The Ten Questions People Most Frequently Ask Bone… The Interview!

Bone has been in many tough situations in his life; he can handle tough questions. Here he rests on top of a saguaro cactus in Arizona looking for border control agents. His lack of official papers, or even a birth certificate, can cause problems at times.

Q: Do you really talk? We’re speaking ethics here, Bone. Blogging is about transparency. That means honesty.

A. Are you crazy? Have you ever heard a bone talk? Of course I don’t talk. I just think out loud.

Q: Curt sometimes refers to you as he. Does this mean you are a male bone?

A. No. He makes assumptions, lot of them. He was showing me to a biologist at a writers’ conference and she suggested I have my DNA tested. “Just cut a small chip off of it,” she said nonchalantly. “You can determine its sex and breed.”

“Just cut a small chip off of it!Outrageous! I am not some it to have chips cut out of. Besides, I lead a rich fantasy life and have no desire to know whether I am male or female. Call me she, he, or Bone, but never it.

Um, I think Bone is definitely a male in this photo. –Curt

Q: You have travelled all over the world and met thousands of people. How do they usually react to you?

A. With befuddlement. You should have seen the look on the face of the customs agent in New Zealand who tried to seize me as ‘animal matter.’ But emotions run the gamut. There was a Japanese man who got off a tour bus at Yellowstone National Park and wanted to hold me for good luck. Soon there were 40 other Japanese handing me around, oohing, and taking photos. I was thrilled. On the opposite side, I know a woman who refuses to touch me, like I have cooties. “I don’t know where Bone has been,” she states primly. Not surprisingly, there is also jealousy. “I want to be you and travel the world,” a good friend in Sacramento told me.

Some people act like I have cooties. This woman almost dropped me and then washed her hands! –Bone

Her daughter, on the other hand, so to speak, understands proper bone etiquette and respect. –Bone

Q:  What is your favorite thing to do?

A. Visit graveyards; there are lots of old bones there. My favorite grave is Smokey Bear’s in Capitan, New Mexico. I once stood on his tombstone for ten minutes trying to communicate but all I could get was something about ‘growling and a prowling and a sniffing the air.’ A close second is the grave of Calamity Jane in Deadwood, South Dakota. What a woman! These are difficult choices, though, when you toss in the likes of Hemingway, Daniel Boone and Billy the Kid. On the light side I once visited Ben and Jerry’s graveyard of discarded ice cream flavors in Vermont. My spookiest experience was a visit to the Capela dos Ossos, the Chapel of Bones, in Evora, Portugal. Those folks definitely have a skeleton in their closet, lots of them.

Bone has a special fondness for unusual graves. Here he hangs out with Billy the Kid in New Mexico. Has he been in a shoot out? Is that blood on his vest?

Q: So, what’s your second most favorite?

A. Too hard; I am a dilettante dabbler, but here are a few.

  • Wandering, of course, anywhere and everywhere and by all modes: bikes, kayaks, rafts, skis, backpacks, sailboats, planes, helicopters, trains, cars, RVs, etc.
  • Visiting wild, remote and beautiful natural areas. I started life wandering the Sierra Nevada Mountains, John Muir’s Range of Light.
  • Seeking out the strange such as ghosts and aliens (I’ve been to Roswell four times).
  • Attending unique events like Burning Man but I also have a fondness for any type of fair.
  • Meeting weird people like Tom.

Bone backpacking on the John Muir Trail.

Tom being eaten by a bony desert monster.

Q: Speaking of Tom, he and Curt ‘discovered’ you in 1977 and you have wandered extensively with both. Which do you like best?

A. Eeyore, the jackass who can’t keep track of his tail. We’re traveling companions and he saved me from being strung up and buried on Boothill in Tombstone Arizona. I’d robbed a bank, cheated at cards and hung out with women of questionable character. (This is what I mean by having a rich fantasy life. It’s also known as evasion.)

“I was in deep trouble in Tombstone. Wyatt Earp had arrested me for robbing a bank and Doc Holiday was checking me for weapons.

My life as Bone was in serious jeopardy.

Odds were I was going to end up on Boothill, along with Billy Clanton.

But then the ever brave Eeyore came to my rescue! I hopped on his back and we went riding off into the sunset while leaping over large rocks.

Q: Which of your journeys has been most memorable?

A. I would have to say traveling the length of Africa in the back of a truck from the Sahara Desert in the north to Cape Town in the south. Almost falling off the back of a riverboat into a piranha infested section of the Amazon River would have to be a close second. I was perched on the back railing doing a photo shoot. And then, of course, there was the 10,000-mile bike trip.

Bone on photo shoot barely escapes falling off the edge into the Piranha infested waters of the Amazon. “I was falling off when Curt leapt across the boat and grabbed me.”

“I was much smarter when I rafted down the Colorado. I wore a life jacket!”

“That didn’t protect me from pirates. The dreaded pirate Steve held a knife to my throat and demanded to know where I buried my treasure.”

Q: You are often seen scrambling over rocks in remote sections of the Southwestern United States. What’s that all about?

A. I’ve developed a fondness for Native American Rock art. It resonates with my bone-like nature. It’s also another excuse to go wandering around in the outdoors. Plus, some those places might be haunted and it is a great place to look for UFOs. Some of the petroglyphs look amazingly like aliens. Finally, wandering in the desert is known to be good for the soul. Ask the Prophets of yore.

How can this guy and his strange dog not be aliens?

Here I am making tracks across White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. It’s a great place to watch out for UFOs.

Q: Ah, being a born-again bone, do you have any insights into the great unknown?

A. Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Q: Finally, and this may be a little sensitive, but do you always run around naked?

A. What kind of a question is that? Do you think I am uncivilized? For shame. I am the epitome of haute couture! A bow and arrow toting, card-carrying NRA member in Montana has designed and made me two leather vests. What’s more, an 80 plus year old woman in Kansas going on 20 with a crush on Johnny Depp and a room devoted to the Egyptian gods has made me a kilt and several other outfits. Then there is the horse woman actress in Ohio whose husband is an ex-secret service agent who has promised me an outfit and the artist head of a PR firm in the Bahamas who has promised me another. Face it; I am hot stuff, clothed or naked. I may take up a modeling career.

Rod Hilton fashions a new leather vest for bone.

My Bahamian/Canadian friend makes me a new vest in the wilds of Montana. –Bone

Bone, wearing his newly made kilt, fights off a ferocious sea monster in a scene straight out of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean.’

