This was my third trip to that thing in the desert. This Epoch focused on Radical Ritual. When everything is radical, revolutionaries sometimes feel like bureaucratic office drones. And Ritual? Washing dishes and no manner of Om Shanti could elevate it past the passive aggressive cloud that was our camp leadership. Who knew bike mutation can feel like a Zimbardo experiment. When did we agree to be prisoners and they guards?
This doesn’t even address the tornado that rocketed the uber tents into the air landing them into the camp across the street, all while we were mid coitus. Fuck yer burn indeed.
Everyone waxes poetic about the burn you are meant to have. One of the first “rules” I ever encountered about Burning Man and Burners, in general, was really a twofer. “We are an island that attracts misfit and broken toys and there is the law of two feet. You can always walk away.”
Past me was notoriously bad at walking away. Most of the burners I know watched as I held on to what was toxic just because I was so determined that I could fix that which was broken. Does everyone deserve someone willing to stick it out for them?
Around my birthday last year, straws got broken and camels have never been the same.
I decided I was going on my own fix-it journey and was going to spend a radical amount of time and energy healing myself. I was going to do things that scared me. I was going to put myself out there. I was going to stand on my own work no matter where it took me. I was going to embrace joy no matter what.
Thomas Merton’s No Man is an Island made me face a truth so hard to face that when brought to light I assigned myself lines to embed this message home. “Selfish love often appears to be unselfish, because it is willing to make any concession to the beloved in order to keep him prisoner.” I was no longer the girl who would make any concession! I had made many with K I have a detached retina, body dysmorphia, and sexual assault to show for it, and that kind of prison is not acceptable. I have zero interest in being such a warden.
Here I was again in the desert with another man at the end of the season of self-growth. I had accomplished a number of things as an artist who was so keen on finding her voice. As a woman who was really learning to say no and to define hard boundaries with people. As a human who is getting better at prioritizing her own dreams and desires and walking away from that which does not serve. All made infinitely easier with a conclave of supportive people rooting for me to express that which is mine.
This years ritual, Campbell like in scope, was a journey through what makes a home. Knowing when one place isn’t feeling right, throwing a good time after bad, only sets us up for anticipointment followed by actual disappointment. That home is in smiles of solidarity stolen across kitchen sinks. That home is your closest friends assuring you that you are okay after confronting the monsters of shame. That home is the fairy light of laughter that glows beyond any addressable LEDs smashed together in a project. Sometimes home is a refugee camp found in an Empire of Dirt.