It began with a heartfelt plea to the Man:
This year I will be of greater service to the community if I can just get a ticket.
It’s true. I hadn’t seriously considered volunteering until mid-summer, when a ticket to Burning Man didn’t materialize during the main sale. The OMG sale would eventually prove to be just as fruitless, but I didn’t know that at the time. Meditating on the situation, I felt I was going to have to exert some serious Mojo in order to attend; the Man was upping the ante. However, in looking back, I couldn’t have imagined what serious magic I was about to invoke.
In my spiritual tradition, when doing magic to obtain a goal, part of the mindset required for fruition is to proceed as though the goal has already been attained. To that end, my partner and I began all of our normal preparations anyway. However, I decided to put a little something additional on the line: volunteer.
Of course, looking over the list of possible options, Temple Guardian immediately stuck out for me, as I suspect it did for many of us that first time. In the default world, I am also a healer and spirit worker; guardianship of sacred space is what I do. Having a profound experience at the Temple of Wholyness in 2013 also played a part in my decision making process. Indeed, my only regret from last year was in not staying for the Temple Burn. Volunteering as a Temple Guardian took on a special significance though, as I pondered what it would be like to provide that kind of service for a community of 65,000+!
During Training, we were told our responsibilities are:
- Hold the sacred space of the Temple; and
- Preserve the safety of the Temple and the participants who visit it.
True to form for Burning Man, this year’s Temple experience went far deeper than I ever dreamed. Friday night and Saturday morning were relatively quiet as far as the shifts themselves went. And although I was prepared for Sunday to be a completely different experience, how could I know it would touch, hurt and comfort me as deeply as it would?
As many would be that Sunday morning, I too was quite surprised when checking in for my shift to learn that the Temple was already closed. In talking to folks in the courtyard, and later at the gate, I was confronted with varying degrees of disappointment and sadness in hearing the news. A small few of the extremely devastated would be invited in last-minute by none other than David himself, the man who was responsible for this year’s Temple design. One couple was not.
She had lost her baby earlier in the year. She didn’t say how, nor did her husband go into a detailed story about why they hadn’t yet made time for the Temple. I can imagine how hard it must have been to even think about it, knowing that the journey must be made anyway. He was stricken, looking past me into the Temple itself. However, she looked directly at me, hearing the words that I had to say, knowing that it was now too late. I met her gaze and offered her the only thing I had in my power to offer her, my open arms. She hesitated ever so slightly, but as she came in for an embrace, I took all of the hours I had spent wandering the courtyard and inside the Temple itself, all of the tears I had personally shed for my own loved ones, all of the memories of witnessing our community members who were meditating/laughing/tearful, all of the visions of the heart-wrenching tributes left behind, and offered them to her for her lost child. He came over too, and together, we sobbed for all of the things that couldn’t be. We stood in the fire together, at the Gate of the Temple.
Later that evening, taking the collective gasp along with thousands of others at the sight of the majestic structure spiraling down to its end, my inner walls would finally come crashing down at the gentle touch of a baby’s breath.