So… now you have heard from Bone, do you have any questions you would like to ask him? He promises to answer.

NEXT BLOGS:

Friday: The stunning temples of Burning Man.

Monday: Bandon by the Sea. It’s back to the Oregon Coast.

Wednesday: The exciting tale of how Bone was rescued from a life of quiet contemplation. Part I

It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me… A Sierra Trek Tale

Oregon Black Bear

Black Bears are much smaller than either brown or grizzly bears, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t scary. This one was cruising our neighborhood in Oregon and  tipped over the heavy Webber Grill on our porch. Our daughter, Tasha, was sleeping in the bedroom next to the grill. “Curtis!” she screamed. Later, our neighbor captured the bear’s photo on a surveillance camera.

 

I’ve been re-blogging older posts while my laptop is at the doctors with memory problems. Today it’s time for another Sierra Trek Tale. Next week, I’ll get back to the first Sierra Trek but today we are jumping ahead five years to the first trek I led into the back country of Yosemite where bears rule.

 

Bears like me, or at least they haven’t eaten me. They’ve had numerous opportunities over the years. It goes with the territory of backpacking throughout North America for over four decades. My scariest encounters, as it turns out, were also my first.

By the fifth year of the Sierra Trek, I had worked my way southward from Lake Tahoe into Yosemite National Park. Since we were utilizing a new route from Yosemite to Kennedy Meadows, I had to preview it. (Plus it was another excuse to head out into the wilderness and be paid for it.)

My friends Ken Lake and Tom Lovering joined me on the first three days from the Yosemite Valley floor to Tuolumne Meadows. Day one found us climbing several thousand feet out of the Valley and camping above the Little Yosemite Valley. The bears dropped by for a visit on our first night in the Park.

Half Dome, Yosemite. Little Yosemite Valley is on the other side.

Half Dome, Yosemite. Little Yosemite Valley is on the other side.

After carefully hanging our food bags from a cable provided by the park service and burying the left over fake freeze-dried raspberry cobbler (it was made from apples), we trundled ourselves off to our sleeping bags. The problem was we buried the food a little too close to Lake. I think Tom may have been up to his usual mischief.

The next morning, a very excited Ken asked if we had seen the bears in our camp the previous night. Neither of us had and we attributed his sighting to an overactive imagination. Believe me, if a bear had been digging up food next to my head, my two companions would have known about it, immediately.

Day two was tough. What I hadn’t counted on was the amount of snow still left on the ground. We spent most of out time slipping, sliding and slogging through it. By three in the afternoon, Tom was ready to set up camp right in the middle of a snowfield. Ken and I threatened to leave him with the bears and he committed to another hour. Fortunately, that night was bear free. They would have found little resistance from the three of us.

Eventually, we made it into Tuolumne Meadows where I was faced with another challenge: hiking over 70 miles of snow-covered trails by myself while Ken and Tom returned to Sacramento and work. The journey was fraught with opportunities for breaking a leg, or losing the trail, or being washed away when crossing streams raging with water from melting snow. None of the above was a desirable outcome for someone hiking alone.

Tuolumne Meadows in the summer.

Tuolumne Meadows in the summer.

My other option was to return to Sacramento with Ken and Tom, which was not acceptable. I had a week off to wander in the woods and I was going to wander in the woods for a week. I compromised by heading back over the mountains toward Yosemite Valley. My fractured logic concluded that it was better to break a leg and get lost where I had been than where I was going. I also promised myself to be really careful. This included keeping my food from bears.

Hiking out of Tuolumne Meadows took me back around Cathedral Peaks shown here.

Hiking out of Tuolumne Meadows took me back around Cathedral Peaks shown here.

The first day was non eventful and the second idyllic. I was exploring new country, doing what I most love to do. As evening approached, I found a delightful campsite on the Cathedral Fork of Echo Creek. Amenities included a babbling brook to put me to sleep, a flat space for my sleeping bag and a great food-hanging tree with the perfectly placed limb. A hot dinner topped off by tea spiced up with a shot of 151-proof rum and I was ready for sleep.

I carefully hung my food bags at the recommended 12 feet off the ground and 9 feet away from the tree trunk and then snuggled down in my sleeping bag. As was my habit at the time, I slept out in the open, only using my tent when rain threatened.

It was somewhere around 4 am and very dark when I awoke with a pressure on my chest. I couldn’t see very far but I didn’t have to. Approximately five inches away from my face was a long black snout sniffing at me. It was filled with grinning teeth and topped off by a pair of beady eyes that were staring at me with a hungry look.

I let out a blood-curdling scream and vacated the premises.

As I flew in one direction, the equally surprised young bear that had been standing on me flew in the other. I don’t even remember getting out of the bag. The next thing I knew I was standing up, yelling and shining my flashlight into the woods where not one, but two pairs of orange eyes were staring back at me. I lost it. Never have so many rocks been hurled with so much vigor in such a short period of time. The bears wisely decided to head off over the mountain.

But the damage was already done. My camp was a disaster area. My carefully hung food was scattered all over the ground with literally every meal torn open and sampled. All I had left was a chunk of cheese and it had one large bear bite out of it. I hid the cheese under a heavy rock.

As a further insult, one of the bears had chomped down on my plastic rum bottle and all of the rum was gone. I couldn’t even drink. With that option eliminated, I policed the area, crawled back in my bag and went back to sleep. When I awoke in the morning it was obvious that the bears had come back into camp to clean up anything they had missed. Once again the previous night’s trash decorated my campsite. At least the bears let me sleep this time. And they had missed my cheese.

So I ate it for breakfast, cleaned the area again, packed up my gear and hiked 18 miles into the Yosemite Valley to resupply. But my week wasn’t over; neither were my bear experiences. And the summer had only begun. (I’ll get back to these stories in the future after I am finished with my series on the first Sierra Trek. You won’t want to miss the time a bear grabbed me by the head.)

NEXT BLOG: A return to my photo series on Burning Man.

 

On the Road to Burning Man… Along with 70,000 Other People

Just a 30 foot robot boy walking his robot dog at Burning Man 2015. The boy holds a flower in his right hand that he raises up to his nose and 'smell.' The endless creativity at Burning Man has brought me back to event time and again over the years.

Just a 30 foot robot boy walking his robot dog at Burning Man 2015. The boy holds a flower in his right hand that he raises up to his nose and ‘smells.’ The endless creativity at Burning Man has brought me back to event time and again over the years.

