I go to Burning Man for it all… The people, incredible art, boundless creativity, great fun and The Playa itself. My service is to The Temple. Every year a Temple is built, accepts what ever 60,000 people wish to release and on the last night is burned in silence. I am a Temple Guardian and one of the core council members guiding the Guardians and the Temple Guardian Camp.
This is my first story of two people named Michael. I ‘met’ them through the eyes… Through the Hearts… Through the agony… Of two women.
The first woman was Kelly, the widow of Michael…
Michael Bolinger was a Special Agent for the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM manages the Black Rock Playa where Burning Man is held. He worked Burning Man every year and loved it. He died of an aggressive brain tumor a few months before the 2013 burn and for the first time ever, members of the BLM and other police agencies present at Burning Man held a memorial ceremony for one of their own at The Temple of Whollyness (The Temple in 2013).
Four of us Temple Guardians were asked to be present as 'Honor Guard' to represent the Temple. We stood to greet the procession and asked the Temple Guardians on duty to quietly inform as many people as possible what was happening. Looking across The Playa we could see a procession of 30 or more police vehicles with lights flashing slowly moving our way. We had discussed our concern for how the officers would be received and I sent a silent prayer of intent that it would go well.
As officers arrived they made the long corridor, we stood at the head, ready to escort them into The Temple. We lead them to Inuksuk, the very large Basalt stacked stones that stood in the center.
Thus I found myself a few feet away from Kelly, his widow, in the center of a short memorial. Everyone inside and outside of The Temple stopped what they were doing and quietly surrounded the officers. The memorial began with 'last call'. His name was called 3 times over the speaker of the police car radio... With no response.
Kelly stood and looked around at the magnificent Temple. She looked at at all the offerings already around Inuksuk... So many faces... So much love. So much loss. She placed Michael's plaque with them all.
An officer spoke for a few moments about his friend... Then broke into tears. Melissa (Syn) one of the artist/designers/builders of The Temple of Whollyness, placed one of the Temple medallion necklaces around Kelly's neck with a hug. Then another officer thanked everyone present for honoring his friend. The quiet was broken by cheering from the crowd.
When the ceremony was finished, I offered Kelly a hug. I shared with her that I was a Guardian of this Temple and it was an honor to stand present for her husband and that I am also a widow and know her pain. I recognized what I saw in her eyes and felt in her Heart, she sank into my embrace.
I waited until after she left to fall apart myself.
There has been contention between BLM and Burning Man. This was an emotional moment and a powerful exchange of understanding. ‘They' were grieving in 'our' space and for everyone present it was a moment of Grace... The illusion of separation blurred in the dust. Every year The Temple is given to all the people of Black Rock City. Everyone in this film are ‘the people of Black Rock City’.The rest of the week BLM officers on duty made pilgrimages to The Temple to see the plaque and Kelly quietly returned. I had heart flowing conversations with several of them.
This experience touched me deeply for so very many reasons. And my 12 days in Black Rock City last year were profound. Transformative. I know Who-I-Am. The Inuksuk whispered: ‘You are on the right path’.
Every year Black Rock City is created, people live there, things are burned/released there and then it goes away. Michaels plaque burned with the other 10's of thousands of offerings left in The Temple. Dust to dust. No one returns from The Playa unchanged. No one.
Then a couple months ago, I saw this 2 minute film. The photographer did not film her face, yet he captured mine. A reflection.
The story of the second Michael… I met this Michael through the eyes and agony… Of his mother.