Lighting ceremony at Burning Man 2013
Some people live a beautifully integrated life, they’ve always known what they wanted and the path was known. I have always known I love epic experiences so I have been all over the map for decades. Skills and knowledge I have acquired have more times than not been relegated to different corners of my life, with no integration. Learned skills and passions that lay dormant for too long take more time to stoke up into a roaring fire. Life is often a bureaucratic jumble in which I must decide between my day job and my true passions. I was taught a day job comes first and if you have time and energy ,“hobbies” can come after. Life was about fitting into the existing structure not starting whole new ventures. Even when I rebelled against that message I still carried the seeds of that message with me in my subconscious. It’s only after I ceased to care what happened next did I catch a glimpse of what is possible. The more I follow my personal passions and joy the more magic keeps happening in my life and the more I begin to create my life. Case in point. Desperately overdue for joy and purpose I wrote down 20 things I loved to do. It wasn’t until #19 did I write down Stilting and making stilts. I could feel the rush of truth go thru my body! Of course my programming and thoughts were way against it, but they had recently lost their hold on me.
I had crossed over to the light; I’m following my bliss (thank you Joseph Campbell!). All manner of providence IS COMING MY WAY and I’m making sure that I send it on its way. Over the last two years I’ve made sure that if there are any other wanna be stilters out there who are looking to get up and stilt they can visit my YouTube channel /StiltFactory and find FREE instruction on making your own pair of wood stilts along with beginning stilt videos. As of this writing there are almost 7,000 views! There is so much good energy coming off of that offering that I feel it is directly connected to THE MOST INCREDIBLE STILT GIG I’ve ever had.
Many of you know about Burning Man. For me it is a cultural mecca and at the very least a cultural imperative. My first Burns were ’06-’09. Without a doubt there would be no Stilt Factory without the creative influence of Burning Man and for that alone I am extremely grateful to this incredible festival. However it goes deeper than that, I have been reconnected to my passions, my faith in others, my love of dance, art and the boundless healing that happy humans can bring to themselves and the planet. After a four year run on the Playa I was pretty sure I didn’t need to go again, I felt like I was affected and integrating my passions well. That was until I found out that I could attend Burning Man with the high honors of participating as one of the Luminist Stilters who bring the ceremonial torches into the great circle.
Two dear friends Kara Snider and Amy Hatfield Love were already in the ceremony and at first asked me if I would do fire safety? The answer was Yes! Then after a Kara called “Q” (Qathi Gallaher Hart ,the procession coordinator) I learned that they needed one more stilter and asked would I want to do that?……. The answer was..ARE YOU F*** KIDING ME, REALLY!? REALLY!??? Oh My Goddess –YESS!!! That gave me a little more that three weeks to not only let this sink in, but begin the gargantuan project of getting ready for Burning Man.
For the procession our instructions were wear white with some gold accents. They had headdresses for us to wear, but later we learned that they and their creator were not coming to the desert after all. So at 2 am I emailed everyone and said I’d like to take a crack at the headgear. I sent them a few photos of past creations and ideas and went to bed. I Woke up and looked in the mirror and said “You promised you’d take a crack at what?!” TOO LATE. A push is exactly the creative formula that I needed to make things happen. It was such a great self assignment. We all got to adorn them there on the Playa with our own touches and best of all they were built with material that was just sitting in my shop. That is repurposing! An interesting fact came my way that night. I was talking with a member of Gamelan X and ,completely unsolicited, he tells me that the flame at Burning Man is started in the Opening Ceremony on Monday by magnifying glass and is kept at Center Camp for the week. I just smiled and said, “You couldn’t have told a better person ” and thanked him.
The culminating moments were Saturday night as we met at Center Camp at 7:30 pm to assemble our group of 30 amazing humans tasked with bringing the Flame into the Great Circle. The sun was going down and the energy of the night was climbing to a palpable fervor. So much of the reverence of the moment, my own challenges of the past year and the absence in our circle of Amy Hatfield Love, whose fathers health took a turn for the worse the night before. They were all weighing in and adding to the moment. As we got started I noticed this fascinating woman talking to Karl aka Zor at the head of our procession. I thought we don’t have time for fascinating women, we have to rehearse our turns. So I say “Can we focus?” to which Zor, a man of few words, comes close to me to say, “it’s Crimson Rose” OH…dang…. (head melting into shoulders.) Nothing like meeting one of the five people responsible for the creation and development of Burning Man with such an introduction. I leaned down to apologize and she just waves it off with incredible lightness as if to say, don’t worry honey.