I’ve been making the trek out to Black Rock City since 2004 and blogging about the experience for the past five years. Today marks the beginning of my series on the 2015 Burning Man event (along with more general stories). I’ve waited until now because January and February are the primary months when people will make their decisions about going in 2106 and begin to scramble for tickets.

Newbies, or Virgins as they are known on the Playa, are now scrambling around for every scrap of information they can find. Veteran Burners are thinking fondly of past years, or rambling on about the good old days— back when the Man was young and wild, back before he became an international icon and media darling, and back before Silicon Valley giants, Hollywood Stars, and other one-percenters started landing on the Black Rock Desert in their private planes.

If you’ve read my past blogs on Burning Man, you know that I am a big fan of the event, particularly of the art and creativity it generates. But I don’t make the decision to go lightly. Getting there can be expensive and cleaning up afterwards is always a chore. I can live with these challenges, however; they come with the territory. It’s obtaining a ticket that drives me wacko. BMO, the Burning Man Organization, has yet to figure out a way to make the experience painless or even fair. The challenge is that there are a lot more people who want to go than the 70,000 Bureau of Land Management limit.

I blogged last year about my Kafkaesque experience in trying to get tickets. I only ended up going because of the persistence of my friends Tom Lovering and Don Green. Tom found two tickets and a vehicle pass that weren’t outrageously priced (scalped) on Craig’s List the day before the event. Don made an hour trip from his home in Lafayette California to South San Francisco with a thousand dollars cash in his pocket to meet a guy he had never met at a Starbuck’s he had never been to— at midnight.

I had one day to get ready. Food for eight days had to be purchased, 40 gallons of water loaded, the van and bike prepped, baby wipes packed, and a load of gear ranging from goggles to costumes gathered up from numerous places around the house. Because Peggy had just returned from touring Cotswolds in England, she opted out of Burning Man. It was all about me. I scrambled.

Late-morning on Saturday found me waving goodbye to my best buddy. I was on the road to Burning Man! People come from all over the world to attend the event. Some travel thousands of miles. My trip is a mere 300, a short journey of around six hours. From Medford, I cut across the Cascade Mountains to Klamath Falls and then travelled southeast to Alturas in the remote northeast corner of California, cowboy country. I then crossed the Warner Mountains to the town of Cedarville, a small enclave that sits on the edge of the vast and lonely Nevada desert of the Great Basin. It is the final jumping off point for most Burners travelling to Burning Man from the Northwest US and western Canada.

Businesses along the route to Burning Man have learned that Burners are are a potential source of income. Pappy Gander's Restaurant in the small town of Merrill has a Burners welcome sign.

Businesses along the route to Burning Man have learned that Burners are a potential source of income. Pappy Gander’s Restaurant in the small town of Merrill, Oregon has a Burners Welcome sign.

I stopped for lunch and was amused to find this 'duck decoy' painting.

I stopped for lunch at Pappy’s and was amused to find this ‘duck decoy’ painting. BTW, that’s a mallard holding the shotgun.

I opted to spend the night at Cedarville, as I usually do. I prefer arriving at Burning Man during the day. Plus I like Cedarville. The folks in the small town welcome Burners with open arms. (We’re an important part of their local economy. A gas station owner once told me he obtains 50% of his annual income during Burning Man week.) An even better reason for staying was the Modoc County District Fair was underway, and I love county fairs. I parked Quivera (our van) next to the small town park where I planned to spend the night. I asked some folks coming out of a local church if the local sheriff would hassle me. “Hopefully he has better things to do with his time,” a man told me. “If he does bother you, just drive around the corner,” his wife added.

I quickly walked the two blocks to the fair entrance where I paid three bucks to get in. It would be hard to imagine a better use of my money. A three-person band was playing Pistol Packing Mama and other country-western classics in a free outdoor concert. I sat down on a wooden bench and listened. Pigs, goats and sheep greeted me at the animal barns. I wandered around looking at kids’ art, prized vegetables and other treasures that fill county fairs. I even said hi to Smokey the Bear before I returned to Quivera. I went to sleep to the sound of stock cars roaring around in the Annual Mud Race. It would prepare me for the nightly noise of Burning Man.

A horse came galloping across a pasture to greet me as I walked to the fair and gave me the eye. If I understand horse language correctly, it asked, "You wouldn't happen to have a carrot in your pocket, would you?"

A horse came galloping across a pasture to greet me as I walked to the fair and gave me the eye. If I understand horse language correctly, it asked, “You wouldn’t happen to have a carrot in your pocket, would you?”

I sat under this attractive cover as I listened to Pistol Packing Momma.

I sat under this attractive cover as I listened to Pistol Packing Momma. The barren looking mountain in the background is part of the Warner Range.

Goats have always been one of my top reasons for visiting county fairs. This fellow was very curious about my camera. Shortly afterwards he tries to nibble on my shirt.

Goats have always been one of my top reasons for visiting county fairs. This fellow was very curious about my camera. Shortly afterwards he tried to nibble on my shirt.

Modoc County Fair pigs

Pigs are also a major reason I visit fairs. I like to arrive when they are eating but missed this time. Still, their curly tails more than justified my visit. You might say they were hamming it up.

I often skip the sheep barn, but how could I resist taking a photo of them all dressed up?

I often skip the sheep barn, but how could I resist taking a photo of them all dressed up? They were ready for a fashion runway.

 Modoc County Fair art

You usually have to go to an Elementary School to find great art like this. I’m serious.

And how about these prize onions? A local farmer probably grew these in her backyard garden.

And how about these prize onions? A local farmer probably grew these in her backyard garden.

And finally a challenge. Less you have any doubt that this is horse and cowboy/cowgirl country, how many horses can you find in this collage?

And finally a challenge. Less you have any doubt that this is horse and cowboy/cowgirl country, how many horses can you find in this collage?

I was up early to make the 80-mile drive across the desert to Gerlach, which is just ten miles from the entrance to Burning Man. Tom had said he and Don should arrive around 8 from Reno. I think they made it by 11. I hung out and watched thousands of Burners pass through town. It took us a couple of hours to make it the last few miles. I was sort of reminded me of being stuck in a LA freeway traffic jam. Almost.

Once you leave Cedarville and a couple of other even much smaller towns, this is the kind of country you see on the way to Burning Man.

Once you leave Cedarville and a couple of other even much smaller towns, this is the kind of country you see on the way to Burning Man.

For 50 weeks out of the year, Gerlach is a quiet town with about as much action as you see in this photo.

