Sunday, August 30, 2015

Burning Man Bachelorette

Sunset over Black Rock City.
   Swallows (supposedly) return to Capistrano. Buzzards return to Hinckley, Ohio. Salmon return to the creeks and streams in which they hatched. And, like clockwork, 60,000 to 70,000 artists, friends, and hangers-on return to the middle of Nevada's Black Rock Desert for Burning Man.
   A thimble of history: Burning Man started in 1986 on San Francisco's Baker Beach (which allows bonfires) as an end-of-summer celebration by a small group of friends. The climax of the celebration was the burning of a large wicker man (hence, the name). It was a good party, friends told friends, and the party quickly outgrew the friendly confines of Baker Beach (along with causing the park police a great deal of heartburn). Some of the "Burners" knew of another event--a small, temporary, "radical expression" art festival taking place in the Black Rock Desert north of Reno--and the party moved to the desert. Like Topsy, the festival continued to grow until it's now part of mainstream popular culture: there is even an episode of The Simpsons ("Blazed and Confused"), in which Homer takes Marge and the kids to "Blazing Guy." The attendees are known as "Burners," and, like any interest-related community, they are a tribe, with their own language, customs, and rituals. The event itself is actually an art festival, with a number of large-scale installations, and a great many performance artists.
Lenticular clouds.
   My husband, and a lot of our friends, are Burners. Stephen was originally invited to attend and camp with some long-time friends, and he was immediately entranced with both the mellow attitude and the tremendous photographic opportunities. The dust (the event is in the middle of a dry lake bed) and the heat (it's Nevada, in August) don't bother him as they bother me, so this is His Thing (fiber arts festivals are My Thing), and nothing--not even a major earthquake--is allowed to interfere with his annual trek to the desert for Burning Man. He's part of the "authorized" media, so he and some of his other camp-mates go up several days before the actual start of the event (this year, August 30, 12:01 a.m.).
   Thursday was an...interesting...logistical balance. When I originally was put in a cast to let my achilles heal, my podiatrist suggested six weeks. Fortunately, he's understanding, especially when he has a panicked woman stating that she can't be in a cast after August 27 as she'll be at home alone, with no way to drive and no friends in town that can chauffeur her (they'll all be at Burning Man). He agreed that four weeks might be enough to get it well on the way, so early Thursday morning, I was at the medical center, where one of the technicians freed me from that dratted cast. I was free, and less than four hours later, Stephen was on his way to pick up a camping buddy and head out to the Playa. I was officially a Burning Man Bachelorette.
   Being on my own for more than a week is a luxury, especially as we both live and work under the same roof. I have the entire house to myself, and while Stephen is pretty easy-going about nearly everything, I still feel a certain responsibility to do things like cooking dinner, and not weaving in the early morning while he's asleep (we don't keep similar hours--he's an Owl, while I'm a Lark). For twelve days, I can live on salads and whatever I can heat up in the oven or microwave, and work at the loom at 7 a.m. I can clean, and, if I pick up after myself, the house stays clean. It's really rather nice.
...and so, it begins...
   The only downside to all this solitude is not having someone to talk to. I am, by nature, a pretty social creature: more than three days by myself, and I turn into one of those women who chatters at the grocery clerk. In the past, interacting with students and staff kept that at bay; last year, the earthquake so preoccupied me that I didn't notice. This year, I'm embracing my solitude, and trying to channel all that energy that goes into social interaction into my art. I've nearly finished another knitted shawl, have started weaving off the thirty-five yards of cotton on one loom, and am warping up the other loom with ten yards of brightly colored cottons for a set of fancy twill napkins. I probably won't have both warps woven off by the time Burning Man is over--I'm forced to rebuild my "weaving muscles" and need more breaks from the loom--but there should be quite a pile of Nearly Finished Objects by the time my bachelorhood is over. Until then, a couple a pictures from "the Playa," as Burners refer to their temporary home.
   NOTE: All photos by SN Jacobson, from the start of this year's Burning Man festival.