The unpredictable playa did not disappoint this year: the unusual winter of 2000 – 2001 left the surface of the playa in a peculiar state. Instead of the dry, cracked surface that usually indicates to us that we have returned home, we were met by a layer of dust an inch or more thick to wade through, and a dust cloud from the incoming cars that completely engulfed the Burning Man site. In addition to the usual goggles of the past years, many participants never left camp without their trusty dust masks. Even the slightest winds this year made such items a necessity. It wasn’t all bad, and added to the magic of the experience, most notably right after the Man began to burn, when several small dust devils formed and began to spin all around the fire. The days were hot this year, the nights sublime. We had waited an entire year, and the wait, as usual, was more than worth it. We welcomed each other home in our usual manner: with open arms, gifts, drumbeats, shouts, wild outfits and with a sense of relief to be home. The dry weather invited everyone out of their camps, and encouraged people to explore and experience everything that is Black Rock. Everyone was out in full splendor – breathing life into the radical self-expression tenet that calls so many people to the desert each year.
In a sense, Burning Man represents a new beginning every year, a time to be reborn and recharge our energy. This year’s art theme, The Seven Ages, laid way to a symbolic journey through life by means of amazing interactive art installations. Participants could follow a path through the board game-like set up of the art theme installations, which consisted this year of several installations for each stage of the art theme. Beginning with the cradle, where one could symbolically return to the womb and be reborn, the stages continued on through life to death and enlightenment. The mausoleum was a most sacred and reverent place where participants gathered in silence and reflection to honor memories of family, friends, love and memories past, culminating in a solemn evening on Sunday as fire engulfed and consumed the structure and all its inscriptions and memories. The Man himself was the ultimate destination in the game, being placed upon the tower of enlightenment. The tower was a structure that participants could ascend once they had achieved passage through the other six stages of life, and it added an additional 30 feet to the height of the man. From this vantage-point, participants had a unique viewpoint of all of Black Rock City. This year our community had been educated ahead of time about their rights and responsibilities, and responded in their usual conscientious manner. While law enforcement was equally as present this year as last, citations and arrests were a great deal fewer this year. Also improved this year was the porta-potty situation. The lines were shorter, the units themselves were cleaner, and people took care to make sure that “if it doesn’t come from your body, it doesn’t go into the potty”. There were units on the greater playa this year, which was a wonderful addition for those long treks home across the playa after drinking lots and lots of water.
Burning Man’s tribal element was plentiful, with fire and drums filling the day and night with sound and heat. The fire conclave’s many performers seemed to appear like magic in spontaneous demonstrations on the street, in theme camps, at musical performances, on top of art installations and of course, in front of the Man. Black Rock debuted its first public transport vehicle with the return of Draka the Dragon, which provided the citizens of BRC with rides across the playa. Participants exchanged gifts and shared their art and time and talents. There was magic in the air at every turn; a city unlike any other place on the Earth, and then at the end of the week, it disappeared. But it will rise again.
This year, as with every year, allows us to undergo an amazing experience, which changes the way we view life. 2001 was an amazing year. The event continues to change and to be reborn through the participation of the thousands of people who give of themselves to keep Burning Man the place we all long to be. We’ve returned home, and are adjusting to “regular” life. We will decompress, we’ll connect with each other to keep the flame burning, and we will create. We will follow the stages that our lives take us through until the next burn. Our hearts filled with longing, we will begin to prepare to follow the dusty trail home again.