Ed. Note- Priya Hutner is a writer, health and wellness consultant, and natural foods chef. Her business, The Seasoned Sage, focuses on wellness, conscious eating and healthy living. She offers healthy organic meals for her clients. She may be reached at email@example.com or visit theseasonedsage.com. Read more about Priya’s adventure planning for Burning Man here and her journey exploring the Art of Tahoe at Burning Man here.
Burning Man Tahoe Style: The Journey & Return
Story by Priya Hutner
Photos by Priya Hutner & Eric Petlock
“This wildness was juxtaposed against moments of inner quiet where I allowed parts of myself that longed to be free emerge.”
[dropcap2]M[/dropcap2]y return from Burning Man feels as if I have I awoken from a long, vivid dream. Much of my journey is a blur and completely surreal.
Eleven days. Three showers. Four sunrises. A total of 45 hours of sleep.
Immersed in a place of intense rawness where the cacophony of sound never ended and what outwardly may be one of the world’s largest, craziest, outrageous party gave way to something I never expected. This wildness was juxtaposed against moments of inner quiet where I allowed parts of myself that longed to be free emerge.
Arriving at Black Rock City, the lines of vehicles stood still. My body tingled, electrified as the wind whipped around me – this would be the first of numerous dust storms I’d encounter on the Playa. The white, alkaline particles swirled around the car. The wind and grit pummeled my face. Where were my goggles?
People danced on their vehicles with excitement. No one was uptight waiting for the gates to reopen. Music blared as white clouds of earth kicked up around us, off in the distance a lone kite thrashed in the sea of dust.
Four hours later there was a break from the whiteout conditions. We were moving. Cars, RVs, U-Hauls and unusual art vehicles began the slow creep along the road toward the entrance. I’d kept a close eye on the truck I had caravanned behind all day, I didn’t want to lose track of it now. Darkness was closing in. I felt a tinge of anxiety as we began to move and I could barely see the back of the truck. I had no clue where our camp was other than Ersatz and 2:15. I tailgated the truck as if my life depended on it.
Waved through the gate, I followed the caravan of art cars and rickety vehicles, many with countless furry bicycles precariously positioned on their roofs. It appeared as if they’d all crash to the desert floor with one strong gust. My Subaru’s roof was laden, as well, with two, large duffle bags the size of human bodies and a white and purple furred bike. Out of nowhere, I spotted Eric Petlock’s truck and slipped behind it. We wove through a sea of lights, tents, yurts and structures that were settling into life on the playa.
The crew at our camp had been battling the elements setting up for days. [/one_half]
A group of RVs in place created the perimeter of camp. The scaffolding was erected. We parked our cars. We’d set up the carport in the morning, the shelter would serve as the kitchen, bedroom and closet for the duration of the trip.
We pulled our bikes down and road out into the darkness. Many of the camps and art installations were still being constructed. Colorful lights dotted the city as far as the eye could see. Eric gave me my first tour as how to navigate the city. His guidance, caring and insight created the space that would make this Burning Man experience one I’ll never forget.
Loving each other without shame
“Here I found a place of little judgment, a place where one can be themselves with abandon, where people were unabashedly comfortable in their own beings and bodies, raw beauty from the core, a sense of complete fearlessness, and humanity loving each other without shame.”
Initially, people warned me about Burning Man, “Don’t go into the orgy dome.” “Burning man is just a big party of drugged out, sexed crazed people.” “It’s not a place for children with all those naked people running around.”
But this view is so much further from that truth. Here I found a place of little judgment, a place where one can be themselves with abandon, where people were unabashedly comfortable in their own beings and bodies, raw beauty from the core, a sense of complete fearlessness, and humanity loving each other without shame.
I rode the streets in wonder. Each day more things were constructed, more people arrived and more music filled the air. The depth of creativity astounded me. The art installations and art vehicles can only be described as awe-inspiring. The Department of Mutant Vehicles where the art cars checked in was a spectacle of human imagination.
The beat of the music surrounded me from every direction. The first official night of Burning Man, we travelled out to deep playa and danced at the hull of the Mayan Warrior from Mexico. The energy was primal, primitive and tribal.[/one_half]
I lost myself in the sound current and before I knew it sunrise was near. We returned to camp and climbed to the top of the scaffolding to watch the sun rise over the surrounding mountains and reveal another day.
Each moment of each day was a new adventure and a new opportunity to learn. The gifting and generosity of people was profound, from a simple button or sticker, to a full breakfast, or platter of organic vegetables. What materialized was given with immense love.
It was here I found myself amidst 70,000 people who were open and loving and having the time of their life. I became that wide-eyed kid in a candy store and it didn’t matter how tired I was, I didn’t want to go to bed. I wanted to drink it all in and not miss one thing.