For 50 weeks out of the year, Gerlach is a quiet town with about as much action as you see in this photo.

For one week out of the year, however, its streets are packed with Burners and thousands of vehicles pass through the town.

For one week out of the year, however, its streets are packed with Burners and thousands of vehicles of all types, sizes and shapes pass through the town. As the sign notes, Gerlach is the last chance to pick up any vital supplies, such as beer or water.

A large Bazaar (for Gerlach) is placed on the edge of town to supply almost anything a burner might need, including...

A large Bazaar (for Gerlach) is placed on the edge of town to supply almost anything a Burner might need, including…

Fine used bikes ideal for traveling across the dusty playa...

Fine used bikes ideal for traveling across the dusty playa…

And the latest in Playa wear.

And the latest in Playa wear.

So let's say you reduce the number of RVs and bikes, put down pavement, and eliminate the dust storm, couldn't this resemble a traffic jam on an LA freeway.

So let’s say you reduce the number of RVs and bikes, put down pavement, and eliminate the dust storm, couldn’t this resemble a traffic jam on a LA freeway?

And then the dust storm hits. You can barely see the car in front of you. Can you imagine what might happen on that same LA freeway?

And then the dust storm hits. You can barely see the car in front of you. Can you imagine what might happen on that same LA freeway? In an hour or so we might even make the last three miles into Black Rock City.

NEXT BLOG: We arrive in Burning Man and I introduce the 2015 theme: A Carnival of Mirrors. Welcome to the circus.

The Story of How Bone Was Found… Reblog

While Peggy and I are at Burning Man, I am reposting the story of how Bone was found. This is the first of the series. I will respond to comments when I return from Burning Man.

Backpacking in the Desolation Wilderness… Or, How to Forget You Are Being Divorced

It was the summer of 1977 and my wife JoAnn was divorcing me. Apparently I lacked in stability or at least in the desire to pursue the Great American Dream. She was right of course. I had absolutely zero desire to tie myself to an eight-hour a day job and a large house in the suburbs. None of this made the divorce easy. I was prepared to spend my life as a happily married man.

To keep my mind occupied, I was working on the route for the Fourth Annual Sierra Trek, a challenging nine-day 100-mile backpack trip in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that I had created as a pledge-based fund-raiser for the American Lung Association in Sacramento.

“So what’s your problem?” my friend Tom Lovering asked over a beer at the Fox and Goose Restaurant. He’d been-there-done-that with divorce and dated a number of women since. Tom owned Alpine West, an outdoor/wilderness store in Sacramento, and sponsored the Sierra Trek.

I had persuaded him to go backpacking with me for six days to preview part of the new route. Our plan was to start near Meek’s Bay, Lake Tahoe and work our way southward 70 miles following the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail.

Tom had invited his girlfriend, Lynn, and Lynn was bringing along her friend Terry. Terry was nice, not my type.

“I have a friend named April who wants to go backpacking,” Tom offered. “Why don’t I invite her to go as well? Maybe you two will hit if off.”

The implication was that this would help me get over my wife.  Actually, I had already met the woman who was going to help me recover but I humored Tom.

A friend drove the five of us up to Meeks Bay. April was gorgeous and Tom was right. I followed her long legs and short shorts up the trail. My gloomy focus on the Soon-to-Be-Ex faded like a teenager’s blue jeans.

Hot feet and screaming fat cells were even more potent in forcing me to live, or at least suffer, in the moment. As usual I’d done nothing to physically prepare for the first backpack trip of the year and I was paying the price.

We climbed a thousand feet and traveled six miles to reach our first night’s destination at Stony Ridge Lake. I crashed while Tom broke out some exotic concoction of potent alcohol.

After consuming enough of his ‘medicine’ to persuade my fat cells they had found Nirvana, I fired up my trusty Svea stove and started cooking our freeze-dried dinner. It wasn’t hard. Boil water, throw in noodles, add a packet of mystery ingredients, stir for ten minutes and pray that whatever you have created is edible. That night it didn’t matter.

Afterwards, we headed for our beds. The next day would be long. I slid into my down filled mummy bag and looked up at what seemed like a million stars. There were no city lights or pollution to block my view and the moon had yet to appear.

I traced an imaginary line from the Big Dipper and found the North Star. It seemed far too faint for its illustrious history. A shooting star briefly captured my attention. Thoughts of divorce, short shorts, the next day’s route, a rock digging into my butt, and sore feet jostled around in my mind for attention.

Sleep finally crept into the bag and captured me.

Next: A pounding heart and a sprained ankle.

Truth Is Beauty: A 55-Foot Tall Woman… Burning Man 2013

The sculpture Truth and Beauty at Burning Man 2013.

Truth Is Beauty. This 55 foot tall sculpture was a main attraction at Burning Man 2013– for a good reason.

There are two sets of greeters when you enter the Kingdom of Burning Man. The first are Border Guards. They check your passports, i.e. tickets. Then they ask the usual questions: “Are you carrying anyone else? Do you have a pet on board? Do you have guns?” Trying to sneak someone in can get you banned. Usually someone climbs on board and checks our bathroom. This time, the guy waved us on. We were disguised as middle-class retirees. We could have been someone’s grandparents. Heck, we are someone’s grandparents.

The second set of greeters serve as the Black Rock City equivalent of the Welcome Wagon. They even give you a package of goodies. These folks smile through the worst of dust storms, as do the Border guards. “I can see you are Virgin Burners,” the guy told Peggy. “Actually,” Peggy responded, “This is our tenth year.” There was a moment of silence. “Welcome home,” he recovered. “You are going to love the art this year. The artist who did Bliss three years ago has a new sculpture. It’s incredible.”

That caught our attention. Peggy and I had been blown away by Bliss, a 40-foot sculpture of a female dancer. So we were excited to learn that the same artist, Marco Cochrane from Mill Valley, California, had produced a new sculpture for Burning Man 2013, another colossal female named Truth Is Beauty. After visiting the Man and the Temple (always our first stops at Black Rock City), we cycled over to see the Woman. I’ve capitalized the W because the sculpture deserves it. Truth Is Beauty is 55 feet tall. We were awed. Peggy and I returned to visit several times during the week.

In preparation for today’s blog, I decided to do some research on Marco Cochrane and his art. The first thing that I learned was that Marco and I share a passion for Joseph Campbell. In fact the name for the whole Bliss project, which includes Bliss, Truth Is Beauty, and a third sculpture yet to be done, is taken from a quote by Campbell, which Cochrane has posted on his website:

Follow your bliss and doors will open where none existed.

