I wash my face a third time, but the water still doesn’t run clean. I scrub at it, I use soap, I rinse… in the mirror I see the drops in my beard are still dirty.
I just got back from my first Burning Man, and the dust isn’t the only thing that’s stuck.
I am the joke, the parody of the first time Burner who can’t stop thinking and talking about this experience. I’m probably insufferable, but my family loves me and has listened patiently while I try to wrap my brain around this last week.
I want to talk about the communities I saw created out of thin air, the experiments in art covering the playa, the giant fire-breathing structures rumbling through the desert with 20-30 people onboard dancing or the tiny, one-person mutant vehicles made out of love, steel, and gasoline.
“How was it?” has been just a hard question to answer too. It was hot, it was cool, it was beautiful, it was ugly, it was physically uncomfortable and emotionally overwhelming. There were the smells that come with 70,000+ people camping in a tightly-packed mass in a waterless desert, there were also the ad-hoc families that formed and dissolved over a period of minutes. I talked and shared moments with folks I’d be intimidated to make eye contact with in the ‘real world’ for any number of artificial hang-ups and preconceptions, I pushed my own personal boundaries and challenged my hangups whenever I could.
I’m not trying to say I had a spiritual experience because I don’t think that’s right. Every moment was intensely earthly, where the physical (and often uncomfortable) reality was always front and center. There’s something unavoidably kinetic riding a bicycle in a desert with thousands of other people and vehicles on constant collision courses.
I had an experience and it was something I treasure. It was good, it was difficult, it was eye-opening, it hurt, it helped me reset some stuff, it showed me some things I’d never imagined, and, well, I guess it’s still stuck on me.
I think I might need to go back.