Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Mausoleum

My absolute favorite. A huge building at the end of the line. A place for remembering someone you loved and lost. Or to think about your own death, how fragile we are, how little time there is. My very beloved brother had died that same summer, and I was carrying my own sorrow because of that. One young man sat inside the Mausoleum playing classical guitar, some people cried openly and a lot of the visitors had put up small pieces of paper with names and few words about their loss. The place was covered in dust and sand, making the atmosphere almost magic. Silence everywhere, but at the same time we could hear all the noices and sounds from the camp around us.
So here was this castle in the desert, making me think of the fact that people everywhere, - at all times, have put up places in order to remember those who were here before us. A strong experience in my life. Something I will never forget.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Till human voices wake us, and we drown

We were sitting in the van that afternoon waiting for the heat to reduce. The door was open, we had a couple of chairs outside but the heat out there was too much for a Norwegian coming from the Arctic region of the world. We were waiting for sunset.

So we just relaxed in the comfortable seats in the small livingroom of our van, a livingroom that in few seconds turned into a spaceful place to sleep when needed. I had my glass of wine. Thom was reading a book. We had been eating a well prepared avocado with sourcream and scrimps, mixed with some blue cheese - and some wholegrain bread brought all the way from the huge health food store in LA.

I knew that my companion on this trip had been working as an actor in several plays, but I had never heard him read anything loud. Not untill now, when he lifted his eyes from the book and asked if I wanted him to read for me.

LET US GO then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;

Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels

And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent

To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

The begining of T. S. Elliots first big poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. This is a difficult text, some say; As it shows us only surface thought and images, it is considered difficult to interpret exactly what is going on in the poem.

So I just sat there, listening to Thom's voice.

On the surface, Prufrock relays the thoughts of a sexually frustrated middle-aged man who wants to say something but is afraid to do so, and ultimately does not. Prufrock is full of self-doubts, with a pessimistic outlook on his future, as well as the future of society and the world.

By these words, Thom was coming out of the Noosphere, and became a person of flesh and blood. Maybe he was seeing himself as a picture of this middle-aged man, and Prufrock's many frustrations? He had gone through a heavy heartbreaking affair before we meet and had assured me from the beginning that this was not a romantic trip. I think that this Burning Man-journey was the opposite of some new romantic wave. It was a way of breaking out of the middle-aged frustration over not having done what he really wanted to in his life.

I was not his new love, I was a hard-headed Scandinavian woman who had been out on a winter night - as we say it back home - many times before. I was an easy travelling companion, he knew I would not freak out over the Burning Man-experience. He knew I would leave and hike back to LA if times got tough, and he knew we shared some real-life-experiences on broken hearts and broken illusions.

And me?

I was breaking out of my every-day-life as well, crossing the Big Ocean in order to experience something completely different. I admit that my expectations of a love affair were bigger than his. To say something else would be a lie, and I seldom lie. So he knew, and made the best out of it.

But all these things taken into consideration, I still think that Thom - my former Noosphere friend - will always remember this afternoon in the van in the middle of the Nevada desert.

Someone who wants more on T.S. Elliot and Prufrock may find it here. To me, there are parts of this poem that will always connect me to the Burning Noosphere experience, although the title of the poem is misleading since it is neither a love poem nor a song in the classical sense.
But the end of it is lovely:

I grow old . . . I grow old . . .
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled (- which was very modern at that time -)
Shall I part my hair behind? ( - which was a Bohemian fashion, and a brave thing to do - )
Do I dare to eat a peach?

I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me (- oh, no?)

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves.
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back.
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea.
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown.
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

The Chapel

None of us cared particularely about the cradle or the children's playground. We had both passed these periods of our lives long ago. But The Chapel, representing love and relationship was attractive. And it was such a beautiful building, both day and night. We went there, and became part of a small, short ceremony where Noosphere and IceQueen (our nicknames or avatars) were tied together in a Burning Man promise about to have and to hold - etc. Rather cute, but not meant for an everlasting anything - if you ask me about it from a more distant point of view.

The Van

Our van was just fantastic. It had a small kitchen and a lot of room in order to sit and eat, read og sleep.

The Café

The desert was dusty and hot. It was approx 40 degrees C, and sand everywhere, and the van often felt very varm and sticky. So the enormous tent on the Playa, the only café in the area, was an exellent place for resting, coffee and hot chai. Noosphere had a digital camera, and we used it a lot, trying to capture some of the athmosphere.

We could sit there for hours, and there would always be someone dancing, chanting, playing some instrument, reading loud or drumming. Day and night, - was an ever ongoing performance. Here was also an exellent opportunity to get to know other people visiting Burning Man, and sharing thoughts and experiences about this project. At one point I was resting alone, waiting for Noosphere who was standing in a cue in order to buy some chai, when a rich Cuban businessman and his young male secretary sat down and asked for company.
- Was I Swedish? And what did I do here?
- Norwegian, neighbour country of Sweden, travelling with a guy, I replied.
- Who was he, my husband?
- No, someone I met on the Internet.

I think my Cuban friend got rather shocked.

- You Skandinavians, he said, - are crazy. My wife is Swedish.
- Well, then you surely know all about that. So where is she?
- Travelling somewhere in Sweden.
- Sure. And what are you doing here, then? I asked.
- Just looking around, he said when Noosphere suddenly turned up with two cups of chai and was introduced to my new friends.
The rest of that conversation was rather interesting. As I told you readers of my blog once before: This might turn into a big novel! (And I'll come back to this story later!
I promise.)

Some people even used the tent to have a nap during daytime, because the activities at night were cooler and the show never ended. There was an ongoing party for five days. At least! And some got really exhausted, no wonder!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Black Rock City, The Playa

I think this must be one of the world's most spectacular festivals. We settled our van next to a couple fra Sacramento who was here for the fifth time, obviously looking for a renewal of their every-day-life. I remember the wife in her 50-ties looked at me and said: Remember! This is a real pagan festival. Yeah, I guess it is. It is probably good that something like this free playground exists in a somewhat conservative, religious country like the States - and I guess the"lawless" state of Nevada is the genuin right place to put a festival like Burning Man. We shared some meals with our neighbours, and that was nice, but the rest of the time we strolled along the playa, listening to conserts, looking at the installations, and looking at people, most of all. Some of the spectacular things were the people walking around in the nude, only covered in complete body colours like silver, red og green. Kind of fun, and there were places that offered to bodypaint you completely, if you felt like it. We didn't.

If you want to read more about 'our' year on the playa, please look at