“Home Is…” (A Burning Man Post)

heres where im at

I know you’re all waiting for me to say something about Burning Man. I’ve been back for a week! But here’s where I’m at:

Coming into my second time, I was really nervous. I hadn’t been feeling well, and I had a nagging feeling of negativity following me around. Last year was really amazing, challenging, and life-altering. I was justifiably nervous, I think, that the saying was true: you CAN’T go home again.

People call Burning Man “home” for short. Until this year, I thought it was a nickname, a way of being cute, a shorthand for referring to their camp/the desert/the festival/Black Rock City all at once. Faster. HOME. Easier.

So I stayed in Reno, and I cooked camp meals and packed the truck and got my nails done and rode the 8 hours in the car (yes, it turned out to be 8 hours) and felt nothing as we started setting up camp. Pipes into holes, measure the distance, drink plenty of water, reapply sunscreen.

I didn’t have my “coming home” moment until I excused myself after sunset from the building frenzy to go to the bathroom. When I turned down J to start for the port-o-potties, and saw two blue lights in the air, I had the wind knocked out of me.

All of a sudden, everything that had happened between the last time I scanned the sky for blue lights and seeing them in this moment became a dream.

After 355 weeks of snoozing, I was awake again. Tears started to make tracks in the dust on my face as I rounded the corner onto 5:30. There wasn’t even much of a city ahead of me yet: no Man (yet), no Buffacci’s pole (yet), I didn’t even nod reverently to Sir Bill’s encampment as I cut across front yards to the portos, opening doors with green locks and shining my headlamp inside to look for toilet paper. To me, this is real life. 

I heartily wished my fellow porta-john users “Welcome Home!” after pumping sanitizer foam onto my already cracked and dusty hands. Turning down J, I could see my camp-mates’ head lamps bouncing off the box truck, busy assembling the shade structure. I pulled on my work gloves and fastened the velcro at the wrists, jumping right back in.

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