Pandemic Like a Burner; Isolation Sanity, Moving Forward, Towards Happiness. #How'dAburnerDoit - Pt2

Some virgin burners made the pilgrimage, created a camp, and learned how to burn. An offering on how we learned the principles, and realized just how special they are in finding your true self.

The spring of 2016 brought with it budding ideas and creation of our new camp at BurningMan, the summer was creation, design and facility and preparation, and mid August, we packed up our entourage and started across the southern states to Black Rock City, Black Rock Desert, Nevada.

Pathogen Trackers camp is born!

This was my virgin experience, with BurningMan, as our camp designer, and our first year as a camp, actually many of us were virgins. Being artists, creators and do-ers, we were ready for the challenge!

As with most virgins, we was unaware of what to expect. My levels of necessity and availability were, what I thought, responsive and ready for anything this journey to BRC and camp set up. Packed up with all we needed to finish up our installs on the playa where we would have so much more space. We just wanted to get there!

How much we all learned, and that was even before we hit the dust. Then, we hit the highway.

What rang true, over and over again, during this journey, is how the principles put for by Burning Man society guided us. They taught us to create a strong boundary on how we set up our camp, and take this voyage. #How'dAburnerDoit

We found strength to continue and celebrated how expressing ourselves and seeing others express themselves, brought us all freedom and inclusion. We learned that we only prepare so much. We decide to go into the adventure and see who we are.

It was in the age of Zika virus 2016 (oh, how benign that seems now) we caused quite a stir as we made our pilgrimage.

As wonderful as trucks and cross country travel was for togetherness and our camp overcoming adversary, together, there were challenges, often, and varied. Oh so many challenges, sent our way.

Really, the stories are the best part. We wanted to share and show we utilized these ideals into our journey. How we tried to, live our best burn, test ourselves, each other, and our goals, to make it to the playa, and celebrate life.

Some would say, the closer to death you are, the more you appreciate life. I think K-OS is the first to feel this on our journey, and alone.

This image ^^^ was what K-OS sent our way as we moved along in our convoy. We had gotten split up during the journey and we had only images to see just how bad this flat tire was.

K-OS, my right hand man for our first burn, had to face this trial of constitution alone, and persevere. Our first burn together has solidified that he has became my brother, playa partner and general awesome person to turn to. When times were pushing (or people) beyond stressing points, we reached for support.

Pretty sure this would qualify as a stressor!

Being safe on the side of the highway, and the fear of death as you grind to a stop,hoping to not hit anything or one, instils into your very being, Immediacy!

As the endorphins and horror ebbs away, the flow of gratitude and moving forward on your journey, harkens to the principles of burning man and how they became our sound guiding beacon and golden compass.

This image and memory brought to mind;

  • Radical self-reliance - KOS was able to control his truck to safely stop (some serious gifting from some guiding power too)

  • Communal effort - We caught up and made sure our camp member was safe, ok emotionally and if he would be able to drive this truck. (we were still working on this one at this part of our journey)

  • Immediacy - How do we fix it and keep going? and HOLLLLYYYFFFAAWWWKKKK!!! - the event - keep moving forward

Our camp reached into our extended community and exercised Immediacy on this issue. With the help of some help from transportation friends and burners, we were on the move again.

We push on few more states, many burritos (and the acquiring my playa name of Lettuce green), and another slow down of one of the trucks in our convoy. Literally, it just slowed to 38mph.

This stop, and challenge, was a great one to showcase the entirety of these principles in effect for my journey. Stuck on a road near Fort Sumner, in what we thought was still Texas (long story, but hilarious), with spotty cell signal, we pulled over to wait for assistance.

We contacted Control who was a few states over taking care of the art car pick up, and told him where we were and the issues. They were planning to camp there for the night in the RV.

I, however, needed to get to Albuquerque to fly back to Toronto, Canada, set the kids up for school and meet the convoy in Salt Lake City to get the trucks into the playa. Only 6 hours from the airport, on the side of the road, I made a choice.

I move from my truck, the bar car, to the kitchen truck, and took off alone into the night, towards the airport.

A few curve balls;

  • Did you know Albuquerque has mountains?!? I found that out in a 1970's diesel truck that went up any sort of grade will do so at about 5mph - Radical Inclusion (other truckers taught me that this was indeed normal, and to just pull over to the side and let the engine do it, whew! Felt good to have someone give you the thumbs up when we are FREAKING OUT) #How'dAburnerDoit

  • Did you know that the kitchen equipment, in the kitchen truck, had not yet been installed? Found that one out on the downside of the mountain pitch...Actually thought to myself, I may die here. But didn't. Radical Self Reliance, Civic Responsibility and IMMEDIACY!

