Field Notes on Year Four
It has always had the same effect—the playa’s vastness demands your full attention and I am small; a tiny spec in this wild, wild place.
It’s the first night of my fourth burn, yet it feels like just the beginning. I am standing at the Esplanade—the edge between city and playground—where order ends and madness commences. It is close to midnight, but as bright as always. If you don’t know it, I am going to tell you now— this place makes you feel vulnerable, this place makes you feel like you are capable of it all. Right at this second, I am anxious, I am excited. There are seven whole days ahead of me and I am giddy.
I used to be skeptical of the people that call this place home. Here I am, year four. Now, this place is both respite and playground— the place I come to be myself. This is where I am the most grateful and the most inspired. This is where I push myself to new limits and unhinge from the person this world expects me to be.
From the Esplanade, the playa is bright and shiny. Every single light is moving in slow motion, leaving a trail of lights behind its tail. A bike zips behind me, another one in front as I hear the thumping beat of a nearby art car juxtaposed against the far away cacophony of music, loud and soft, mellow and hard. There could not be a closer resemblance to the inner workings of my brain.
I pedal into a sleepless journey. Our goal is to meet sunrise. We jump onto these rusty bikes, and cruise around from place to place, art piece to campsite, searching for euphoria, passing time, resting, then biking again. We meet strangers and make friends over a floating diner serving pizza and bacon. We sip on mezcal and cheap champagne. This night seems to move fast, then it slows down to the pace I am most uncomfortable with. Without a plan, we meander through that scary hour when the darkest second meets the faintest glimpse of daylight. A flock of illuminated butterflies flutters above our heads, undulating, flickering, whispering.
The moon has yet to set, but the sun is peeking. Blood red. The music is as loud as it could ever be. I am dancing, uninhibited. I think of where I come from, just for one second, and wonder how I got here. I wonder, how out of all the possible bifurcations my journey could have taken, I ended up here. I think of religion, god, the universe, and my place in it. It is, for a fraction second, crystal clear.
I remember why I am here—the earth breathing slowly, methodically under my now tired limbs. This dry, crackling earth is alive. I am powerful and powerless, meeting another year.
Thank you for introducing me to this.
Thank you for giving me a new perspective.
Thank you for giving me a new life, a new place, a home.
The sun is still rising. I am right there at the end the world with everybody else. We howl, we clap, we run past the trash fence. This is what we came for. This is the beginning of another beautiful day I get to share with 70,000 gypsies.
I am grateful to be able to call this wild place home.