The original Bliss sculpture from Burning Man 2010 now resides on Treasure Island, San Francisco, where Marco has his studio. The statue weighs 7,000 pounds, is 97% air, and includes 55,000 welds, all done by hand. The internal framework is based on a geodesic structure (thank you Bucky Fuller), and includes 4500 ball joints. The “skin” consists of a steel mesh stretched over the structure and screwed on.

The art at Burning Man can be spectacular, such as this tall, nude woman.

Bliss at Burning Man in 2010.

Marco used the same model, Deja Solis, a six-foot tall singer/dancer from the Bay Area, for both Bliss and Truth Is Beauty. His goal in working with a model is to have her relax, feel safe and be herself. He then works to capture her essence and recreate it in his works of art. His goal is to help us move beyond seeing a woman as an object and see her instead as another human being, a rather large human being.

If you would like to learn more about Cochrane and his projects I would recommend going to his website. There is also an excellent interview by Matador Network. Following are a number of photos designed to capture Truth Is Beauty from different angles and in different lighting conditions. Enjoy.

The toes of the sculpture Truth Is Beauty at Burning Man 2013.

To provide perspective on the size of the statue, these are her toes and my foot. BTW, I wear a size 14 shoe.

Peggy Mekemson standing in front of sculpture Truth Is Beauty at Burning Man 2013.

Peggy provides perspective on Truth Is Beauty’s foot. This photo also provides a good look at the inner construction of the statue.

A side view of the sculpture, Truth Is Beauty by Marco Cochrane at Burning Man 2013.

A side view of the sculpture outlined by the early morning sun.

Truth Is Beauty back view

Camera photography by balloon at Burning Man 2013.

As you might imagine, photography is big at Burning Man. 68,000 people probably means 68,000 cameras. This photographer attached his camera to a large balloon to capture unique perspectives on Truth Is Beauty.

Head shot. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Head shot. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

From the ground up, Truth Is Beauty almost becomes abstract.

From the ground up, Truth Is Beauty almost becomes abstract.

The magic of night at Burning Man, also applies to the art. Using a series of LED lights inside the statue as well as outside lighting, Truth Is Beauty evolves through a number of almost mystical colors.

Truth Is Beauty at night during Burning Man 2013.

Outside lighting gives the statue a sense of solidness.

Truth Is Beauty lit up by LED lights at Burning Man 2013.

The LED lights give the appearance that the sculpture is filled with stars.

I took the following three photos from the same perspective to show Truth Is Beauty as she changed colors.

Truth is Beauty at night, Burning Man 2013.

Truth Is Beauty one.

Sculpture Truth is Beauty by Marco Cochrane at Burning Man 2013

Truth Is Beauty two.

Truth Is Beauty three.

Truth Is Beauty three.

Our friend Tom Lovering (AKA Adios) from Davis, California has a good eye for capturing unique photos. He was up before the sun to be out on the Playa for these pictures of Truth Is Beauty. I will conclude with these photos.

A properly placed sun provided Truth Is Beauty with a heart. (Photo by Tom Lovering)

A properly placed sun provided Truth Is Beauty with a heart. (Photo by Tom Lovering)

Truth Is Beauty photo by Tom Lovering at Burning Man.

The sun outlines Truth Is Beauty’s head and is captured in her arms. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

If you enjoyed this blog, you might want to check out my top five reasons for going to Burning Man in 2014.

NEXT BLOG: Two very unusual churches at Burning Man.

Rowing House Rock Rapid… with One Oar: Rafting through the Grand Canyon

We started with an icy cold rapid. Peggy and I are in the first boat with Tom Lovering rowing. (Photo by Don Green)

Day two starts as day one did: early.

Even the birds are sound asleep. Tom argues it’s six AM, not the five my watch is showing. “Arizona does not honor Daylight Savings Time,” he primly informs us. He’s right. Adjusting my watch adjusts my attitude… a little.

Adding injury to insult, something akin to Folgers has been sewn up in burlap, thrown in boiling water, and called coffee.  Oh well, it’s a hot, it’s brown, and we have a beautiful day of floating down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon ahead.

For those of you who like facts, here are a few about the river. At its widest point it reaches 750 feet from one bank to the other; at its deepest, it plunges down 90 feet. It flows along at a decent 3-4 mile clip but can speed up to 15 miles per hour in rapids. Since the water comes out of the base of Glen Canyon Dam, it is cold: somewhere around a frigid 46 degrees Fahrenheit during the upper part of our trip. Over the course of our adventure the river will drop 1700 feet in altitude, which is an average 8 feet per mile… 25 times that of the Mississippi River.

Our boatman for the day, Tom Lovering, with his wild, Canyon hairdo.

Tom is our boatman of the day. He checks to make sure our toenails are painted and then lets us board. The wind is still blowing but it has lost its ferocious bite. A mile down the river we pass Ten Mile Rock, a prominent landmark that has fallen from the cliffs above and now juts up out of the river. Made of Toroweap Sandstone, it was laid down in shallow seas that covered the area some 250 million years ago.

Ten Mile Rock on the Colorado River. I thought it should have a more impressive name.

Shortly afterwards we hear our first rapid of the day, Soap Creek. You always hear rapids before you see them; it builds anticipation. Soap Creek roars like a teenage lion. Tom maneuvers through it like the excellent boatman he is but makes sure we get suitably wet. It’s like taking a cold shower outside on a frosty morning with a 15 mile per hour wind blowing.

“I love rowing,” Tom tells us– and it is obvious he does. It is more than the heart-stopping, adrenaline-pumping moments of major rapids where the boatman’s knowledge and skill is matched against the tremendous power of the river with its dangerous rocks and grasping holes. And it is more than the opportunity to enjoy incredible beauty of the Grand Canyon that rowing provides. Tom enjoys the rhythm and the hard work. He even liked the backbreaking challenge of rowing against the wind.

At mile 17 we come on our first, and only, major challenge of the day, House Rock Rapid, where we learn another fact about rafting through the Canyon: water levels depend on electricity needs in the West. Peak demands require large releases of water from Glen Canyon Dam to run its huge generators. Eventually, these releases catch up with rafters. The fluctuations in water levels have significant impacts.

House Rock Rapid demonstrates one of the more serious. The river is at its low point. More rocks are exposed and a massive hole lurks downstream from the largest rock. Even the most skilled boatman will be challenged to avoid it. We all land and climb off our boats to scout the rapid. Tom is eager to move on. Steve is adamant about waiting for more water. After a long discussion between the boatmen, a decision is made to take the more cautious approach.

