Burning Man / Hippocampus

Published: September 7th 2005
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The PassageThe PassageThe Passage

This is perhaps my favorite piece of playa art. It is beautiful and so huge it really made me think about all the work artists do to display their art after they go through the creation process.
I was invited last minute to go with a Boise Contingent to Burning Man, in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. The event is more than just a massive art festival party, it’s a community. As we arrived the Greeters called out “Welcome Home”! Putting people out in the desert where they are accepted as themselves really brings out the best in people. It was a week of random acts of kindness. I loved the community feel: I don’t think I’ve ever felt safer. The city is built out of nothing every year, and the planning and logistics that go into it is mind-boggling. I am so very impressed by how well organized the whole event was. The city was well planned and laid out, and the public services like porta-potties and street cleaning were impeccable (in a generous sense of the word). These services were paid for not by taxes, but by the ticket entrance fee. The majority of Burners seemed to be from either San Francisco or Seattle, but there were also a lot from LA. The city is in the desert, but it’s called the playa. I immediately thought of playa in Spanish being desert, until my

These cut-outs were far out towards the edge of the city boundary. They swung in the wind and reflected sunlight everywhere.
mom informed me that playa in English means dried out lake bed. Perhaps I should forget about learning other languages and try to work on my English . . .
Carl drove us down there in his plush Rv. He had been invited by his friend Brian (known as Legend on the playa) to be a part of a theme camp called Hippocampus. By the end of the week there were 55 of us Hippos. We qualified as a theme camp because we had a Spiritual Accountant Tent and as more Hippos arrived we were trained by Legend to be Spiritual Accountants. We had clear green plastic visors and Mexican Jumping Beans to count when we needed distraction, and we tried to look the part of the accountants. We even had official tax forms printed up to give people a starting place for their Spiritual Accounting. They filled out their Vital Statistics (name, address, favorite word, etc.), then their Filing Status (thirsty, cuddly, clothed, beautiful, kickass, etc.), after that we read some fine print out loud to them as fast as we could and moved on to their Deductions (Played it safe, Ignored yourself, Killed time, Stayed out of

Not quite a French chateau, but still beautiful architecture. The art stood out as even more beautiful in contrast to the emptiness of the bare desert around us.
it, etc.), followed by Dependencies (to Organizations /Institutions, People /Individuals, Ideas /Concepts /Other), and finally their investments (being right, being a victim, being different, etc.). They were asked to rate each one numerically and the final tally was the return they were due. Generally the worse they had treated themselves during the past year the bigger return they got. We told them the slate had been wiped clean and we hoped that when they filed next year they would have been nicer to themselves and not need such a large return. The form was really just a starting point for a long discussion, which was always interesting. Once people saw we were truly interested they really opened up and told us everything. The accountants generally shared right back.
Not to start an Academy Award speech, but our camp was the best camp ever! Everybody helped take care of each other and we all got along beautifully. I am very lucky to have been invited into such an established, happy, well-run camp of wonderful people.
One of my favorite examples of
Musical ArtMusical ArtMusical Art

This metal structure was covered with xylophone kinds of parts which could be used to make beautiful music, and people did. Somebody was always playing it and the notes rang out clean and pure across the flat playa. Note the shadow of Hearsilla's disco ball.
how nice and caring the community was outside of my camp, is the Porta-Pottie Mister. The second or third day we were there, there was a very large man hanging around outside the porta-potties all day. He was huge, must have been pushing seven feet with a shaved head and black beard. He looked very imposing and not just a little Hell’s Angels. As people exited the potty he would walk up and offer them a mist. “Lavender or grapefruit? Or both?” I usually chose both. He was very careful to position himself up wind, ask you to take your sun glasses off, close your eyes and inhale. The mist was decadent. It was high quality aromatherapy. He would then pronounce you free from potty stench and tell you to have a wonderful day. He was out there in the sun all day long misting people. The thing is, this was not an isolated incident. Everybody was nice and took care of others around them.
Money is not used at Burning Man except to buy ice, so everything is traded. Of course, it is not usually what some people would call equitable trading. Often if a person had nothing
Hello BuddhaHello BuddhaHello Buddha

Anything you can imagine can be found at Burning Man. I didn't burn incense in front of this Buddha, but there were others I made offerings to.
to trade the giver would just realize that eventually it would come back around to them. It was very relaxed and I saw lots of giving without the expectation of receiving anything in return. Spiritual Accounting was free, but I received everything from hugs to sherry to bracelets for my efforts. Carl was high in demand for his fixing skills and once he had repaired a car or bike he received gifts ranging from gyros to shirts to snowcones.
I split this blog into two because out of the hundreds of photos I wanted to put up I still had over twenty winners and I think that would be too much for just one blog.

Additional photos below
Photos: 12, Displayed: 12



Hearsilla and Hippos coming home after staying up until dawn the night the Man burned. Carl's Home (RV) and Legend's red tent/ costume closet are on the left.
Nigel & LuckyNigel & Lucky
Nigel & Lucky

Among all the wonderful Hippos these two were among those I got to spend some time with and I just have to say they are amazing individuals.
Cricket & WatermelonCricket & Watermelon
Cricket & Watermelon

Hippocampus was blessed with many watermelons and a Very Cheerful Cricket to carve them up for us.

The man behind the Hearse (illa). Thank you.
Me in a Legendary RugMe in a Legendary Rug
Me in a Legendary Rug

The Legend freely lent out his extensive costumes. This is a few hours after the Man burned, I needed warmer layers before I could go back out all night.
The Man's AshesThe Man's Ashes
The Man's Ashes

Right before dawn we went back to where the man had burned the night before to see what was left after about 8 or 9 hours. It was still warm.

The Man Burned Saturday night, and I managed to stay awake to watch the dawn Sunday morning. I was so happy to have that Legendary Coat on: desert nights are cold.

14th November 2005

Doing my spiritual taxes
When I was invited in to do my spiritual accounting I knew what to expect. I’m no virgin; I have been around the playa a few times; a ritual or two, something to burn at the man, a trinket and a see you around. Pleasant but not that special, it would take 5 minutes, tops. Well after 5 minutes with Heather I realized this was going to be different. These Hippos really wanted to connect with their "clients". We talked and shared and it was wonderful, another of those unexpected treats that make burning man such a joy. Craig, who led the theme camp I stayed with last year, also has joined the Peace Corp so I am now getting two perspectives on that experience. I get to hear about him in Gambia and Heather in Morocco. There are three themes so far in common, abbreviations, (I keep thinking PVC as in PVC pipe for plumbing when I see PCV.) struggling with a new language and playing frisbee with the locals.

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