  • Did you know about the wonder of the mutation response vehicle? (how these trucks illicit a very specific reaction) On the highway, i'd get looks as cars and trucks passed me, but no direct eye contact, barely a nod. It was an interesting experience. I parked and left the truck for the team to pick up, on their way through, so i could get to my flight. As I was walking toward the truck stop to get a cab to the airport, I had someone come up and ask me what my truck was all about. I was very serious and said, with a smile and ominous glance, that I was NOT at liberty to say, and walked away. - Gifting, and Radical Inclusion (think of the story this guy now has), Communal Effort and Participation

I made my flight, bought all the new shoes, and pencil crayons and hopped back on a plane for SLC. Being on the 'text trail' of rest of camp drivers, I was able to experience their 'Albuquerque mountain experience' remotely, play by play, and it did make up for having to do mine, alone.

'Push that truck! Gawd damnit!' (this may have been more colourfully stated ~ Fluffy)

Back in SLC, I met up with half of the camp and get back in my truck (not the non-assembled death trap) and made my way towards Gerlach and the playa. The original truck of challenge, is in need of major repair, in and around the town of Winnamucka. Control radio'd out to me from the playa, that I needed to meet the downed truck and it's driver, Daryl, there, get it fixed and get us all to the playa, double time.

This broken truck had ALL of the tents and supplies we need to set up our camp in BRC.


As you can imagine, we are all fraying at the ends of our nerves at this point, our 4-5 day trip is now considerably longer, and we have yet to get to the playa to set up for our campers who will be arriving very soon. The truck is unfixable and i'm looking at how we use a crane to get these tents and supplies into a rental truck with a crane, but no rentals...

What is a burner to do?? #How'dAburnerDoit

We make it work! Radical self reliance/Civic Responsibility (to our camp)

Dave, our mechanic, who was trying to fix our truck, has a huge flat bed transport truck as well. After trying to problem solve the transport issue and how to get our truck fixed and thinking about how we get the hell OUTTA the desert after the burn, i was a little burnt out.

Frantic texts and spotty communication from Control and the camp, Dave and I sit and chill.

As we chat, I find out his daughter is going to her first burn this year. As we build friendship and trust at the dusty garage, we start to hatch a plan. Seeing that I have quickly becoming his eyes on the ground for his only daughter (I think she was 21 ish) Gifting/Inclusion, we plan to get this trailer the playa in the only way we could. My truck, 53' semi flat bed and most of our gear, hit the road and travel on. Immediacy/Participation/Communal Effort.

Many more ups and down, lefts and rights, and I, in a dust storm make my way through Gerlach and to the playa, find our camp address, and pull my truck onto our plot and pass out around 330am, in my truck, HOME.

I am awoken at 6am to a knock on my dash to say the semi, truck and tents, is at the gate, and I am needed to go meet them...Pilgrimage to 'build the camp' has started and we push through to get started.

Round 2!

Well, this will be the synopsis version of round 2. As every burn is different for every burner, we know you might just want the 'dust'. You won't hurt our feelings if you skip ahead ;).

Had to get the tents off the truck - connected with the HEAT (heavy equipment and Transportation) for assistance on a mostly put together bike that fell apart on my way there, was fixed by a passer by and a ziptie (we love these ziptie's),

Blew a hole in our blow up tent we had provided for mealtime for our campers + duct tape! (sol'n? big NO) = bringing the whole camp together to hold it down while we rescued the furniture from inside/ oh yes),

learning that bike locks do not live up to playa dust + it falls apart as i go to unlock it (actual lock falls our of housing = realizing that a scarf, holding two bikes together with a bow, is enough to thwart any bike thieves...really, i'm sure they thought they were theirs, and after a dust storm, they really do all look alike),

Water is everything + having your cup = sharing in the gifts surrounding you and that you gain strength, love and wisdom, from the togetherness of your camp, and that rollerskating in the middle of desert is almost the best part, except for the common love, drive and wonder of watching the sun, rise, over the playa. #How'dAburnerDoit

It is when we find ourselves in 'restrictions', it allows us to push and bloom in other directions, even more so when we change the word, restrictions, to guidelines, or principles. It is within the programmed or specific boundaries we can stretch and ebb around what we want. Forgo all the expectations of i'm 'suposta do this' and the 'should have done that' and ' i need' that.

Maybe it is, 'fuck that, i'm doing what i want', 'i will do this', and 'i want but do not need.' that we need to make our world, more ours.

People are so happy at burning man, and kind. We hear that a lot.

Well, yes, it is easy to be kind and happy when you know you are surrounded by people who live the principles.

There is an inherent trust knowing that you are looking at a group of burners who are taking their best care of themselves, exploring who they could be, and being civil and inclusive to all around them.