Our group worriedly scouts House Rock Rapid. Peggy shows more enthusiasm than may be called for.

We have lunch, take naps, go for walks and watch as three large boats of commercial rafters chug through the rapids with their large engines. It is mid afternoon when the boatmen finally decide that enough water is flowing to reduce the hazard to a barely acceptable risk.

Tom’s fist bonks me on the head when we are halfway through. One of his oars has popped out. I look left and all I can see is churning, raft-eating water. We are poised on the edge of the hole… about to be sucked in. Tom becomes a virtuoso of one-armed madness.  Ever so slowly, like about a thousand years, the boat decides to go where he wants. We land, and for one of the few times in his life, my ever-talkative friend is silent.

We looked to the left and saw we were poised on the edge of a massive hole.

The next day, Megan Stalheim, Dave’s niece, is our boat woman. This is Megan’s first time rowing a raft and her first time rowing through the Grand Canyon. It would seem insane except Megan is a world-class kayaker. She is an expert at reading water. The problem is that our large, fully loaded rafts do not move like feather light kayaks… picture driving an 18-wheel Mack Truck with a Ferrari 458 attitude. We have some adventures.

This shot of Jamie’s raft provides a perspective on what our fully loaded rafts looked like.

Megan keeps the messy side up, however, as rafters say. (The non-messy side is the smooth bottom of the raft.) So it’s all good. Megan, like me, has served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa. When she gets off the river she is heading for Tanzania where she will work with a women’s craft co-op.

Beyond our “kayaking” experience with Megan, the big news on day three is that we began our side-trips. Almost all journeys down the Canyon include stopping off to see the sights. Some are quite beautiful and others provide unique challenges, as if our daily challenges of negotiating rapids aren’t enough.

Our first stop at mile 29 is the Silver Grotto, which includes both beauty and challenge. Wanting a little downtime and solitude, I opt out and take photos. Peggy tells me, “We climbed an 8 foot wall, repelled down a rock face, slogged through a murky, cold pool and slid down a 20 foot rock slide.” The rock slide was more like free-fall.

As the group disappeared into the Silver grotto, I took some much needed Curt-time.

A raven stopped by to visit and checked out the “Captain’s Chair” on Steve Van Dore’s boat. These large birds are one of the primary reasons food needs to be carefully stowed.

I didn’t get a photo of our group members leaping but this is what they leapt off of into the muddy water below. Water was splashed on the rock slide from a pool behind the lip to make the slide more smooth. Or so they said.

Next we stopped off at Paradise, as in Vasey’s Paradise. A beautiful waterfall shoots out of a Redwall cliff and creates a Garden of Eden at it base. It is worthy of the name.

The waterfall shooting out of the Red Wall at Vasey’s Paradise, Mile 32.

Dave Stalheim and his niece Megan perched on a rock at Vasey’s Paradise in the Grand Canyon.

Our final stop of the day is at Red Wall Cavern. Major John Wesley Powell was the first non Native American to admire the Cavern’s unique beauty. Powell was a Civil War Veteran who had lost his right arm at Shiloh. His exploratory expedition through the Grand Canyon took place in 1869. Powell thought Redwall Cavern could accommodate up to 50,000 people. Modern estimates are closer to 5000, but it is still big…

Coming around a bend in the Colorado River, we saw our first view of Redwall Cavern.

This photo provides a perspective on the sheer size and beauty of Redwall Cavern.

A view of the Grand Canyon looking upriver from the Redwall Cavern.

In my next post we visit an ancient Anasazi storage facility high on the cliffs above the river and play in the beautiful Little Colorado River.

A Ton of Food and Homeland Security… Rafting the Grand Canyon

Preparation for our 18-day raft trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon quickly taught me that eating was going to be a central part of our adventure. This is the back of my 22-foot travel van after a trip to Safeway in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Great adventures start with the mundane. For example, did you cancel the paper? Common sense (and probably your mother) admonish that devious burglars have nothing better to do than to cruise the streets looking for rolled newspapers in front of your home.

More importantly, what about the cat?

Once upon a time Peggy and I had a cat named Effie. Vacations meant I would carefully measure out twice as much food and water as she could possibly eat or drink and four times the kitty litter she might use. The likelihood of her pooping all over the house was much greater that the likelihood of her starving. As a reward for my thoughtfulness, she would shed enough fur in our absence to fill a dump truck.

Now we have food to worry about. Lots of it. Tom Lovering, the trip leader, his wife Beth and their friend Jamie Wilson arrived in Flagstaff three days in advance of our Colorado River trip. Their car was packed to the brim with empty ammo cans and other watertight boxes waiting to be filled with food and the miscellaneous paraphernalia of river trips.

The Department of Homeland Security delayed their journey at Hoover Dam. The Agency is paranoid about mad bombers. Its normally low sense of humor dropped to zero when the agents saw all the ammo cans. The whole car had to be unpacked.

Tom Lovering, our trip leader, has been running rivers since the 70s. I first met him in 1974 when I persuaded him that his outdoor/wilderness store, Alpine West, should sponsor a hundred mile backpack trip I was organizing for the American Lung Association in Sacramento.

Tom is even more paranoid about food than DHS is about terrorists. In addition to being a highly experienced rafter and trip leader, he’s an old restaurateur who had spent months planning the menu.  Each dish has been tested several times and quantities have been measured down to the teaspoon. Recipes are spelled out in minute detail. We will eat gourmet on the trip… or die. The options are clear.

Beth, Peggy and I are dispatched to Sam’s Club with marching orders. We fill seven large shopping carts with food. Think of it this way. There are 16 people going on an 18-day trip and eating three meals a day. This equals 864 individual meals.

When we arrive back at the motel, Tom and Jamie have set up a staging area. Food needs to be organized by meal and day and then stuffed in the appropriate containers. The containers will then be assigned to rafts. It’s important that we know where to find the beer.

We have yet to shop for perishables and more food is coming from Sacramento. Our room, we discover, is to be the recipient of most food. There is barely space to sleep.

Food purchase and storage for an 18-day river adventure depends upon numerous lists. First you have to plan out menus and quantities. Next the food needs to be purchased. Finally it has to be carefully stored so you will find the right food on the right day. Tom’s wife, Beth, was in charge of the lists. (Photo by Don Green)

One of our participants obviously felt that tequila and oranges needed to be stored together.

