May 19th, 2010

burn baby

Temple burn

My pooches have been getting a lot of attention since Holden died. I've been rubbing tummies, telling them I love them, and otherwise spoiling them in a manner to which they will be accustomed.

They don't seem to mind much.

I was relatively lucky, when Relampago died that I had something to occpy myself with so I wasn't so reminded by his absence. Four days after his death, we went to Burning Man. There was a lot of packing and sorting and assorted other getting-ready-for-a-trip-ing that had to happen almost immediatley after he died. Though my heart was in a million pieces on the Playa, I didn't have the sense that he was gone, because he would have never been in that particular location anyways.

There's a beautiful thing at Burning Man called the Temple. Every year, some group of people builds a structure. It's usually quite big, and it usually has several levels to it. It lines up directly with the Man and Center Camp, and it's one of the focal points of the city. From year to year, a different group will take on the project of designing, raising money for and building the temple. Last year, a group from Austin did it. This year, a group in San Francisco. The year Relampago died, the temple was built in Los Angeles, and it was called Basura Sagrada, which means sacred trash.

Basura Sagrada, 2008

The temple is non-denominational. It's not even necessarily religious. At some points on random nights, a rave will break out nearby. But usually people are pretty respectful when they're in or near the temple. Art cars will turn off their sound. The atmosphere is pretty quiet.

It's a place of quiet reflection, and over the years, it's become a place where people leave whatever it is that they need to let go of there. Sometimes a physical thing is left, sometimes just the psychic burden. There are little mini memorials placed all over the temple, and there are sharpies and markers so people can leave messages or thoughts or ideas. It's extremely personal, but also, with such volume, anonymous. On the very last night of Burning Man, the temple is set afire, and the entire city watches, respectfully. It's really, really beautiful.

Temple Burn, 2007

My first Burn, I left the baggage of a previous relationship at the Temple, writing "I'm letting you go" on the Temple, saying goodbye forever to that relationship and my hangups about it. The very next day, I met Graham, and I've never been happier in a relationship. He and I later watched that Temple burn, sitting in the Vroom, and happy to be with each other. It didn't take long for us to solidify our relationship afterwards.

In 2008, the Vroom went on an excursion on Wednesday afternoon, and we stopped at the Temple. There were probably 25 of us on the car, but as soon as we stopped, every one scattered. Everyone quietly gave each other space to do whatever it was that we needed the Temple for. Graham and I explored the beauty of the Temple, and we eventually found what we were looking for on the second level. I had printed a few pictures of Relampago, with his name and dates, and I attached the sheet of paper to an unencumbered post. I then tied one of Relampago's dreadlocks on a hanging wire nearby, and we stood back and looked at this little mini-shrine we'd erected for my beloved dog. Graham held me for a few minutes while I cried and said goodbye again. Eventually, it was time to go, and we all gathered on the car. Most people were a little somber, but also clensed. We took off into the desert looking for adventure, eventually finding it with a broken down art car at the Deep End.

When the Temple burned later on that week, I again stood with Graham and watched. I knew that Relampago was safe, and I knew that he was watching over me. I was still tremendously sad, but I also knew that this was something that I would get through. And the ache in my heart abated a little so I could love a little more.

When we got home and resumed everyday normal life without Relampago, I'd gone through a considerable amount of the grieving process. I missed him, I was pained by his not being underfoot at all times, and I would occasionally go through bursts of severe heartache. But I know that I'd done a lot for myself by letting go on the Playa, and it would have been much, much worse had we not put his presence in the Temple.

I wish there were something like the Temple for everyone. I don't really have much to leave there this year, except maybe some anxiety about the next year or so, as I think it will be quite eventful. But I know it's helpful for a lot of people, and I am looking forward to seeing it, to putting part of myself into it, seeing the rest of the community put theirselves into it and then watching it burn.