I have been sitting on this draft for over two weeks. My apologies for the length:
For the first time in a number of years I can’t even determine a total of, I spent 4 days completely disconnected from the world at large via technology. On Thursday evening, I’d arrived “home,” and powered off the iPhone entirely. No email, no texting, no Twitter, no phone calls … this was the first phase in enjoying an absolutely incredible experience.
I won’t go into the specifics of my overall weekend here. The individual experience, in my opinion, remains on the land. But I will share insights of the vibe and major events (the burns) as a person who took in their “Virgin Burn.”
First, and foremost, is the incredible wonder it is to see the community enveloped in this event. To define the event, and the people attracted to it, is utterly impossible to do, and there lies the charm. I suppose the best way to express the nature of the event is to simply say that it is purely about individual expression and total freedom. There is no judgment in any fashion in any part of the land. The populace consists of spirited and loving people from every walk of creative life. The handshake is completely forgone for the brightest smiles one could ever see, accompanied by the most sincere and welcoming hug one could receive. It is common to feel out of place or beyond a clique in massive gatherings of this nature. Not so on the Playa. Every person we met was welcoming, warm, and purely relishing life as we know it. This mentality is immediately contagious, by the way.
On the Playa, who you are is who you are, and how your express yourself is how you express yourself, and everyone is there to be happy for you, help you, teach you, learn from you, and share with you. It is the very definition of “community.” In the “real world” where, for the most part, the concept of a neighbor is swiftly eroding away, the Playa brings it fully to life and cranks it to inspiring levels.
The people of the Playa alone have, in four days time, given me an entirely new outlook on life. The “real world” will make it its job to test this new-found Zen, and I will falter (I work in New York City, after all), but in the end I know I am changed and better for it. Just don’t tell anyone on Twitter, where I still need to try to keep up the appearance of the swearing curmudgeon folks have grown to love (tolerate).
My other major thrill comes from the realization that Playa Del Fuego (or any Burner event) is the place where one can witness *truly* limited edition artwork. The insanely creative, engaging, and meaningful art is meant to be taken in over the weekend, and it is all said farewell to in a moving bonfire over the course of the latter two evenings. No one will see this art again. Ever. Certainly, photos will exist to capture the pieces so those at home can see it, but the real heart of these works is interacting with them, walking among and inside them, touching them, and leaving your own mark upon them.
The burning of the art begins on Saturday night, with the enormous pony that looms over the event being set ablaze. This part of the event is something that truly needs to be experienced by all. A huge gathering of tribal hand drums drive the army of fire spinning dancers who circle the pony and mesmerize the crowd with their complete mastery of the flames. My personal favorite (and the first thing I Googled when I got home to a computer) is the poi spinning (fire at the end of chains that are spun in impossible patterns). As the drums reach their crescendo, the fire is spun into the base of the pony as the crowd howls a frenzied cheer. The drums give pulse to the moment, bringing us all into the fire and into our primal selves. The fire and the drums make us one. A connected community beating with one, driving heart at the hands of the drummers as we watch the pony say its farewell to the attendees. It was beyond beautiful, and yet not a single word I’ve typed can dream to encapsulate it.
As incredible as the pony burn was, I personally found myself most moved by the burning of the artwork on Sunday evening. On one piece, sentiments were left for beloved pets that have gone on to the Rainbow Bridge, and they were whisked away in the glowing embers of Sunday’s somber burn. The Temple was another piece (my personal favorite) that was an impressive sight upon which you could leave your own sentiment, quip, or trouble to let go. As the flames overtook the Temple at the same Sunday burn, the embers carried away those very worries forever. I focus on the Sunday burn for these reasons. It was a more cathartic moment than the more party-vibed burn of the giant pony on Saturday.
Try as I might to give scope to the event in words alone, it’s impossible. All I can say to best sum it all up is that I absolutely can not wait to get back Home again. Maybe we’ll see you there next time.