This is the magic of Burning Man, the gifts of kindness, the understanding of a radically self reliant person who is living their most resilient and best experience, seeing their strength of knowing that the people surrounding you are all participating in this wonderful society called Burning Man.

The journey of the burn is both individual and societal, and different for every single person. It is through this difference, this struggle, this grief, and this celebration, that we become brave enough to radically express ourselves, open our hearts, and minds, and to do it NOW.

Not tomorrow, not while waiting for people from our camps to get ready (although that is some of the fun-est times and 20min in burner time is usually upwards of 2hr, heh J?) and not when you can plan it out and make it perfect.

NOW. Just go, now.

Push yourself forward. Now is when you are surrounded by love and kindness, now is when you love, share, explore and grieve. Now is when you push through the pain of any new situation, and are supported while you push and celebrated as to the who you become, on the other side. Stronger together, yet able to celebrate the you, in the process.

When you get there; to a place where you silence the negative chatter and embrace the possibility of breathing in positive experience. It in this awakening that you feel the need, compulsion, and pure joy of what celebration is. How do burners celebrate that?

We dance our asses off!

Pure, unadulterated self expression, to learn and watch, be crazy, and move your body to the music.

Wonderful culmination of this week of experience comes to the burning of the temple on the Sunday night. Through out the week, we bring our offerings to the Temple and say our goodbyes, to people we have lost, thoughts we have to let go, and experiences that taught us about ourselves, that we are now ok to let go and push off from. Community grieving is so very powerful.

We send them up on the last day of the burn, our gifts up to the 'energies, spirits or gods' of what we are letting go of, and sending to a place of serenity and surrender.

Burners do this together and I have never felt or experienced anything like it.

We watch our temple, filled with notes, and pictures and alters to people, ideas and a lives we have lost, burn, in a communal symphonic release of angst, sadness and overwhelming emotion.

The only word that even comes close is catharsis.

As the embers of the temple start to die down, and the sounds of all this heat tapers out, we howl, at the moon, together.

We are all grieving right now.

We mourn the loss of lives, a loss of what our spring was supposed to be, a loss of connection with friends and family. We burners are grieving the loss of going home. Submitting to this loss, sharing in the grief, and letting it go, brings us closer to feeling better and allows us to move forward. At least to try.

The closing of this wide open door, allows us to return to the default world, supported, raw and happy. The memories, experiences and friends we hold close in our hearts until we can come back home the following year.

We fill our 'cups' with the strength, goodness and love of what is BLC, and it does indeed, runneth over. Enough for us to bring it out of the desert and share it with all who want to join us at the table. Pull up a chair, sit and feast, as there is no limit to the amount of power that love can create.

It is through the absence of fear, that love blooms, and through support and adoption of the 10 principles, we hope we have offered you a different way to look at this pandemic and it's restrictions.

Wear the mask but get outside in that beautiful sunrise; wash your hands but touch the people in your droplet circle (have one person to hug); respect distances, but pull down that mask (from a safe distance) and smile, say good morning, especially to young children that are confused by all this.

This Pandemic does not define you, but it can show you, who you could be, and how you might like to be better.

Above all, dance your fucking ass off, with people you love.

This was our first year ^^^.2016

Through the back of our camp and across the road, was Monkey Buizness, who graced us with 'Banana phone' by Raffi, every day at 11am ish (time is kinda arbitrary in BLC). They were on the way to loo. MB also had 80's dance parties every afternoon from 4-6 - ish. It became a wonderful game of 'find the burner' as people left for the loo, and ... never returned.

As more went to look for said burner...they would also disappear. Wondering if there was someone snatching our pathogen trackers, we set off enmass to investigate. This 80's dance party in the setting sun, with all of us, is what was found.

Monkey Buizness, sun and music (and even the dust), our bestest burners and love, all work together to create just one of the 'burning Man miracles' that just seem to happen in BLC. A little slice of what can happen when you move forward, abandon what you think you are 'supposed to do, and just go, be part of whatever you run into, and celebrate just being there.

Happy Burn/Pandemic to all of you, and we hope you find your 80's dance party, or create one in all of this.

Lettuce green (pickles) XOXO

Monica Polo | Monica Polo is Co-Founder and COO of Voxie. As a practicing interior designer (BID) and a Materials Health and Wellness educator, Monica brings current and relevant practices on how to holistically design a healthier world. This allows her readers, students and clients, to own their own wellness and move toward positive change, at their pace. As a social activist, she weaves the Burning Man, 10 principles into her personal wellness philosophy through her work at the Design Center, at RSID. She lives in Toronto, Canada, with her two sons.


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