There is a festival that takes place in the Nevada desert called “Burning Man”. For almost everyone on this email list, this may not have even entered your consciousness. Those who actually have heard of it, probably don’t know what it is. But I think there is only one who truly knows on this distribution list. Lisa – who has been my best friend since University of Victoria when I answered her ad for a roommate – has attended this festival for 3 years and participates fully in Burning community events throughout the year. She shared her experiences with us over the weekend and we marvelled at the dedication of the participants and organizers.
What is Burning Man? It’s a surreal, participant driven, temporary art and exploration festival that occurs in the middle of the desert. I say temporary because one of its tenets is “Leave no Trace”. So, at the beginning – expanse of sand; At the end – expanse of sand. During – 50,000 people camping, creating temporary art, music, and exploring new things. I am not going to sit here typing and pretending I am an expert on this gathering – I certainly am not. The name of the Festival comes from the burning of an effigy of a man at the end of the event. What the burning represents to the members of the Burning Man Community, I cannot definitively say. To me, burning of such an item where everyone gathers to watch would be symbolic of cleansing, starting anew, and enjoying the warmth of the memories shared. The firelight on faces, the cold at your back, and the reminder that all things are temporary.
My brother and I spent long summer days in the in-ground pool in our backyard. Usually only coming out when mom insisted we eat something. Eating in the summer at our house often meant a wiener roast. I challenge you to find a more pleasurable day as a kid in 30 degree sunny weather in the pool with friends, interrupted only by hot dogs – cooked by our own hands over a fire – in white wonder buns with S’Mores for dessert. There is not a childhood friend of ours that didn’t sit on the bench by our fire pit (made with circular interlocking bricks) eating hot dogs or s’mores. Even as a teenager, my friends and I spent evenings with the fire reflected on our young faces. The fire pit is still there (some bricks replaced) and still hosts fires – although more for the burning of paper than cooking.
My mom tends to clean-out alot, getting rid of items that no longer bring her any pleasure. She is good about it – trashing things that should be trashed, donating only items that should be donated and giving other items to people who definitely want them. In recent weeks, she has dispositioned “Spirit of Christmas” craft books from the early 90s, a rickety old laundry drying rack that my brother replaced with a much more practical one, wooden salad bowls that have nearly 20 years of dressing soaked into them, and some fancy speciality coffee cups.
My mom also has a item that had been in her living room for about 20 years. It had rough surfaces that were difficult to clean, and it was a bit grubby from 20 years of dust, smoke and other contaminants. It – as she says – has had the bun. But how to dispose? This item was made by an artisan who is locally well know. Donating it would be difficult as someone would recognize the work – and in the current state, it misleadingly looks as if it wasn’t loved. Cleaning it would be nearly impossible and I suspect she didn’t really want to see it off to a new life. She decided that it was time to destroy assigned my brother to the task. “Leave No Trace”, she said.
We went out for sushi last night and when we returned about 8 pm quite satisfied, my brother decided it was the time to destroy the item. It was placed on the top of some kindling in the pit and we all stood back while my brother held the lighter to it. Nothing. Hmmm. Time for WD-40 of course! As my brother thoroughly soaked the pit in lubricant, my mom stood back and said “Pyro! Pyro!” to me in little concern and perhaps a little pride. This time the fire ignited. Soon, it was ripping away, but the WD – 40 was not enough completely start the wood on fire. Emile took the long nozzle off the WD-40 and sprayed the wood. It flared up and caused me, Lisa and my mom to panic as woman usually do while the men around them behave in dangerously.
We had a plastic can of powder used to make coloured flames. It was old and solidified. Try as we might, it wouldn’t break up – so the whole can was thrown in. Then our man got a salad bowl on his head and lap, and then a broken up laundry rack. The fire roared around these well used and loved items throwing up turquoise, blue and purple flames.
We stood back proud of what we had created and I could almost taste the s’mores. Friendship and love while we remembered times past and enjoyed the warmth on our faces and ignored the cold at our backs.
March 5th, 2012 Extra-Ordinary Event: My Mom’s man effigy creates Cranbrook’s First Burning Man Event. (that I know of)