Radical Ritual

Burning Man and transformative experiences in a year of xenophobia, anxiety and hope.


Before arriving in Black Rock City (BRC), I found myself simultaneously packing for a rugged, hot week in the desert and my move for an MFA at UC Santa Cruz. The week before the Burn, I was anxious, tired, and ready to leave the default world and all its perils. Eastern Texas was getting hit with Hurricane Harvey and the western United States was ablaze with forest fires. The Trump administration was continuing at what it does best, dismantling all notions of civility and inclusivity, by pardoning former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Honestly, I needed a break from the ridiculousness that was the default world. 

This year was different though -   unlike the past couple of years where I was full of life energy - I was exhausted, and too drained to explore the five square miles of BRC. Maybe it was the ungodly heat, the altitude, or the wild dust storms, but the world felt off-kilter. Instead of dancing the night away, moving my body to every rhythm and beat, I found myself seeking solace in the little comforts and human to human interactions. I felt more introverted, preferring instead to have meaningful conversations with folks and taking meaningful care of myself (i.e. having alone time with my own thoughts and feelings).

It was weird, and very unlike the typical Zoe-hyper-extroverted energy that I'm used too. I felt present and connected to the community, but this year it was manifesting itself as a lot listening, introspection, and meaningful conversations. 


From inside Peter Hazel's "Bloom" on a dusty day on the playa.

Funky feelings aside, I did have some pretty memorable experiences this year:

  1. Watching the Temple burn for the first time.

  2. Participating in Poly High Tea with a group of curious and seasoned folks.

  3. Giving a bottle of whiskey to a lady on the DPW art car during their annual parade.

    • Note: the DPW folks come a month early and stay a month late to build and deconstruct the city.

Who knows if I'll attend this wild amalgam in the desert next year, for now I will continue reading Heller's dissertation:

"The Sacred PlayGround: Adult Play and Transformation at Burning Man."