Overflowing with love.
I acquired a few other children at Burning Man. The story of my new Son is sweet. I will write about it another time.
Miraculously, the people of Ganesh, as well as my new Son and Daughter, all live in the Bay Area.
No - I did not take any hallucinogenics at Burning Man. Certainly no alcohol. Being present was more than enough.