Disclaimer: So many posts about Burning Man have already been written. The survival guides, the packing lists, and of course, the round-ups on Burning Man fashion. This post isn’t about any of that. If you want more practical information, my girl Alex in Wanderland has your back. At the risk of sounding more woo woo than I ever have before, I needed to write this love letter to Black Rock City and the life-changing experiences it threw my way every single day. Read on if you’re ready for a taste of the Burning Man magic.
It was my grandfather on my dad’s side that first planted the Burning Man seed in my head back in 2012. “Be warned,” he said, “it’s hard, but it’s the experience of a lifetime.” I devoured the articles he sent over and made a vow to myself that I would get there one day.
Years went by with Burning Man in the back of my mind, but I never knew anyone that was making the trip. It seemed too daunting to take on alone, and even though I had friends that were interested, we didn’t have anyone to bring us into the fold.
But as they say, the burn will come to you when you’re ready for it. And if there’s anything my first year taught me, it’s that you just have to go with what the playa provides. You can try to make plans or scout out all the activities you want to do beforehand, but there’s something so special and sweet about the surrender.
I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for, so I let the playa be my guide. Some experiences surprised me, while others confirmed I was exactly where I needed to be. Please come along with me as I explore all the masculine energy, manifestation, and magic it delivered me…
Imagine a place where the energy is so high, you can manifest whatever your heart desires into reality within moments. Rather than waiting months or years for your dreams to materialize, the collective consciousness kicks in and provides.
Whatever you want to call it ~ serendipity, synchronicity, coincidence, or chance ~ the level of manifestation at Burning Man is as palpable as the presence of sex.
And of course it is when you have 70,000 people vibrating on principles of sharing, love, communal effort, and respect.
Sometimes it’s just in the little things, like when I complained to my friends that my bike was hurting my butt and we turned the corner to find a camp called Peace of Ass. “Come get your bike seat covers right here!” they called out, solving my problem within an instant.
And sometimes it’s bigger, like finding yourself being introduced to the leader of a camp you were consistently drawn to and having him say, “Welcome home. Your soul has been here for thousands of years.” Then dancing into the morning from the top of a dragon art car after being likened to Khaleesi for three days straight.
The more I leaned into, the more the synchronicities flowed ~ some of which I didn’t even realize until I got home. Looking back retrospectively, I noticed that so many of my memorable, magical moments involved men.
But remembering that it was my grandfather that first brought Burning Man onto my radar, it didn’t come as a surprise at all that my first burn was influenced so heavily by comforting, providing masculine energy.
It may seem strange that the week was so dominated by men, especially considering that I left my own man at home.
A lot of people have asked why Roman didn’t come, and the answer is: I knew I needed to do this on my own. He wasn’t hell-bent on going in the same way that I was, and due to my nature, I knew I’d spend half my burn worrying about whether or not he was having fun. Not exactly the best way to spend your time at Burning Man.
I am so stoked to have a partner that understands my need to explore as deeply as he does. Someone who never makes me feel guilty for doing what I need to do, and who sends me off on my wild adventures with trust and love. Because I had the opportunity to fully live out this burn with only myself to worry about, I can’t wait to share them with him in the years to come.
Part of me was slightly worried about getting unwanted male attention, but from the get go, I felt nothing but comfort and friendship in every male interaction.
First there was Jack, who basically planned my entire Central America itinerary the night we met. And I can’t forget David, who gave me Grandpa Bergeron vibes and provided weed and a shoulder to lean on in some of the burn’s more trying times.
I owe it to James for showing me that nudity doesn’t need to involve sexuality. All of my default settings were screaming when an older man came to my tent while I was napping in nothing but my underwear. He was returning money he borrowed from my tent mate Michelle, and struck up a conversation with me despite my less than covered appearance.
There was something about his presence that made me feel so at ease, and the more I thought about it, I realized that Burning Man was working to desexualize nudity, allowing women to walk around freely without having to worry about the predatory perversions we’re forced to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
My discomfort started to melt away and we ended up having the most beautiful conversation. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel naked at all. I was too enthralled by our fascinating talk about race and politics in America, discovering that I was learning from someone who works directly with the founders of Black Lives Matter and other major political organizations. Talk about epic!
I could go on and on about Hero and Just Dave, Wusu from THE CREW, or my difficult moment with Jade. The list of men that helped me along the way is long, but I think it’s time for me to move on.
There’s just one more name I want you to remember ~ one that will be impossible for me to ever forget. And that is Marcus.*
To tell this story, I need to back up to the beginning of my absolute favorite day ~ the day that will truly show you what I mean when I say Burning Man magic.
I’ve always felt emotions in my body before I’ve had time to register what they mean in my mind. Fear and disappointment punch me in the stomach, while pain and sorrow take over and seize up my heart. I feel everything around me so deeply that I find it extremely difficult not to get sucked into negative energy.
So when I saw a seminar called ‘Guardians of the Vibe,’ I hopped on my bike and bee-lined for it. Based on the description, I figured I’d learn a few tips and tricks on how to protect myself against negativity. Not a bad way to start the day.
