Category: About Mike

Late to my New Life

The Man 2019
The Man 2019

I was on the roof when Austin asked if I wanted a ride to the temple. I asked him what time it started, he said “eight o’clock”. “Oh crap”, I said, “I thought it started at nine, I gotta go!”

That’s great, I thought as I climbed down the narrow ladder from the roof of my camper, I am going to be late to my new life. So I quickly changed my clothes, hopped on my bike and started pedaling through the deep playa dust. Before the man burned it was pretty easy to navigate to the temple, you just found the man jutting out of the dry lake bed and aimed a little to the right. Now I had to follow the 15,000 bicycles, art cars and e-transporters that were all traveling roughly in the same direction.

Fire works over the man

Contrast

When the man burns it is a huge celebration and collective fuck you to the status quo. There are hundreds of art cars, tens of thousands of people, loud music and a lot of partying. The vast playa fills with people. In the darkness all are riding bikes or on various forms of mutant vehicles, and everything is lit. Thousands of flashing, glowing and thumping vehicles and people traveling towards the center of Black Rock city. It is like watching fireworks in reverse, the explosion converging on the center.

As this event has gotten larger it has taken on more of a festival atmosphere. Its anarchic nature and embracing of art can be overshadowed by our commodity driven world.  Instagram influencers’ pose before the artwork, branding their look and selling their products. More and more there are high end RV villages that house the rich and famous. These look more like sterile well guarded compounds than the open camps and villages that they have displaced. On the playa the young and wealthy, sporting Gucci costumes, are effortlessly propelled through the dust and darkness on electric bikes and half million dollar art cars.

The Temple, Burning Man 2019
The Temple

The Temple Burn

This is a more somber affair. It adheres to a tradition that engenders reverence and respect. Because of this and the tactical advantage of leaving the Black Rock early, (avoids the traffic jam during exodus), the Temple burn is not as well attended.

A New Beginning

The temple serves as a ceremonial place to say goodbyes, to let go, to invite the new in. This year I had done all of these. Over the week I had written a series of letters to things I needed to say goodbye to and things I wanted to invite into my life. One clump of these letters had left me profoundly moved. I had sat in the middle of the temple with tears, and loss, and some regrets. I had decided that this opportunity to be here, to participate in this infant ceremony, was were I would delineate the start of my new life.  What better way and place than a public display of grief in a place where judgement and money had been traded for personal exploration and gifting.

And it was looking like I might be late to my new life. The temple burns exactly on time, whereas the man burns after all the hoopla ends. I found the temple, (it was not difficult). And made my way to a spot on the perimeter. The moment I sat down the fire began at the South end of the temple. With help from accelerants and a lot of wood, the temple was completely engulfed in flame within minutes.

Fire devils devils, burning the temple

Fire has a life of it’s own

The radiant heat from the flames forced the people in front of me to stand and move back. This gave me an unobstructed view of the burn. As the temple burned, it ignited the tens of thousands of letters and offerings. This shot the remnants of these intents into the column of hot air. These flaming particles created a constellation of twinkling burning lights high in the sky. I was spellbound as I realized that the universe of tiny flaming embers carried into the clear desert air our collective prayers, hopes, love, pain and loss.

Fire Is Tricky

Tradition

Then came the elders.  Some Paiutes had told me the night before that dust devils were believed to be their ancestors, come to visit. As the fire burned the wooden temple it birthed flame devils. One after another they carried flame, embers and dust as they marched out of the fire and onto the playa. All going east with the wind. The flaming blessings, the parade of elders, the fires impervious radiant heat were met with a an eerie quiet. The temple burn tradition is that it is done in silence and with reverence. But with this procession of elements, ancestors, and intents, the people at times fell to howling, then silence punctuated with emotion.

A New Life

Is it possible every day, to start over?  To release to the Universe the things that are out of our hands and move forward with intent and reverence? Would this be easier to do if you knew you were about out of time?

This celebration, indulgence of art, love, life and chaos defies description.  Try as I might, the description eludes me, and as soon as I think I have a handle on what it is all about, it changes.  Like the universe of burning prayers, dreams and intents that were released into the night sky, not one of them the same; this event is as diverse as each participant. The definition of the whole is the sum of its parts and cannot be captured in a sentence or a paragraph. And that is my life and your life. To show up, give up judgment, embrace generosity, to have the gift of change, to be able to make different mistakes and be able to start over.  This defies description because there are more pieces to come.