Our bedroom was packed with food. Personal gear is on the bed.

Food organization took place outside of our motel rooms.

The next day is more relaxed. Other trip members begin to arrive and Peggy and I assume airport shuttle duty. Tom takes time for a makeover into something resembling an English Punk Rocker from the 70s with green and purple hair. Homeland Security was right to be suspicious.

Tom is 50% businessman, 30% adventurer, and 20% character. Or maybe I have the percentages reversed. Here he is having his hair bleached for the trip. You will see the results in future posts.

Next blog: Three days and 39 miles: The Journey Begins.

The morning of the adventure has arrived. Everything we have packed… our food, personal gear and rafts are stuffed into this truck in preparation for our drive to the takeoff point, Lee’s Ferry.

A Grand Adventure… Exploring the Grand Canyon by Raft

With Steve at the oars, Peggy and I enter the infamous Lava Rapids on the Colorado River, a perfect ten… that’s 10 as in rapids don’t get any more serious. A few seconds later we disappear under the water. (Photo by Don Green)

Today I begin my series on rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Since it happened a couple of years ago, I am traveling back in time. In fact I kicked off this blog with the trip, some 181 posts ago.

I never finished the series. Other things happened: like having grandbabies born, going to Burning Man, looking for long dead people (otherwise known as ancestors), etc. So I will start with reposting my early stories so everyone can begin, so to speak, on the same page. (Grin)

This series will encompass more than my trip down the river, however. It is meant to be a celebration of the Grand Canyon, possibly the greatest natural wonder in the world. I have been back to the Canyon repeatedly in a time span that dates back over forty years.

Peggy takes a photo looking down into the Grand Canyon. Three feet forward and she will have a thousand feet to learn to fly.

I have wandered the South and North Rim, camped in all of the Rim campgrounds, and stayed at the magnificent El Tovar Hotel. Once I spent Christmas week at Bright Angel Lodge with a view overlooking the Canyon. I’ve been into the Canyon by mule, on foot and helicopter… as well as raft.

Several times I have explored the inner Canyon on weeklong backpack trips. I will feature one in this series.

Our Grand Canyon river adventure started with a phone call. Tom Lovering left an urgent message. I had to immediately stop whatever I was doing (Peggy and my three-year road trip around North America) and climb on-line to sign up for the Grand Canyon Colorado River permit lottery.

Apparently the permits are hard to obtain, somewhat harder than walking out of a casino with a million dollars.

I am immune to Tom’s last minute schemes but the charming Peggy who loves water, loves rivers, and loves sunshine immediately jumped on-line and did the necessary clicking. Early the next morning we received an Email from the National Park Service saying we had won. It took me a lot longer to persuade Tom than it did for the NPS people to inform us.

I am not, by nature, a white water man. I put running rapids right up there with dangling on rock cliffs, playing Kamikaze on ski slopes, and riding the latest death-defying roller coaster at Four Flags.  My approach to outdoor adventure is more in the nature of planned risk taking than thrill seeking. Consequently, I had only been on two real white water rafting trips.

The first was with Tom on the Mokelumne River in California in the 70s. Within five minutes he had dumped us into something known as Dead Man’s Hole. “Paddle!” he screamed. River rats love to give their favorite rapids scary names such as Satan’s Pool and Suicide Bend. They can wax eloquently for hours over the qualities of these death-dealing anomalies. Our detour “was a learning experience,” Tom explained as we emptied the water out of the raft and lungs. “Next time you’ll paddle harder.” Yeah, yeah.

My second white water trip was on the Middle Fork of the American River. This time I was travelling with Mark Dubois, his wife Sharon Negri and a friend, Bonnie Holmes.

Mark, sometimes known as the Gentle Giant, once chained himself to a rock in the bottom of the Stanislaus River to stop the Army Corps of Engineers from flooding the canyon with water. He also co-founded Friends of the River, an organization dedicated to saving the wild rivers of the west.

Our trip was rather mellow up until we came to a large rapid. Mark was having us do such things as close our eyes and lean backwards out of the raft with our hair touching the water so we could ‘listen’ to the river. He’s a spiritual type guy, one with nature. Apparently Nature had rejected me.

“Now, Curt,” he directed as we approached the rapid known as Guaranteed to Drown or some other similar name, “I want you to climb out of the raft and float down it.”

“I know, I know,” I groused as I rolled out of the raft into the icy waters. “It’s a learning experience.”

And that’s how I classify our trip down the Colorado, a learning experience. But I know it will be more. Every time I have visited the Grand Canyon over the years, I have come away with a feeling of awe and reverence. How could a trip through the Canyon’s inner core be any different?

So please join my friends and me over the next few weeks. I think you’ll enjoy the ride.

Here I am. They actually let me row. It had something to do with the lack of any nearby rapids.

This is how Jamie, one of our experienced boatmen, handled that section of the river.

Here are some of the folks that travelled with us on our 18 day trip down the Canyon. In this photo they have reversed their life preservers to look like giant diapers and are floating down the beautiful little Colorado River, one of many scenic stops along the way. They are about ten feet away from going over a waterfall.

You will meet some interesting characters on the trip, such as Steve…

And our fearless leader Tom Lovering. Are you brave enough to spend 21 days on the river with this man?

Even this Grand Canyon fish was amazed by our choice of leader.

We had 21 days on the Colorado River and 21 days of incredible scenery. Views such as…

Scenes along the River…

Magnificent cliffs…

Plunging waterfalls…

And beautiful wild flowers.

You will learn how to poop in the woods…

Dance in a line with too much wine…

Take refreshing baths…

And leap from high places.

Join us.

From a Sinking Ship to a Huge EGO… Burning Man 2012 Art

Whimsical always wins me over. This is one cool cat… or is that cat woman. I had to travel far out on the Playa to find the cat sculptures.

Face it; I am frustrated. It is impossible to cover all of the art featured at Burning Man. In fact with over 300 works of art scattered over the seven square miles that constitutes Black Rock City, it was impossible for me to even get around and admire each piece. Maybe if I had devoted 24/7… but Burning man provides many distractions.

All I can offer is a tantalizing sample… and a recommendation: if you enjoy this art and you have never been to Burning Man, put the event on your schedule for the future.

A final note before I jump into photographs: this year featured regional art from groups that are organizing local Burning Man activities from around the US and world. I will cover this art, and its fiery demise, in my next blog.

Another photo of the denizens of the outer Playa at Burning Man. One gets a sense of how far out they are by the lack of people in the background.