But the conversation turned out to be all about consent. Little did I know, Guardians of the Vibe is actually a group based out of Portland that promotes consensual interactions and creates a dialogue about what that actually means. We discussed how to use your voice to promote respect and embody yourself as a safe space for others. It helped me let go of feeling rude when I no longer feel comfortable interacting with someone, and reminded me that it’s always okay to walk away if you need to find a new vibe.
It wasn’t what I was expecting, but the playa has a way of giving you what you need rather than what you think you want.
However, it was already Thursday and I still had yet to properly wash my face. So the playa AND ur girl knew she needed a healing herbal facial at Camp OKNOTOK. A woman studying herbal medicine had all the potions we needed to feel fresh in the middle of the desert, including orange-scented nasal drops to clear out our passages and herbal tinctures to address any ailment. I asked her specifically for something that would ground me and stop me from second guessing myself so much. She gave me an amazing blend called Light My Fire, Speak My Truth, made from a concoction of grounding ingredients like dandelion, licorice, and frankincense.
It was then that the synchronicities really began.
Next on my agenda was a talk at Camp Mystic ~ a place that quickly became one of my most treasured playa gifts. I instantly felt at ease surrounded by Android Jones’ mystical images, and made myself comfortable perched against a beautiful sculpture with actual running water, which was a sight to behold considering the environment we were in.
I sat there for hours listening to thought leaders discuss everything from the future of sex and relationships (hello polyamory!) to digital currency and economic unity. I was enthralled by their passion, and for the first time all week, the true meaning of Burning Man really clicked in my head.
This is where the brightest minds of the world come together to prototype the future of human identity. Burning Man shows us what the world could look like if we stopped playing our current zero sum game. These are people working tirelessly day to day on projects that contribute to a new world order ~ one that values purpose over profit, and innovation over archaic ideologies based on fear and control.
In short, it was fucking fascinating.
After 4+ hours, I begrudgingly pulled myself away to get ready for the big party night at Ashram, which turned out to be a resounding success. But time was running out, and Michelle and I still hadn’t made it to Camp Question Mark ~ the trap camp she’d been raving about.
It didn’t take much to convince me to go twerk it out. At Camp Question Mark, I was in my element and found it easier than ever to make new friends. It didn’t take long to meet Eli and Marcus, who would round out our crew for the night.
I’d just jumped down from dancing on the speakers when an older man with a blue mohawk approached me. “Hey, I’m Marcus! May I give you some love?” he said with a smile.
Instinctively I responded that I have a boyfriend and turned away, but he respectfully hopped in to explain that he didn’t mean anything sexual. “That leads me to my next question,” he said, “In what form would you like it? It’s all about what you feel comfortable with!”
My mind flashed back to the consent conversation that morning, and I felt my walls crumble down. Here was someone putting into practice the exact lessons I’d learned earlier that day. I introduced myself and gave him a huge hug. He then slipped a necklace over my head emblazoned with his signature slogan. “It’s just something I give out,” he said.
Call it a coincidence (I call it magic), but turns out Marcus belonged to Camp Mystic! So of course we took him up on his offer to go back to his spot for chocolate-flavored coconut water slushies and the beautiful sounds of his hand drum.
After a while, his face turned serious and he asked if he could open up to us about something. “Of course!” we responded, never considering the weight of what we were about to hear.
He proceeded to tell us that he was at Burning Man this year (his 19th burn!) to heal and forgive himself. The past year had been one of the worst of his life after purchasing cocaine for the first time. Each night he’d do more and more until a full-blown habit was formed.
In an open, nine-year relationship, he naturally found himself at a sex party one night without his partner. This typically wouldn’t have been an issue, but the white powder pulsing through his veins made his behavior anything but typical.
He found himself alone in a room with a woman that was slipping in and out of consciousness. They’d been fooling around and he asked if he could have sex with her, but she was too far out of it to respond.
But just like the guy that fucked my unconscious body, he did it anyway. A few people happened to walk in and asked what he was doing, and everything came crashing down as he realized the severity. He was a rapist. And he had to come out to his partner and community as such, confronting the fact that his life had spiraled out of his control.
Considering my past, of course this was crazy to hear. You might think it would cause me to shut down or run the opposite way, but I felt my heart open even further. His self-awareness and unfiltered, raw regret just made me want to wrap the beautiful, fallible human before me in a hug.
Marcus hasn’t touched cocaine since. He’s offered support to the victim, who has found peace with the situation and never moved to press any charges. As part of his healing journey, he passes out the “May I give you some love?” necklaces to open up the conversation about consent.
We all have our shit. Those messy, ugly, scary things we wish we could forget. But it’s never too late to be better. To recognize our mistakes and repent. To move forward and be the best that we can.
Everything about that day led me to Marcus, and in hearing his story, I found more healing and strength in my own. It transported me back to when I first shared my story with all of you last October, and promised to continue this uncomfortable conversation. Unfortunately life got in the way and somehow it all kind of fell to the wayside, but Burning Man gave me the reminder I needed and connected me to my fellow consent crusaders.
Now that is pure magic.
*Disclaimer: Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.