By: Lauren Kratina
I was traveling the country, nearing the end of what seemed to be my endless supply of cash when I realized I didn't know what my next move was. I always wanted to participate and experience Burning Man; I even applied for a low income ticket at the beginning of the year, and was denied. Somehow still, it made its way into my life and with such a presence, as I knew it would.
On July 18th, I arrived at a small workshop in Sparks, Nevada. I was informed that my jobs would entail painting and renovating RVs, in addition to assisting with building art cars. We started building the city August 24th. It was foreign to me, placing these unorthodox homes in the middle of vast space; but slowly all the pieces melded together, and an entire city formed before my eyes. The following week was Burning Man, but I wasn’t “off duty” until the very last RV was placed. After nearly two months, that moment finally came, and tears and hugs were exchanged under a framework of loyalty that I have never experienced before. We did it and finished strong.
When the highly anticipated Burning Man officially began, I was more relieved than excited. FINALLY, I kept shouting to myself with a smile shining as bright as the freedom I was immersing myself in. Originally, I expected my time at Burning Man to be spent exploring by myself, doing my own thing, focusing on the art and music. Ironically, when the time came I just wanted to hang out with my crew; my new family. When dusk fell, we would gather warm clothes, refreshments, our megaphone, and pile into one of our four art cars. I guarantee we were the most obnoxious vehicle on the playa; playfully harassing our fellow hippies with the megaphone, igniting new friendships, and laughing until our sides went numb. Cuddle puddles and deep conversations happened on the way to discovering random parties off the esplanade; they always seemed to make you feel like you were in another world. Deep Playa was a visual concoction of extreme darkness and an audience of small colorful lights. It was the first time I had been blanketed in darkness yet surrounded by light. There was so much space, as far as the eye can see. It's the epitome of complete freedom; to do and be whoever or whatever you want. I remember one moment specifically- climbing down, jumping off and sprinting away from our art car, just far enough not to lose sight of its location. I remember standing in the middle of this openness of playa, completely alone. I faced the sky and closed my eyes as the desert winds kissed my cheeks. Opening them and looking around, I remember whispering “what is this place?” We drove around aimlessly while I occasionally jumped off to explore, until the sun said hello over the horizon.
Burning Man is the paradigm of a society where everyone works together to create. It’s a temporary metropolis where everyone is there to learn, share, participate, and contribute. The community as a whole, respects the Earth and each other. In my opinion, it’s not the art or the playa that make the event; it’s the people. It’s the people that create the apparent energy that hovers with the dust. It’s the people that create the cars, stages, camps, and instillations. It's a city not built by companies for artists; it's built for artists by artists. It's full of hidden surprises; it’s imperfect, original, inspiring, and real. This place has a thumb print; it has a pulse. I experienced the life the city has while watching it vanish entirely before my eyes, reappearing moments later; it breathes. I watched it permanently disappear the following week, and as the city was broken down with no trash left behind, the desert appeared untouched. I howled at the moon every night. I climbed everything. I truly, physically experienced art of all mediums and lasting connections that have no bounds, in a place radiating freedom in a way that is truly unrivaled.