Whew, back on track. Here we go, head held high. Drummers drumming, fire cauldron rolling, ground crew and safety caring for the lot of us. The ten foot torches get lit and handed to the Stilting Luminists and Crimson Rose out front praying us all up the Promenade towards the Man. The torches were heavy with fuel and had a really big flame on them. I had this beautiful view of the procession from the back and also had to concentrate not just on stilting or listening to my life line ground support Jenn Dolan, but I had to keep the torch from hitting my head gear which meant leaning it out while also being careful not to set one of the other Stilters on fire. It was crazy, and gorgeous. I was filled with divine confidence that I belonged there and each one of us (ground crew and all) was a fire bearing, temple guardian with the highest intention to bring this sacred fire inside the circle to tens of thousands of some of the most present, accomplished, open, loving people who had all gone through their share of a year of epic battles and challenges. Everyone was ready to burn this Man down and with it birth the new year right out of the ashes.
The walk up the Promenade was reverent, impactful, and began the rapidly growing levels of excitement. The distance to the Man was almost a half mile and the distance inside the Great Circle was the same, by the time we got to the edge of the circle the energy was so intense it grabbed you up like a giant hand from the heavens. I had remember that Q had an earpiece in each ear both on different channels talking to different people and she was also coordinating us in the moment…how did she do that? (That’s why she is Q) Now inside the circle we got new torches and the flames were again- HUGE, I loved that! We walked counter clockwise from 6 o’clock on the circles edge. I was so filled with enthusiasm I couldn’t help but yelling out. I didn’t realize that our presence alone and all the regalia was so much more powerful. At our first turn and honoring of the four directions, we stilters came in close and were face to face as we circumnavigated the spot. I asked, do you guys mind if I’m yelling, two said no, Kara said Yes. I totally agreed. From then on I just put my hand on my heart and then pressed it to the crowd as we went by. I could hear people cheer, I was overcome with purpose and the energy I was helping to channel. I felt light, present and completely unburdened by my own ego. I connected with so many faces and these were people who really impressed me with their presence. This was one of the highest honors of my life and I felt like I brought the very best of who I am. It’s beyond words to say what a rare and amazingly powerful experience this was.
We moved deeper and deeper around the Great Circle, passing between the crowds on our left who were seated for the first 30 or so rows and the Fire Conclaves that were preparing for their performances to our right. Hundreds of Fire Performers from Cities all over the globe were ready to bring their gifts to the crowd and the ultimate was still yet to happen. We completed our sacred task, making it back around to 6 o’clock we were all gently let down by our ground support and our stilts and equipment were carefully collected by the most gracious ground crew any stilter could hope to have. There we were, inside the inside. So close the structure about to be burned that the only people left were the Sandmen who guard the Man. We had very specific instructions not to move fast or even near them unless we wanted to be tackled and wrestled to the ground in a most efficient fashion…no thanks. I’m cool right here.
Here is where I found myself, on the inner ring, a stones throw from the Man with firemen, cops, men cops holding hands, (really. I took a picture), Black Rock Rangers, the most amazing collection of devoted, die hard “make the Burn a reality” people I could ever hope to meet and as David Burn once said, “How did I get here?” I have one simple, magical, easy answer. I followed my bliss and the road just came right to my feet. It was paved with relationships along the way, and those relationships were entwined with others. And in the moment we all came together it just made sense. I write this with some level of hope that most who read it would say, ya, that’s pretty cool. I’d love to do that too. And what’s true is, If you can appreciate how much this meant to me, I want you to appreciate how much a similar event on your path, would mean to you. The message is follow what you love and where you find joy. I trust you will find that it requires not too much maintenance and it comes with a fuel source that keeps you moving towards your highest joy, purpose and fulfillment.