Burning Man (Black Rock City, NV)
By Pat Rusich
“The American Dream”
“One Planet, Enveloped in Happiness… with Liberty and Justice for All”
Only now it is apparent why I was compelled to take the trip the Kingdom of Tonga for the Coronation of the new King George Tupoa V (refer to previous entry). It was all about getting the International Peace Belt to the Burning Man (BM) festival 2008, with its theme of “The American Dream.” If I did not already have the IPB, I would have never thought to ask to take it to Burning Man. After all, this festival is not a foreign country (although to some it is more like a foreign planet!). It is right here in my neighboring state, in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.
Throughout the 2008 Burning Man festival, I enjoyed sharing it with many people. Where ever I went I wore it. Often others would comment or inquire about it. And when they did I was so very happy to share the IPB with them. So many people over the course of five days prayed and meditated for world peace. It was such a beautiful experience for me to be the caretaker and to have the focus of world peace in my consciousness the entire time.
During my stay, I was given a number of items to add to the IPB. One was a hand made enamel piece by an artist named Jewel, another a hand stamped Burning Man medallion made from recycled carburetors, and yet another a coin from New Zealand with a relief image of Captain Cook’s sailing vessel traveling around the world. (I felt very partial to this one since I just returned from Tonga via Auckland, NZ.) I was also gifted a string of foreign coins from an artist who started her own necklace; a parallel version of the IPB. She was so excited to see the beautiful IPB and so happy to release her coins to the cause. It was just amazing how so many people related to the concept and the mission of the IPB.
Ever year the festival has a theme. My first “Burn”, two years ago, the theme was “Hope vs. Fear”. Last year it was “the Green Man”. This past year, for 2008 it was “The American Dream”. For months I contemplated; “what is today’s American Dream?” Originally, I thought my American Dream would be; “to have clean air to breath and clean water to drink”, for I believe that too many Americans take these simple necessities for granted. However, after much pondering, I decided that my dream could be simplified… to include not only clean air and water… but all the necessities of a good life; food, shelter, clothing etc. and to focus not only on America, but all people world wide. I determined that my American Dream would be put in these simple terms:
“One Planet, Enveloped in Happiness… with Liberty and Justice for All”
The Burning Man festival and the Black Rock Desert location are very special places indeed. The magic began Friday Morning, August 29, 2008. My friend, Karen, and I decided to head out in the early morning to visit the sites on the Playa, the three mile diameter of open space where the great art and sculptures are found. I put the IPB over my head and across my chest and together we headed towards the sunrise & the central statue of “The Man”.
As we approached the Man, I felt so pleased to see him set up high looking over the citizens of Black Rock City. It was such a beautiful site. Then… when I realized that the tower was made from International Flags, my heart swelled up with emotion. Here I was wearing the International Peace Belt with its collection coins, amulets and meditations from around the globe. I felt so connected. It was so serendipitous. I was so excited and honored! I thought; “God I love this place! This is why I come here! “. And that was just the beginning!
We rode around to the other side of the man so the sun would be behind us for the photos. We parked our bikes and took some photos, and were immediately greeting by a young woman sitting on the bench. “GOOD MORNING!” She welcomed us and we responded with the same. As I remember, she immediately commented on the IPB. As I started to explain the story of its’ travels and mission of peace, she informed us that she and her husband (who was up at the top of the tower) were both serving as PEACE CORPS volunteers! I immediately knew … and yet I had to ask to confirm my knowledge; “WHERE ARE YOU SERVING???” She responded; “The Kingdom of TONGA!!!” I think I screamed before she finished her sentence!!! I could not believe it… and yet I did believe it… because this is what happens at Burning Man.
Originally this couple did not plan to come all the way from Tonga to attend Burning Man. However, their good friends and camp mates insisted that they must partake in the 2008 theme of the American Dream. So they took a month’s leave from their Peace Corp duties to partake in the festivities. Their friends not only gifted them their tickets to Burning Man, but also the expense of the airfare! This moment we shared with the International Peace Belt was created by our like mission of spreading International Peace. Before we went on our separate ways, they prayed with the IPB in both Tongan and English. The connection we made was beyond description.