Imagine cycling across the desert and seeing in the distance a partially sunken 16th Century Spanish galleon. It’s almost unbelievable but at Burning Man you learn to expect the unusual. Artist Matthew Schultz headed up this project.

What amazed me even more was the attention to detail, right down to the masthead. The story behind the sunken ship is that it crashed into the pier.

Further attention to detail, plus a sense of humor, was found below decks. Note the long fingers and the modern coffee cup.

The pier, without the ship, was a very popular sculpture in 2011.

It is difficult to be an artist, or a writer… or even a blogger for that matter, without a little ego. This is a big one.

Since the artist, Laura Kimpton, and I are both somewhat dyslexic, I thought I would reverse the E.

Replicas of 10,000 trophies went into creating EGO.

Wall Street, photographed here from the Man, was another major installation at Burning Man 2012. Otto Von Danger is the artist.

Buildings were given such names as the Bank of UnAmerica and Chaos Manhattan. The Greek front is a replica of the NYSE.

Like in many urban settings, graffiti was rampant. But we can all dream our financial institutions will become a little less greedy and a little more responsible. Wall Street was burned but not the American flag.

“It takes a village…” (Photo by Tom Lovering)

I found this large Praying Mantis and several buggy companions out on the far Playa. My bike, Horse with No Name, waits patiently. (I trust you will recognize the song “I rode through the desert on a horse with no name.”)

This sculpture by artist Kate Radenbush is called Star Seed. I thought of it as ‘fantasy arising from the dust.’ And why not. Participants are expected to put their own twist on Burning Man art.

I did wonder whether we are seeding the stars or they are seeding us.

If you look closely, you will note that this man’s skin is made completely of watch parts. I also liked the see through quality as you look up at the sky over Black Rock City.

Another of the wonderfully quirky works of art found out on the Playa at Burning Man 2012. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

One sculpture featured a series of quotes. I found these two by Albert Einstein and Danny Kaye particularly appropriate for closing my blog on Burning Man 2012 art.

The Temple at Black Rock City… Burning Man 2012

The 2012 Temple at Burning Man captured in the early morning light by my friend Tom Lovering. The courtyard and Temple are already filled with visitors.

My first trip to Burning Man in 2004 became a quest. A neighbor of mine, a veteran Burner, suggested I would enjoy the event. He was a strange fellow. I guess he thought I was too.

His description of Black Rock City reminded me of the Mos Eisley on the planet Tatooine, the Spaceport where Luke Skywalker began his journey to the outer worlds. Strange creatures resided there. Adventure beckoned.

Most quests involve a similar location, a jumping off place between the world you know and wherever it is you are headed. Your challenge, if you accept it, is to go out into the beyond, do battle with the bad guys, and come back with something good for your community.

I didn’t find any bad guys at Black Rock City but I did have a wonderful time. And the journey expanded my perception of reality, which is always a good thing. I returned to Sacramento and immediately begin recruiting friends to go with me the next year. Today I regard my treks to Burning Man as exotic, art-filled vacations with a dash of pilgrimage thrown in.

The pilgrimage part involves visiting the Man and the Temple. Today’s blog will feature the Temple, Burning Man’s spiritual center. It is the place on the Playa where Burners go to say goodbye to loved ones who have passed on or to simply give thanks. Visiting is a moving experience that I believe people of all faiths, or none, can relate to.

The 2012 Temple at Burning Man was exceptionally beautiful. Reflecting an oriental theme, its spire reached for the sky while its large courtyard opened to the desert and welcomed visitors. Intricately carved wood invited thousands of messages and photos about parents, friends, lovers, children, husbands, wives, other relatives and even cherished pets.

Normally raucous Burners become quiet when they enter the Temple Grounds. While it isn’t a place of formal worship, it is a place of quiet meditation, reverence and respect. People sit quietly, post messages, or wander around and read what has been written.

The following photo essay is designed to capture the essence and beauty of the Temple in a way that words can’t. My friend and fellow Horse-Bone Camp member, Tom Lovering of Davis California, got up at 5:30 AM on Wednesday to catch the sunrise pictures. My wife Peggy and I took the day, night and burn photos.

The sun greets a new day at Black Rock City and gently bathes the courtyard of the 2012 Temple. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)

Early morning sunlight provides a golden glow and captures the intricate woodwork inside the 2012 Temple at Burning Man. (Photo by Tom Lovering)

Music is found everywhere at Burning Man, including the Temple. I love the obvious joy of these performers caught on camera by Tom Lovering. I also think this photo provides a good perspective on the size of the 2012 Temple’s courtyard.

This daytime photo provides an overview of the 2012 Temple at Burning Man and the courtyard, which extends an equal distance on the other side. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Peggy captured a fun perspective here of the 2012 Temple at Black Rock City. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

I took this photo of the 2012 Temple at Burning Man to show the intricate wood work. Much to my delight, the light shining through created a sense of eyes creating a cat-like face.

Speaking of kitties, the people owned by this cat memorialized her in the Temple with this picture. Thousands of Burners use the Temple to say goodbye to relatives, friends and pets who have passed on with messages of love and gratitude.

I took this photo to provide an idea of the number of messages Burners leave for loved ones. Previous photos have shown the size of the 2012 Temple of Burning Man and its courtyard. By Sunday, when the Temple was burned, close to every inch of reachable space on the inside and outside of the Temple plus structures in the courtyard had been covered with messages.

The 2012 Burning Man Temple at night.

A night-time view from the inside of Burning Man’s 2012 Temple.

Things burn at Burning Man including the Man and numerous works of art. Impermanence, deconstruction and celebration are all involved. The Temple has these elements, but it also includes the burning of the thousands of messages,  sending them skyward, or Heavenward if you prefer, and providing closure to those left behind.

Silence accompanies the burning of the Temple. No mutant vehicles spout fire, no music is played, no Burners dance. Only the sound of crying or the shouted “I’ll miss you,” breaks the stillness. We too have honored those who have passed on. This year we remembered my sister’s Mother-in-Law Betty, a woman full of life who had adopted us all as family and who had passed away shortly before Burning Man 2012 began. Go in peace, Betty.

Eventually, all that is left of the Temple and the courtyard is the structure… and then, it too collapses, returning to ash and dust. A very special thanks to David Best from Petaluma California, the architect and builder of the 2012 Temple at Burning Man, and to the Temple Crew that devoted thousands of hours to putting the magnificent building together.