We all have burn stories. These are the tales that represent our temporary society’s lasting affect and impact on ourselves and its citizens. Though I’ve read and appreciate the Facebook posts on “This one time at Burning Man…” I knew I wanted to capture something deeper, more soulful, by digitally documenting each person’s voice and intonation, as well as their sobs and laughter. And so the Burning Man Oral History Project was born. Because how do you make record of a temporary community that leaves no trace. Well, not physical trace, that is.
2011 Fertility 2.0
What makes your creative juices flow? What do you wish to birth, nurture and set free into the world this year? These are a few of the questions I’ll be exploring with my fellow Burners during this year’s oral history project.
If you’d like to share your story, stop by BMIR to ask for my playa address. Otherwise, I expect I will happen into you at just the right moment out in the middle of nowhere at just the right time to catch your burning story.
This year I will explore the concept of community with burners. In the desert we are a temporary society, but much of what we bring out there is a year-long example of community in action. Some projects are finite time commitments while other camps grow rampant outside of Black Rock City. This year’s questions evolved from a conversation I had with my 93 year old grandmother, Lucy, who grew up in Linton, North Dakota with her father, a baker, her mom and four sisters. (This explains why she can still make the best tasting, homemade pie crust without need for a recipe.) “The town doctor and ma and pa were friends. We never had much and especially for medical bills. The doc delivered all five of us and money never exchanged hands. We just did for each other.”
We’ve helped build amazing temples, art cars and theme camps. And no doubt, it’s human nature to pull together our genetic and chosen family when crises and strife hit. But what about at home during the hum-drum of daily living? Is anyone willing to come help a friend tackle their wild jungle of a yard? Or paint a house? Build a fence? How do you define sweat equity in building relationships? Do we have limits on what we’d “do for each other” and why?
I recorded several burner stories on the playa last year. I spent an amazing tutu Tuesday with long time friend Celeste and new friend Mick wandering the open playa, interviewing people we came across. Among the questions I asked: “Why did you first come to Burning Man? Why do you come now and how has that changed over the years? How have you evolved here?”
I also asked participants to share their playa serendipity stories. These propitious magical events occur every minute. Someone’s reunited with their lost boot heel and the person happens to know how to repair the shoe. A burner painstakingly searches to return a lost camera to her rightful owner (Thank you Lucky!) . Or a simple, outrageous request is granted:
“I sat out at outer parameter fence and all I wanted to quench my thirst was a grape snow cone. And then, out of nowhere, a guy with an ice cream cooler stuck to his bike rings his bell and yells, ‘Snow cones!’ I wave him down, Cheshire grin in place. He frowns as he stops, shrugs his shoulders and says, “I’m sorry to disappoint you, but all I’ve got left are grape snow cones.”