Burlington not Burning Man
It was with heavy heart that I decided not to attend Burning Man this year. Each of my three prior, consecutive visits to the Nevada Desert for the week-long event, along with my older son Campbell, has been the greatest week of our year; at least from my personal perspective, my first visit was an absolute life-changer, probably the most important week of my post-fatherhood life. But then life keeps changing, and this year a few factors came into play that kept us on the east coast.
Cost was certainly one of them, especially the fact that Campbell can no longer pass for an under-12 and would have cost me an additional $300, and this in a year where I didn’t have air miles accumulated to help get us out there any cheaper.
Logistics played a big role. It’s a fair task getting from the Catskill Mountains to the Nevada Desert each year – and especially back again in time for the start of school the day after Burning Man concludes. There’s the booking of flights (and you can’t get to Reno direct from New York), hotels, the renting of cars or the securing of a free ride, the packing of as much equipment as can be carried on a plane without incurring excess baggage charges, the purchase of essential supplies in Reno, and this year, there would have been the purchase of a new tent as well, our last one having been torn a new asshole during a dust storm on our first night at Burning Man 2009. There’s also the matter of the genuine physical exhaustion that hits me on return – the realization that I haven’t slept for a week and that a holiday might be a good idea! When it came time to get on and book the event, I felt overwhelmed and not necessarily up for the task of getting it all together.
And then there was the question of participation. Or lack of it. Of familiarity. Too much of it. Of assumption and casuality. Burning Man is an exercise in Radical Self Reliance, Radical Inclusion, Gifting, and Decommodification to name just four of its ten principles. Flying in from the East Coast, we can’t bring art, we can’t bring a Mutant Vehicle, we can’t even bring a shade structure. So we need to make sure we contribute as much of our energies and enthusiasm as possible – and last year, though I worked a couple of shifts in Central Camp, I felt like we took it too easy, like we just showed up and allowed ourselves to be entertained. I don’t want Burning Man to be a holiday.
So when I got to discussing this year’s event with Campbell late in the spring, I insisted we get involved in a project, really figure out our contribution. And when inspiration didn’t come, I decided to follow the farmer’s traditional philosophy of allowing the field to lie “fallow” every fourth year so that it rejuvenates and replenishes itself. It’s the same reason Michael Eaves used to give Glastonbury a year off every now and then. It’s also the reason we spout that cliché “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” By staying home this summer, knowing so many of our Burner friends would be out there as usual, in exactly the same locations at Kidsville, I wanted us to regain our hunger for the event, to miss it enough that we would be that much more determined to start planning early for next year. Seeing all the pictures and videos from this year’s Burn, reading all the messages on the Kidsville Forum, knowing what a great time everyone had, has done the trick. Calamaties aside, I’m sure we’ll be there next year. The man burns in 359 days.