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September 11, 2023

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I’ll never forget the first time I learned about Burning Man. It was 2001, I had just moved West and was working in an Oakland warehouse at a furniture design company. There were some people building these large sculptures for the event. When I asked what they were doing, they told me a little bit about the essence of Burning Man. I remember watching the entire process and dreaming of the day I would make it out to this so-called Black Rock City. Fast forward to 2007, I finally saved enough money and was able to take off work and finally made it out. From there I spent the (almost consecutive) next five years immersing myself into this unique, creative and absolutely wild culture.

Seems like everyone has a very strong opinion about what BM is, the “types” that attend, etc. I have a lot to say about it, too. What a treat to return “home” to the desert this year with my first reentry after a twelve year hiatus. Everyone told me “oh, it’s changed…it’s not the same”. I’m definitely one who likes to form my own opinions and not judge a situation until I see for myself. I was so glad I made the pilgrimage back. Let me tell you…sure, it’s a LOT larger but the essence, vibrancy and magic of the city is still there. Things change and evolve, agreed and as humans...we do, too. I’m in a different time and place in my life and it was extra special to experience it again this year, twelve years wiser. I will say, “I’ve still got it.”

In a nutshell, once you get to Black Rock City, you will feel like you’ve left the planet and landed in an alternate universe. It’s massive. Art cars roaming (google Burning Man art cars: El Pulpo Mechanico is one of my faves), massive sculptures and the most creative humans on the planet populate the grid and open playa. There’s wild lasers, drones shows at night…lots of fire, loads of dancing and radical self-expression everywhere you turn. There are Ten Principles of Burning Man that BRC's citizens are taught to honor and abide by. Imagine how extra beautiful the world would be if we all practiced these! You can be whoever you want to be there. You can let down your guard and feel 100% free. In BRC, you can’t spend money and no merch is available for purchase. It’s a gifting society where folks bring in art, experiences and offerings to share with their fellow neighbor. Seems that so many are there to simply delight one another, it’s beautiful. Most people disconnect from their phones. I personally turned mine off for nearly 10 days except to turn it back on to let my mom know I was okay when the mud was all over the news. I didn’t take a single photo so anything you see on my Instagram was borrowed from my friends or taken during past burns.

Oh, and the mud. Ha…I almost forgot about that part! It seems so insignificant when I think about the entire week. I connected with old friends, built extra strong bonds and met so many new pals that I can’t wait to spend time with on and off the playa. When the storm hit, we sheltered in place and kept having a blast.

If you know me by now, I’m also a huge fan of all music and I have an exceptional love of electronic. The playa most certainly provided this year, per the usual. Highlights of my adventures including a magical a sunrise set with Tycho, a random run-in with LP Giobbi on a Fluffy Cloud, and dancing my ass off to Carl Cox, Kruder and Dorfmeister, Polo & Pan, Charlotte de Witte... just to name a few.

What a treat it was to host an epic happy hour with Spicy Brown - I slung spicy margs while he played all the Latin tunes. Roshane was the best playa buddy for the week, couldn't have asked for a better friend to experience BRC. It was extra silly and fun that it was Ro’s first time to Burning Man. Giving Nat a big hug is always perfect. I was floored and my heart burst at the seams being completely surprised by my dear friend Daniel. And it's always good to run into pals at the Duck Pond!

Thank you Sherice for the epic art car adventure on the Red Hot Beverly. It felt so necessary to spend time in the Temple to honor Kam for BRC was his all-time-favorite places. It’s like I was finally able to close the circle - BRC will always be a place where I left just a little sliver of my heart. An extra special thank you to Alex Hudson for inviting me into a beautiful camp, it was a complete honor. So grateful for all my new chums.

I’m very proud to be a Burner. This was my 6th Burn and I will most certainly go back someday. If you have a strong opinion about Burning Man, I would invite you to make a visit to Black Rock City and then let me know what you think. Hard truth: there are very few that I think would truly enjoy the experience (I can probably count them on one hand those that might). The elements are grueling, it’s electronic music-heavy, it’s a ton of work and not a cheap trip…and maybe not an adventure for all you control freaks out there. But I will tell you, it’s the best damn party on this planet, an extra special universe and the lists of wild experiences are ones that I will always hold safe in my heart. What an adventure, Black Rock City. 2023 is one for the books!

Colleen's Signature

1 Response

Uncle Chris
Uncle Chris

September 21, 2023

neither WOW! nor WOWSA! comes close to how I feel after I read your description of your experience. More like: Hey Colleen, WOWSA!!! What a sublime life changing, soul freeing, consciousness (and conscience) elevating, full on, no stops, and terrifically human mind space you’ve had. So happy for you and the rest of us ! And your writing is exceptional!
Your lever-loving Uncle, Space Dog Clougherty

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