Goodbye Fifty Six

Headstone
RIP 56

Where did it go?

This last year seems like a lost year.  Like at fifty six years old, I have been stuck in neutral for the entire year.  The thing is a lot has happened. Medical issues, a vindictive law suit, relocation, a fire that eradicated almost everything I own. There has been good also, a new town, new friends a new relationship, (now over). So I am not  sad to see this year disappear into the dust behind me. Goodbye Fifty Six.

ChangeGrass over old wood

And this year leaves as it began, with massive change. This time though, it feels mostly internal.  The excuses have worn thin, I am left with the reality of me. And with that the fear of loneliness, lack of security, the loss of community.   These things have haunted me always, but instead of living with them, acknowledging them and letting them go, I have ran, and stuffed and used people places and things to blot them out.  But here I am, and here these fears still sit.  Waiting like patient guardians for me to react, invoke and indulge. My payment? Anger, shame, fear and despair and the very real manifestation of all of it.

FlowerDo Something Different

So there it is, go down the same old path or sit in stillness with my demons, befriend them and let them go. I might just have a chance to simplify, to become discerning about what and who I let into my life, and have the opportunity to learn a little more about me.

It is with this backdrop I will enter my fifty seventh year.  It is tough not to wonder what is in store for me next. I just want guarantees and certainty. But I know there are only two things that are certain: impermanence and death. With that in mind, this year I hope to garnish my path with love, joy, wonder and gratitude.

Now What

So this year I hope to take more risks.  Within my writing and my blogging I want to be more real, this means vulnerability, (ugh). And I want to pursue the many stories that have asked to be told. I want to be in better shape, and be more direct. Finally, I want to face the fear and do the scary thing anyway. I want to be open to what the universe deigns to show me.

If you are reading this, please follow along, comment, provide insight, tell you stories.  I want to hear them, I want to hear you.

A Different Kind Of Journey

Labyrinth entranceSometimes the path we find ourselves on isn’t the path we chose.   Then we find ourselves on a different kind of journey.

It has been a little over a year since I have “published” anything on my blog. This is because I suddenly find myself on new ground. And that has taken some getting used to.

My journey into blogging about travel evolved from a couple of things: First, I love telling stories.  I always have, even when I was too young to write, and not old enough to have many experiences. Second, I have come to believe that our stories and myths are how we connect to each other and to the the the universe to which we belong. Third, I love to travel and explore. Finally, I had a situation with my health that provided an opportunity for me to travel and write. This gave me a platform to see if I really liked travel and writing, Now, two years later, here is the result of that experiment: To focus on my blog and videos, and how my life changed course really, really dramatically.

When the Universe has Other Plans

surgeryA couple of years ago I had settled into a nice little rut.  I told myself I was surrounded by people who I loved and loved me. That my needs were met, and my future bright. Things actually were far from perfect, but they seemed tolerable. Life, though, has a way of letting us know when things are not right and I am no exception to that rule.

Over a long period of time I had developed un-diagnosed tumors in my middle ears. This dramatically affected my hearing, but slowly. Like so many others with hearing loss, I became more and more isolated. My deafness making interacting with others difficult and exhausting. I had also agreed to let my girlfriends extended family move into my mountain home. Plentiful in number and hopelessly entitled, they slowly began to destroyed my house. As this progressed, I became a stranger in my own home, my dog my only ally.

Alone in the wildernessWith hindsight, I realize that travel provided relief because of its nature. It was more comfortable to be a stranger in a strange place than vilified at home by those you love. But at the time I was oblivious. It seemed like my problem was the challenge of my hearing loss. I just needed to work harder on myself. But the real problem was that things were not right in my universe and I was refusing to acknowledge it.  Turns out there is more than one kind of deafness.

Boom

Ignoring problems never makes them go away. My difficulties and my inability to do something, or even acknowledging my unraveling life had the astounding effect of blowing up the existence I once knew. This has been a deeply uncomfortable process, but illuminating as well.  For me this last year has been a rich inner journey, and seemingly in-congruent with a travel blog. But it’s a journey none-the-less.  And that makes it a story worth telling. (To be continued)