At the festival there is a very sacred place; the Temple Basura Segrada, which is Spanish for “Sacred Temple of Garbage”. Throughout the week, alters are built within the Temple by anyone who wants to participate. Some bring photos, some toys, some letters and some wedding rings… all with the intention of letting go of their grief. At the end of the festival, on the last night, the Temple and all of it’s Sacred Garbage go up in smoke. It is an extremely emotional place, an extremely emotional happening. I took the IPB there the morning after the burn, and had the most wonderful experiences.
I arrived at the rubble of the temple fairly early in the morning. In the 4-5 hours I was there I met many beautiful people; Steve, from New Zealand, the man who gave me the Captain Cook coin and his British friend, Laura; the people who were building musical instruments out of “basura” from the temple; my two new friends who I met in previous days, one who I gave a silk veil to and the other my jacket… at the same time they surrounded me with a big hug. And then there was the friendly woman with the tarot cards. So many nice people!
Just as I was thinking it was time to get back to camp, I met a very special couple. This woman was resting in her small pick up truck at the site, which is unusual because vehicles are not normally allowed. She explained that she and her husband were part of the temple building team. They stopped by to pay their last visit before heading back home. You see, they helped build the temple in honor of their lost son, a victim of bi-polar disorder and a victim of suicide.
We hugged and cried together. So many people that are affected by the demons of that disease. After we had a good cleansing cry she inquired about the IPB. When I explained to her its mission of International Peace, calm came over her. She thanked me for coming by and sharing it with her. She said her own prayer for peace. And then I asked her if she knew the time. It was the first time I thought about time the whole morning. She turned on the ignition and there it was; 1:11, a new beginning. We both felt it. It was awesome!
Next, I shared with her the tarot card I selected earlier that morning. I drew a sketch of it; the two of swords that I had pulled upside down, which represents the opposite of a right side up pull. I knew nothing of tarot cards so the woman with the cards explained to me; “The troubled waters are behind you now. It is time to move forward and cut through your fears…” When I showed the sketch to her she held it to her heart and said; “This was meant for me”.
About that time her husband returned. He had been out in the ash of the rubble trying to make peace with himself and the loss of their son. The wife place the IPB over her husbands head. We all hugged again and shed another tear. Now it was time to go.
We decided to go back into the ash of the Temple Basura Segrada for one last meditation. The three of us stood together hugging and supporting each other. As we separated and began to move apart, he said; “You are standing on sacred ground you know?” And I responded without any thought; “I know, I can feel it”.
I was already in a very centered & grounded stance. He asked me to put my right palm down facing the earth. As I did the feeling suddenly magnified. “Oh my God, I can feel it, I can really feel it, oh my God, oh my God!” was all I could think & say. I felt very clearly the energy shooting straight up from the bubbling core of the Earth through the palm of my hand and spiraling up my arm into my body. The husband could see what was happening and he placed the IPB over my head saying; “Here, you need to wear this.”
I felt myself turning into pure energy, light & love. “Put your other hand up to the sky, palm up!” he directed me. It was at that instant that I experienced a total connection to the universe. “I am everything and I am nothing” was all I could think. The energy was so fantastic. I believe RAPTURE may be the appropriate term. It spiraled throughout my entire body like a sparkling white tornado of love and light. And when my hand went up and opened to the sky I felt the energy spiral out into the universe. Mother Earth sent me her love, let it move through me and the IPB. When it was more than I could handle, she released this love to the entire universe for all to experience.
I don’t remember much right after that. I know we said our good-byes. I know I did not want to leave that spot. However, it was time to go. After all, I was not going to top that experience!
As I rode my bike back to camp I kept thinking; “What am I to do, WHAT AM I TO DO???” It was like being in a panic mode, feeling that I needed an answer immediately. At times I would calm down and think; “Don’t worry Pat. It will all come to you in time. Just have faith”. However this feeling of uncertainty was dominating my thoughts. However, I kept prang for guidance, for direction, for a sign….
And then, when I was approaching camp, the sign came to me as plain as day… an actual physical street sign. Amidst all the art, tents and campers of the neighborhood, where there are no commercial signs what so ever, there was my answer, simple as could be and in black and white none the less:
(With the arrow pointing straight up to the sky)