Living in the moment
“I bumped into random Tahoe folks. It seemed we were everywhere.”
Wednesday our camp hosted its annual Wet Woody Party. The dust storms were relentless that day. People from Tahoe and around the world stopped in to dance as Trevor Hall rocked the camp with his magical DJ set. During the week and amidst the city of thousands, I bumped into random Tahoe folks. It seemed we were everywhere.
At times during the week there was a post-apocalyptic, Mad Max energy that emerged on the playa, we were road warriors, masked people on bikes, battling the forces of nature, it lent itself to the look and feel of what it might be like to live in survival mode.
Afternoons we danced at Distrikt and Pink Mammoth, returning home after sunset with only a few moments to lay our heads down before the music from Helga, the art car, blared the song, “Let’s Go.” We jumped aboard with Chicken aka Mark Bjornson at the helm for our next DJ adventure as he carefully wove through the crowded streets with precision.
Time ceased to exist as I knew it and although there was a schedule, even that seemed to be of little consequence. All the things I thought I would do or see gave way to the flow of what was occurring in the moment. It became apparent chasing the Unicorn was futile.
Impermanence surrounded me
“I was reminded that our lives pass in a blink of an eye and how important it is to seize life, eat it whole and live life to its fullest.”
Much of my adventure at Burning Man was aided by my years of yoga practice, from watching my reactive self, examining my fears, to basking in expansive openness or exploring places I needed to surrender to. Breathing, being aware and being present were keys to my experience.
Riding our bikes one dark night a dust storm kicked up. I lost sight of those I was following, my throat closed, my heart tightened, what would happen if I lost them? We hadn’t set a destination. In hindsight, I realize it wouldn’t have been the end of the world; it just would have been a different adventure.
There were moments of fear and wonder, sorrow and joy. The Temple of Promise filled with the names of the dead, brought me back to my life on the ashram and being in the presence of the dying. [/one_half]
Raw sorrow and grief filled the space as people paid tribute to those who had left this world. Death was visceral, pain was tangible and it filled my being with an overwhelming sense of heartache. This impermanence surrounded me throughout my time on the Playa. As I watched beautiful art installations be consumed by the fire, I was reminded that our lives pass in a blink of an eye and how important it is to seize life, eat it whole and live life to its fullest.
“Burning Man is a testament to the temporariness of life, the smallness of life reflected in the vastness of the cosmos, and we are all just a small speck in this huge universe,” Eric said.
As the Temple burned, I was overcome with emotion. Joseph Weinstein leaned over and whispered “It’s the most spiritual of all of the nights here.” And, the depth of that burn will forever be emblazoned in my being.[/one_half_last]
Coming to an end
“I wasn’t prepared for the emotions and upheaval that occurred.”
Sunday after the Temple burned, the city began to empty and so did our camp. Gina Larkin laid out a beautiful dinner on our last night when only a handful of us remained to break down. We listened to Alex Cruz and I took my last shower in her and Buck’s RV; it was divine. Some said it this was the dusty and coldest they’d experienced in all their years attending the event.
The women of “Camp Touch This” were amazing, Jodi Hubbell, Amye Cole, Jani Osbourne, Wendy Wright and Jamie Burge, all local veteran burners didn’t miss a beat to embrace me, hold me and dance with me. Jen Goodman and Azure Karli from Bend, Ore., and the rest of the crew will all hold a special place in my heart. [/one_half]
It was fun to share it all with Deanna Neu, who was also there for the first time.
The guys of the camp rocked it hard. They built, hauled and created a space for people as far as Dubai to rest their tired bodies in hammocks and cuddle puddles nested in scaffolding high above the playa. They are some of the most openhearted group of men I’ve encountered.
In a moment of quiet before departing, Gretchen Schwilk, one of the elders of camp, told me when I returned home that I’d need some space and time for re-entry. And, even with that, I wasn’t prepared for the emotions and upheaval that occurred.
“Be at peace with who you are, love fully, be kind and generous to yourself and others.”
My mantra for my time on the playa is thank you. I am profoundly grateful. I am tired and raw as I process my experience, but mostly I am grateful for the deepening of friendships with a community of people that I hope will remain in my life for a long time.
My dad asked me if I’d return, I said, “In a heart beat.”
As I continue to reflect on this tremendous, fun, external experience that affected every one of my senses, I realize that often it mirrored what was occurring in my internal self. [/one_half]
I was able to witness the depth of love and stillness. In the now deafening silence of my home, I continue to examine the deeper questions I tend to contemplate: Who am I? Why am I here? How can I be of service? How can I love more?
The world would be an immensely different place if people embraced the tenets of Burning Man. It was a reminder to be at peace with who you are, love fully, be kind and generous to yourself and others.
Click through the photos below for a peek into the experience